With the NBA Draft just 10 days away, decision time is coming for the Celtics front office to finalize the best plan of attack to improve the team’s contender status for both the short and long-term. While a wide array of options will undoubtedly be explored on draft night including consolidating draft picks by moving up or trading pick(s) for future selections, league sources have also confirmed that the Celtics have been kicking the tires on veterans around the league in exchange for draft picks. Zach Lowe of ESPN.com also reported on this possibility earlier this week.
Targeting a veteran is a pretty broad term when it comes to identifying players around the NBA, so let’s try to narrow it down a bit for this exercise to have a better idea of what’s available to the Celtics (realistically) on the trade market. For this purpose, we are going to assume that Boston top players (Tatum, Brown, Walker, Smart) aren’t available in most trade talks on draft night (Smart is probably the only exception). Additionally, Gordon Hayward is not eligible to be moved at the draft unless he opts into his $34.1 million player option beforehand, something he is not required to do (option deadline day will be after the draft). For this exercise, we are going to assume that Hayward waits to make that choice.
Putting those restrictions in place leaves the Celtics with a very limited salary pool to work from while pursuing potential veteran trades since no one else on the roster next season will make more than $5 million. The Celtics will only be able to take back 125 percent of salary they send out in any deal so adding a high-priced players will be challenging without moving a part of their core.
2020-21 Celtics salaries (Non-core)
Enes Kanter ($5 million – player option)
Daniel Theis ($5 million – non-guaranteed)
Romeo Langford ($3.6 million)
Vincent Poirier ($2.6 million)
Grant Williams ($2.5 million)
Robert Williams ($2.0 million)
Semi Ojeleye ($1.8 million - non-guaranteed)
Carsen Edwards ($1.5 million)
Javonte Green ($1.5 million non-guaranteed)
Factor those salary limitations and there quickly becomes a pretty limited pool of veterans available to inquire on. That pool gets even smaller when any appealing names on playoff teams likely won’t be available for the most Celtics draft assets (these teams aren’t going to be looking to take a step back trade useful rotation pieces for multiple rookies)
So are there any veterans on bad teams out there that could be worth cashing in some draft picks for? Let’s take an in-depth look around the Eastern Conference to find some potential fits in the C’s price range and debate whether they would be worth the price.
Larry Nance Jr, PF/C
Salary: $11.7 million (three years/30 million left)
Overview: The Cavs have way too many bigs and Nance Jr. is a good value contract on a rebuilding team so he holds pretty good value around the league especially after adding a decent 3-point shot (35 percent in 2019-20) in the last couple of seasons. He’s a great rebounder and finishing threat so he could slide in nicely as a top big off the bench if the C’s don’t trust Robert Williams yet to fill that role fully. The Celtics tried to nab him on draft night back in 2015 at No. 28 (he went one pick earlier to the Lakers) according to a league source so we know the front office likes him. The question is whether the C’s would be willing to give up good value (No. 14) and pay a backup big $10 million a year, no sure thing given their desires to keep center costs down in recent years.
Celtics' Interest: Yes, but salary/Cavs demands could make cost-prohibitive
Cedi Osman, Wing
Salary: $8.7 million (four years, $30 million)
Analysis: He’s only 24 and the Cavs are short on wings so there will be no strong desire to move him by Cleveland. He’d be a nice shooting weapon to have off the bench but he’s also an atrocious man-to-man defender who gets picked up constantly. Danny Ainge shies away from guys like that generally
Celtics' Interest? Probably not.
Luke Kennard, Wing
Salary: $5.2 million (expiring deal with restricted rights)
Analysis: Would be a terrific fit as a sharpshooter off the bench for the Celtics but the Pistons are going to ask a lot for him (multiple picks or young players) to give up the former lottery pick who averaged 15.8 points last year amid an injury riddled year (played just 25 games). His low salary makes him a perfect fit into the C’s payroll for next year but he will command a sizable payday beyond 2020-21 that the C’s may not be able to afford. Having restricted rights should help to temper his market but paying lots of draft capital for only one guaranteed season is not Danny Ainge’s style. Still, Kennard is the type of addition that makes Boston’s rotation looks a lot more imposing. If the Pistons aren’t high on keeping him for long-term C’s should make a run at him.
Celtics' Interest? Yes, but the ask from Detroit may be too much for what could be a one-year rental
Derrick Rose, PG
Salary: $7.6 million (expiring deal)
Analysis: Probably not going to find a better bench scorer on the open market (18.1 ppg for Pistons last season) but he may be a