The Celtics have stayed quiet on the trade front for the better part of the last few seasons but a big reason for that is the work they put in earlier this decade. As we wait for the NBA season to return, we will be taking a closer look at some of the more memorable seasons and transactions over Celtics' history. A fun place to begin is the 2014-15 campaign which nearly set a record for the franchise with 11 separate trades and 22 different players suiting up for Boston over the course of the season. Let’s dive into those deals individually (some more meaningful than others) and look at how they shaped the squad that set the stage for today’s group.
The Setup: The Celtics were coming off the first year of the Brad Stevens era which had gone to plan essentially with a few minor trades, lots of playing time for the young guys and a bottom-five record at 25-57. Boston used the No. 6 pick in the draft to select Marcus Smart as a building block for the backcourt but that led to the beginning of free agency. The C’s first agreed to terms with Avery Bradley on a four-year deal but stood pat on the open market despite having mid-level exceptions to use, setting the stage for a deal that helped shift the Eastern Conference landscape.
As part of a 3-team trade, the Brooklyn Nets traded Marcus Thornton to the Boston Celtics; the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Tyler Zeller and a 2016 1st round draft pick to the Boston Celtics; and the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev to the Brooklyn Nets.
Why’d the Nets do it: Brooklyn was looking to acquire some help for their backcourt to help fill the scoring void created by the departure of Paul Pierce. Thornton was a scorer but had a hefty contract in the final year of his deal, giving Brooklyn no real flexibility on the open market. They elected to upgrade with the cheaper Jack who was on a long-term deal via trade.
Why’d the Cavs do it: LeBron James had clearly created the possibility that he’d return to Cleveland at this point of his free agency, but the Cavs needed to clear out some money in order to have the necessary cap room to sign him. By doing Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller’s salary, that opened the door for the max money needed for James.
Why’d the Celtics do it: Boston’s front office was clearly in asset accumulation mode at this stage of the team rebuild and this was a prime opportunity for it thanks to a $10.4 million trade exception created by the Pierce/Garnett trade one summer earlier with the Nets.
The Celtics were able to absorb the salaries of Zeller ($1.75 million) and Thornton ($8.5 million) into this trade exception while adding a top-10 protected first-round pick from the Cavs as a sweetener for taking on the ‘bad’ money from Thornton.
The Long-Term Impact
Thornton and Zeller were role players in Boston over the 2014-15 season before a surprise trade at the trade