It would be wise to not get attached to the current Celtics roster
Brad Stevens had a successful day yesterday on the job. He turned expiring TPE's into expiring contracts, added another large TPE, and even picked up a 2nd rounder. Oh yeah, he also broiught in three players, Josh Richardson, Kris Dunn, and Bruno Fernando.
Richardson could help this Celtics team. We wrote about this earlier this week. And if Dunn can stay healthy for once, he too could help. But just like Stevens first trade (Walker for Horford), these deals weren't really about adding specific players, but about contracts.
Brad Stevens enjoyed coaching Al Horford. The 35-year old center is back in Boston partly because he can still help this Celtics team, but mostly because his "bad contract" isn't as bad as Kemba's "bad contract." If Horford was a free agent this summer and the Celtics had the cap space, in no world would they sign him to what he's making now. Stevens gave up pick #16 in Thursday's draft to get a less cumbersome contract on the books.
Stevens made the three-team Kris Dunn/Tristan Thompson deal yesterday to again remove some millions off the payroll, while also adding assets like a TPE, 2nd rounder, and Kris Dunn's expiring contract. Josh Richardson is a good basketball player, but Dallas gave him away for free. Why? Well for one they wanted cap space, but secondly because they didn't believe he was worth his salary. Richardson for his part was also aware he wouldn't make more if he declined his 2021-22 option and that's why he picked it up.
But before you complain about Boston picking up another player who is overpaid, remember he's an expiring contract. The rest of that Gordon Hayward TPE was about to expire. This allows Boston to retain something. Just like if Hayward walked without a sign-and-trade you couldn't just use his salary savings to sign another player (Over the cap is over the cap), if this TPE expired, Boston couldn't just sign another player with that $11 million.
And just as key, Stevens now has quite the collection of expiring contracts. This is important, since you're not allowed to stack TPE's in a trade. So if you wanted to trade for a let's say Bradley Beal or Lonzo Ball and your over the cap, you either need a TPE large enough to fit their contract (which Boston doesn't own) or you need to match contracts.
Getting excited about the addition of Josh Richardson to BOS...
While I wait for @ShamsCharania to flip the script again & tweet that Richardson will be part of a Lonzo Ball or John Collins sign-&-trade package.
On Friday morning the Celtics had less ability to stack enough expiring contracts to trade for a player making a good amount of money. Now they are in much better shape. And the other reason why Stevens is collecting expiring deals, because it allows Boston to be a player next offseason in free agency with potential, wait for it... cap space.
If you want to sign a Bradley Beal you need the cap space. And if you want to trade for a Beal without giving up someone like Jaylen Brown, you need the threat to be there that you could just sign him outright. You also need Beal to let everyone know that if he's not traded to Boston, he's just going to sign there anyway.
But in terms of attachment, it doesn't just mean don't go out and get jerseys of the new guys just yet, be careful with everyone on the roster. Marcus Smart is beloved by a large portion of Celtics fans. He's the type of guy you'd want on a championship team. If the team already had three stars on the roster, Boston might entertain paying Smart big dollars in an extension. But he's become a casualty of the exodus of All-Stars and assets from Boston.
There are new rumors out there of the team and Smart talking extension. Reality is Stevens and the Celtics are shopping him. He's much more than an expiring contract, but his position on the team is tenuous. Same goes for Robert Williams or just about anyone besides Jayson Tatum.
Sure Jaylen Brown is safer than most, but if Stevens plan is to pair Tatum and Beal, Jaylen has a pretty good chance to then be shipped to another team for a different thrird star.
A roster overhaul is par for the course when a new President of Basketball Operations takes over. Look up the 2002-03 Celtics roster Danny Ainge inherited. Didn't take long for everyone not named Paul Pierce to be gone. And just like in this situation that team had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals a season prior.
Then after the KG/Pierce era officially ended with their trade to the Nets. Look at that 2013-14 Celtics roster. How many players remain on the Celtics? None. The Celtics might have talked building around All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, but in the end they decided to trade his expiring conttact the following season.
By the time Ainge had remade the Celtics into a surprise success led by Isaiah Thomas, only young players Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk remained. At that barely lasted as both were let go in order to have the cap space to sign the Bradley Beal of that summer, All-Star Gordon Hayward.
So the team Ainge took over only had Pierce remaining for the championship season and his 2nd rebuild that created the Kyrie/Hayward/Horford Big 3, complimented by top draft picks Tatum, Brown, and Smart (as well as mid first round pick Terry Rozier) had zero players left that Rondo led 2013-14 roster.
