Out went Trader Danny and in came Trader Brad. The playoffs
aren’t even over and the newest Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations and
former head coach, Brad Stevens has already made a big trade just a few weeks after
accepting his new role.
The Celtics are trading Kemba Walker, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 draft and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
The Kemba era in Boston was as tumultuous and short lived as
Al Horford’s time away from Boston, so in that way the trade works out for both
players. Kemba was beloved by most, but Celtics fans have had high expectations
from their recent point guards, and Kemba’s health and contract made it hard
for him to meet those expectations. Similarly, when Horford signed in Philadelphia,
they seemed like they were willing to give him a little extra cash to draw him
away from the Celtics, but when things didn’t work out Sam Presti and the
Thunder were more than willing to absorb Horford’s contract along with some picks.
There, Horford seemed to be getting some of his mojo back but was sat out shortly
after in order to preserve the Thunder’s draft stock.
Just two days ago Presti saw another opportunity to absorb a
big salary in exchange for some picks, swapping Horford for Kemba and this year’s
16th pick in the draft. Now Kemba is in a situation where he can rehabilitate
his game and prove his value again, and Horford is on a team that better suits
his playstyle and will actually give him minutes (unless Brad plans on flipping
By the way, now that Al is back with us in the East and it
is Father’s Day, be sure to wish him a happy Father’s Day from Joel Embiid!
Jokes aside, this trade was made in big part to create some
financial flexibility for the Celtics.
So the #Celtics free up $7.3M of cap, cash, & tax for the 2021-22 season with this 1 for 2 trade.
Boston now sits around $7.9M under the luxury tax threshold for next season. Room to breathe.https://t.co/fNx8tlKhzO
The deal makes sense for both teams, but now Brad has an
abundance of big men and no real point guard, so there’s still plenty of work
to be done on this roster. That begs the question, who stays and who goes?
I’m titling this section “Will Return” but quick disclaimer,
I am not Brad Stevens. If he ends up feeling extra saucy and wants to make some
big, unexpected trades, that would be the one exception to this section. That
being said, these should be fairly obvious.
Unless Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, Nikola Jokic, etc. are available,
the Celtics will definitely look to hold on to Jaylen Brown, and even with
those guys available I think it’s safe to say that Jayson Tatum Is staying put.
Honestly, Jaylen is starting to get to the point where even he has more value
than the players mentioned before, given his age, potential, and contract. Both
Jays just signed big extensions, have big potential, and have great chemistry with
each other as far as we know. There’s no reason to blow up this team just yet.
Beyond those two, the other two guys who I would put big
money on coming back are Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith, the two rookies
from this past draft. Pritchard exceeded expectations in his rookie year, is on
a cheap rookie contract, and is our only reliable true point guard at the moment.
Nesmith, though underdeveloped, started to step up towards the end of the
season. Like Pritchard, he’s only going in to the second year of his rookie
contract, plays with a lot of heart, and has a lot of potential to become a
great shooter. Safe to say, both of those guys should be returning next year.
Likely to Return
These are guys who I don’t feel like I could put a Charles
Barkley “GUAR-AN-TEE!” on for being on the roster next year, but I would still
bet on them. They have some potential to be trade pieces, or in one case not
resigned, although I don’t expect anything like that at this point.
First up are the young, young guys: Romeo Langford, Grant
Williams, and Carsen Edwards. All three players are in their last guaranteed years
of their rookie deals, and the Celtics have team options for the next two years
on them afterwards. They are cheap contracts with enough potential to earn minutes
and fill out the roster, and Brad has seemed to be pretty high on both Romeo
and Grant over the past two years. The least likely to return of the three is Carsen,
though I don’t see him as a negative that Brad would be actively trying to ship
Jabari Parker is also likely to return next year as he’s on
a cheap, low-risk contract. He adds a bit of depth and flexibility in the 3/4/5
spots. By keeping him around he’ll have a real opportunity to get adjusted to
the team and hopefully work himself back into being more of the scoring threat
that he was in Milwaukee. There aren’t going to be too many better options for
his price on the free agent market, so might as well see what he can do while
he’s already on the roster.
One of the big focuses this off-season will be to bring back
Evan Fournier. I don’t think Danny Ainge would have used the Hayward-TPE to
bring Evan over if he weren’t expecting to bring him back at the end of his expiring
contract, though that’s now up to Brad Stevens. On top of that Evan himself
said that he would like to re-sign this off-season. The key thing is trying to
get him back on a team friendly deal. His last contract was for about $17 million,
so I would expect his next contract to be between $16-$23 million depending on
the length of the contract.
Another piece who I’m now a little more hesitant to put in
this section is Marcus Smart. Smart is still under contract this year, but he
is expecting an extension. If the two parties can’t agree on an amount, then he’ll
be a free agent next year and there is a chance Marcus gets dealt before the deadline, although I
don’t know if it is probable. There aren’t too many players who do what he does
for the team, especially for the contract that he is currently on. The closest
player I can think of is Lonzo Ball who is a restricted free agent this year,
and his expected new contract will likely put him out of reach for the Celtics.
Though Jayson and Jaylen (more so Jayson) are seen as the face of the
franchise, Marcus is still known as the heart and soul of the team. His grit
and intensity are much needed, especially after how the team preformed this past
year. That’s why I think Brad will be hesitant to let go of him this year, and
why I think he’s most likely going to return.
