Could a Collin Sexton trade provide the Celtics with a third star?

Sunday morning, Jason Lloyd of the Athletic reported that Collin Sexton is unlikely to receive “big money” from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and is “very available” via a trade. Sexton is eligible for an extension this offseason, and is set to make $6.35 million in the 2021-22 NBA season. He will be a restricted free agent barring a contract extension after next season, and as a 22 year-old point guard who averaged an efficient 24.3 points per game last year, he makes for an interesting trade option. With the trade of Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics have a glaring hole at starting point guard. Without Walker, and with Evan Fournier’s free agency looming, the Celtics’ guard rotation is weak and lacks scoring. Enter the possibility of trading for Collin Sexton.

Sexton was drafted eighth overall in the 2018 NBA draft, with the Brooklyn Nets pick that the Celtics included in the Kyrie Irving trade. He’s listed as a 6’1”, 190 pound point guard/shooting guard, who’s known for his scoring ability. When researching for this article, I was surprised to read how efficient Sexton has been throughout his career, as he has been profiled as somewhat of an empty stats player while playing on the Cavs for the past three seasons. However, for his career, he’s a 46% shooter from the field, 39% from three, and 83% from the line.

Sexton’s not known to be an especially sound defender, but he provides consistent intensity and energy, something that the Celtics lacked last season. He also showed improvement as a passer last year, averaging a career high 4.4 assists per game, albeit with only a 1.57 assist to turnover ratio, though this can in part be attributed to his high usage rate of 29.7% (stats courtesy of Fox Sports).

When examining whether the Celtics should trade for Sexton, at face value, I’d love it. He’s a fun player to watch, who appears to genuinely care about every game, and I think he’d do well to play for a team with a storied winning culture. However, there are a number of things that need to be considered logistically in a Sexton trade.

Dan Greenberg, of Barstool Sports, laid it out well when he said he’d be less inclined to trade for Sexton if both Evan Fournier is back and Marcus Smart signs an extension. However, if one of these two things were to not happen, the door is open for Sexton to enter. Realistically, it’s not smart to be paying three guards $15+ million each, which is what I expect all three players to receive annually in their next contracts. I like the combination of Smart and Sexton the most, as Smart’s defense balances out with Sexton’s offense, but as of right now, I think all signs point to Fournier being re-signed by Boston. The Walker trade was completed to give Boston flexibility, and I would be surprised to see Fournier leave after just half a season. The Celtics could sign Fournier to a one-year contract with big money attached, (ala a J.J. Redick/Philadelphia 76ers contract), trade for Sexton this offseason, and then re-sign Sexton while letting Fournier walk in the 2022 offseason. Personally, I find this option intriguing, as it would allow the Celtics to have a monster three-man guard rotation of Smart, Sexton, and Fournier next year.

Sexton and Fournier together do a lot of the same things well, though Sexton has a higher ceiling, and Fournier is more refined as a player at this stage of his career. I wouldn’t be excited to see the two of them starting together as guards for the Celtics, as I believe that this would cause all sorts of defensive issues for a team that already struggled defensively last year.

Regarding what a Sexton to Boston trade looks like, here’s where things get a little more tricky. Sexton’s salary does fit into a number of Boston’s trade exceptions, including the new Walker exception, but when attaching a player or pick to the package, I’m not entirely sure what the Cavs would want. I would include a future first for Sexton, but that would be two first round picks offloaded in one offseason, so the Celtics would have to be seriously interested in Sexton to do so. I’d also include any of our young players for Sexton too, as I believe he has a higher ceiling than all of them.

However, I don’t know if any of the packages that the Celtics could create would be the most intriguing for the Cavs, as I think a number of other teams (including the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Magic) could make better offers for Sexton and should be interested. It’s already being reported that the Heat, Knicks, and Pacers are all interested in Sexton too, so the interest around the league is justifiably there. One final option that must be considered is to trade for Sexton, then offload him in the 2022 offseason via a sign-and-trade. This could maximize Sexton’s value for one year, both for himself and the Celtics, and then allow the Celtics to move on from Sexton while bringing in a high value player in the 2022 offseason. For example, the Brooklyn Nets did this with D’Angelo Russell in 2019 when they completed a sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant. The Nets were able to maximize Russell’s services, and then trade him in a deal that benefited both parties. While it’s unlikely that any Sexton sign-and-trade results in a player of Durant’s caliber arriving in Boston, it’s still an intriguing possibility to consider.

There’s a lot of smoke in NBA discussions this time of year, as teams put out feelers before the NBA Draft and the NBA Offseason kick off, but this is an interesting rumor to consider, that fills a need for the Celtics. I expect President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens to do his due diligence, and call up the Cleveland front office, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up yet. Stevens was aggressive in the Walker trade, but there’s a difference between being aggressive and trigger happy. As the offseason heats up, I’m sure there'll be plenty more rumors involving intriguing players to be excited about.