Someone asked me recently on Twitter why I didn't like Marcus Smart or Al Horford after I included them in a "Who says no? mock trade with the Pelicans for Lonzo and contracts (Ideally Josh Hart as one of them). The thing is I love those guys. If we had a championship core and Al Horford had been bought out and was on a much smaller contract, I'd say keep him all the way through his late 30's. If Smart was willing to sign a team friendly deal this summer I'd be all for it. So would Stevens. He also loves him
Or if Boston already had a championship roster, I'd be fine with giving Smart his long awaited big pay day. Wouldn't be surprised if Stevens felt the same about that too. It's not about like or disliking players. It's sadly about contracts. And unless you're a team in a market like the Lakers or have a Steve Balmer world's richest person type owner, every overpaid contract you have on the roster seriously hinders your chances of winning.
I want evan Fournier back too. Like him as well. But he's only coming back on a very lucrative one year deal or a fair contract that could be moved next summer to create cap space if needed for a Beal type. I like Time Lord. He's a joy to watch, but the Celtics aren't going to give him a long term extension this summer either. And like Fournier and Smart, he'd be traded in an instant if it meant Boston could add a third star.
The Celtics didn't make the classic Nets trade for any of the players pictured above. Kris Joseph was in the deal and knew what it was about and didn't even attend the presser. He was just a contract added for salary matching purposes. So were all those guys. Also not pictured, but in that deal was Gerald Wallace. He's a player who was only in Boston for salary matching purposes and because Boston received a first rounder for taking on his bloated contract.
Doesn't mean that players like Wallace or Humphries weren't capable basketball players. It just means they were on the Celtics due to their contracts. Bruno Fernando and Moses Brown are as well. Just like with two other bigs who recently were acquired by the Celtics in trades, Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet. It's telling that Boston didn't have anything really to say about Brown in the Kemba trade. All we heard was that Oklahoma City wanted Boston to take back his contract to offset part of the difference between Horford's and walker, and Boston would at least give him a shot. They said the same with Wagner and Kornet.
Fans can love and be hyped about Moses and trust me I'd LOVE for him to turn into found money. It happens sometimes. Would have loved it if Wagner or Kornet did (they didn't) or Fernando. But he was traded by OKC to clear cap space. That's why a good amount of players are traded.
The Thunder didn't want Kemba Walker at the salary he makes, but they wanted the first rounder that came in the deal. The Thunder just traded for Favors, not because they want him or because they gave up nothing to get him, but because a first rounder came attached.
Again this isn't to say Richardson, Dunn, Moses, or Horford won't help the Celtics if they remain on the roster by opening night. It's to point out, none were brought in to be long term pieces on the team. With the exception of Horford (due to age) they all could play themselves into becoming long term Celtics, but again that wasn't the goal of any of the trades.
Richardson was also due to the fact he's a solid one year back-up plan to signing Evan Fournier. Reportedly odds are increasing that Fournier is a goner. These players are also good enough to help you win enough games with the Jay's this season in order to make your team more attractive to free agents.
Doc Rivers and the Clippers were able to get Kawhi Leonard signed partly due to their success that season. Didn't matter that a lot of those players who contributed to that surprise success didn't remain after Kawhi and Paul George were brought in. There was an appearance of a winning team and a solid supporting cast.
Sorry to use two Doc Rivers examples, but I actually like him, because you know he's the only coach to get us a championship in the past 35 years! Orlando was able to attract two great young max free agents back in the day in Grant Hill (who was a 1st team All-NBA player on the Pistons) and Tracy McGrady, very much becuase Doc Rivers won Coach of the Year that season with a star-less Magic team. Again players were traded to add these guys in the end, Ben Wallace for example, but it was the appearance of winning.
If Richardson and Dunn aren't flipped to new teams, you'll hear the Celtics talk about what solid additions they are. That's their job. What else are they supposed to say? They aren't going to be dicks. You add a Gerald Wallace for cap matching reasons and to get a first rounder, but you have to say how he will help even though if you could waive him and another team would pick up his contract, you'd do so in a heartbeat.
I like Horford. Stevens and Udoka do too, but if they could waive him today and be out from under his conbtract they'd do it immediately. Yes, it's a tough business, but veteran players know the deal. Horford left for a lucrative contract. He would have never stopped wearing a Celtics jersey if he would have agreeed to a lesser deal. Players know its a business. Richardson does too. Smart as well.
Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas both stopped being Celtics as well due to the business. Thomas wanted a Brinks truck of cash, while AB sadly was a casualty of creating max cap space. Danny Ainge loved these guys.
Free agency hasn't even opened yet. It's fun for us all to do depth charts and potential Celtics line-ups, but just remember what you see on the roster right now, might not be there after your next blink. And when all is said and done and Stevens has hopefully built a team that returns to the NBA Finals again, don't be surprised if like Paul Pierce some twenty years prior, Jayson Tatum is the only player still wearing Celtics green. Decent chance Jaylen is as well, but odds are with the exception of possibly a small rookie contract like Payton Pritchard's no one else will.
***UPDATE 1:51pm ***
Man, literally hit publish, and went to check twitter and that second it was reported that Moses Brown is a goner.
Just wrote this post about not getting attached to any of the new players (and most of the holdovers) and poof Moses Brown is already gone.