Lastly for this section, the two newest additions to the
roster, Al Horford and Moses Brown. While it is possible that either of them,
or maybe even both of them, were brought over for salary reasons, I am not so
sure that Brad is going to be able to flip them for something better even if he
tries. On top of that, both of them have something they can contribute to the
Al has a veteran presence, some pre-existing chemistry with the
team from when he was last in Boston, and can help to space the floor better
than any of our current bigs. Moses has height and mobility, can be a solid inside
presence on both ends of the court after some development, can rebound the
ball, is on a cheap contract, and doesn’t require a lot of court time at this
point in his career. There are certainly some interesting trade ideas that come
up with the two, but I don’t think any of them are likely, especially before
free agency hits. For those reasons, I think both of them will still be on the
roster come the beginning of the season.
Potential Trade Pieces
These are guys who I feel like might end up on another
roster before the season starts. I don’t know if I would bet either way, but they’re
definitely players to keep an eye on.
First up, maybe a big shock for you guys, is Robert
Williams. Rob made a big leap this season (pun intended) and proved himself to
be a competent, freakishly athletic, serviceable big man. He still has room to
grow, but if healthy, he could have been the Celtics’ starting center this past
year. That’s the big “if” though. He’s in the last year of his contract and
will be a restricted free agent after this upcoming year. His stock is likely
at its high right now, and maybe Brad Stevens wants to get out before it’s too
I don’t think anyone would be mad if Rob isn’t dealt before
the season starts, myself included, but availability to play is his greatest
weakness right now. He’s had several nagging issues every year, and it feels
like every time he gets healthy something new comes up, whether it be a hip
issue, turf toe, or something else.
If Brad doesn’t have confidence in Rob to
be available, he may try to find someone else who is willing to give him the
contract that he’ll be expecting next year, similar to how Kemba was dealt this
year. Obviously if Rob is willing to sign a cheap or reasonable rookie extension,
he’d be more likely to stay, but if the two parties can’t come to an agreement,
I can definitely see him on the move. It doesn’t necessarily have to be before
the season, but I wouldn’t bet on him staying past the trade deadline if that
ends up being the case (unless we’re real contenders for the championship).
If Rob does stay, the other name to keep an eye on is
Tristan Thompson. After acquiring Horford and Moses the Celtics have 6 centers,
three to four of which would likely get minutes. With Thompson included in
that, his role would be reduced from what it was this year, and things would
get crowded. While having 3-4 playable centers is nice in regard to flexibility
and injury backups, it makes it hard to keep everyone happy and give the team
consistency. It doesn’t help that Horford is the only center who could
potentially play at the four spot, and even that is a stretch in today’s day
and age. Behind Rob, Tristan is the easiest to move, and provides, in my
opinion, the least value to the team.
By dealing out Tristan the Celtics could cut down on some
spending and look to distribute the money elsewhere. I don’t believe Brad wants
the new head coach, whoever he may be, to have to split minutes between Rob,
Al, and TT, so I would bet on one of them being on the move, whether it be
before the season or by the trade deadline.
Probably Won’t Return
These are guys whose contracts are up and probably didn’t
give Brad a good enough reason to bring them back.
Sadly, the fan favorite Tacko Fall will more than likely be
a member of this group. There’s already a log jam at the center position and
Tacko was barely able to sniff minutes when it was down to Thompson and Kornet as
the only other healthy and active centers last season. He’s still low risk-high
reward if he pans out, but the game is moving away from conventional big men
and Tacko hasn’t been able to show any reasonable improvements to his skill set
three years in. There’s a chance Brad brings him back on the minimum just to
save money and fill out the roster, however that feels unlikely at the moment.
Along with Tacko, his Red Claws (or now Celtics?) buddy
Tremont Waters will likely be out. He’s had his moments in games, but at his
size there’s not many incentives to use a roster spot on him. This is the position
that the Celtics should most focus on bolstering up being that we don’t have a
starting PG right now, and Tremont doesn’t add much in terms of depth.
Next up is Luke Kornet, a trade deadline acquisition this
past season. Kornet’s role in the trade was really just to save the Celtics some
money. He was on a small contract which expired at the end of the season and
helped them to avoid the luxury tax. Like Tacko, he didn’t play much even when
the big man rotation was running thin, and if he were brought back, it would
only be as a minimum, roster filling contract. He does provide some size and
spacing, which could be a good look at times, but he isn’t reliable on either
end of the ball so he would end up with a lot of DNPs if he were brought back.
Lastly, Semi Ojeleye. Ojeleye was hailed as the “Giannis stopper”
just two years back, but he hasn’t shown much on the defensive end since. To
his credit his shot has improved, and if anyone were to come back from this section,
I think it would be Ojeleye. He would be relatively cheap and would help to
fill out the roster. That being said, his offensive game is pretty limited to
catch and shoot and he’s not incredibly reliable. I wouldn’t be surprised if
Brad let Semi walk this offseason and looked elsewhere to fill out the bench.
The way I see it, the focuses for this next year’s roster
should be as follows: get a reliable pass first starting point guard, trim the
big-man depth down to 3-4, and create cheap depth, possibly on short contracts
to allow some flexibility when the big free-agency hits next year. That’s going
to require the guys who are still on their rookie contracts to make a
significant step, resigning Fournier to a team-friendly deal, letting some guys
walk, and being okay with going into the luxury tax. We’ll see if Brad has any
more big moves left in him, but this is going to be a critical off-season for
the Celtics. Final note, I hope you know how weird it’s felt to me to be
talking about Brad as the President of Basketball Operations as opposed to
being the head coach. We’ll just have to wait and see how well it pans out for