With the NBA Draft just four days away, decision week is here 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, Danny Ainge confirmed last week that he was on the hunt for help before the draft.
“We’re still trying to make some deals before the draft to improve our team,” Ainge said. “We have our list of players we’ll try to pursue in free agency. But as you know, we don’t know who everyone’s going to draft. We don’t know who else is interested in the free agents we might have. We don’t know exactly, depending on what deals we’re able to do and not do, the amount of money we can offer free agents. So there’s a lot of unknown factors. Draft day, the 19th and the 20th are gonna be crazy. We’ll be resting up and ready for that battle.”
We started looking at some potential Eastern Conference trade targets for the Celtics earlier this month and now we turn our attention to the Western Conference. 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 (unless otherwise specified).
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 or mediocre teams out there that could be worth cashing in some draft picks for? Let’s search out West for more names the Celtics could kick the tires on and whether they would be fits in Green.
JJ Redick, SG
Salary: $13 million (expiring)
Analysis: An aging sharpshooter who still manages to command great respect from opposing defenses after shooting 45.3 percent from 3 last season. He will have a target on his back from a defensive standpoint in the postseason but as good as a floor spacer the Celtics could hope to find this offseason. Would cost at least a first-round pick, plus some matching salary.
Josh Hart, G
Salary: $3.4 million (expiring)
Analysis: He’s only 25 years old so the Pelicans should be in no rush to move him. However, he is in the final year of his rookie deal so a payday is upcoming and New Orleans may be looking to commit financial resources to higher ceiling prospects on their roster. That makes Hart a potential low-cost addition to the bench of any contender. If Celtics give up a lot in a deal for Holiday, Hart is a piece worth pushing for as an added return.
Nemanja Bjelica, PF/C
Salary: $7.1 million (expiring)
Analysis: A 3-point sniper for a big man who shot a career-high 41.9 percent from 3-point range last year while posting 11.5 points per game. He’s a regular season player from the standpoint that his mobility issues will probably force him off the floor in the postseason against speedy bigs or within pick-and-roll coverage. However, if Celtics want to maximize floor spacing, he’s about as good as you are going to do with a big. The defensive limitations will probably keep the C’s from giving up too much for him though.
Richaun Holmes, C
Salary: $5 million (expiring)
Analysis: A breakout performance for the Kings last season earned him the starting center job as he posted career-highs in points (12.3) and rebounds (8.1). He’s a good bang for the buck with his contract but he feels redundant with Rob Williams on the roster as a big who is great rim-runner and shot-blocker but can’t do much else.
Cory Joseph, PG
Salary: $12.6 million (2 years, last year non-guaranteed)
Analysis: Quickly began one of the biggest overpays of last year’s offseason, earning over $12 million per year to be a backup point guard. He a savvy guard who is very limited as a shooter (33 percent from 3 in his career) and doesn’t attack the basket well either. Celtics could probably add him for nothing but his salary makes it a non-starter. C’s better off using their resources elsewhere and bringing back someone like Brad Wanamaker for 20 percent of this price.
Patty Mills, PG
Salary: $12.4 million (expiring)
Analysis: He’s been connected to the Sixers and Bucks in trade rumors already and the Celtics should be another team that’s added to that list. He’s approaching the end of his prime at age 32 but he’s a playoff proven performer who shoots as well as any point guard available on the trade market (38.2 percent from 3 last season). He’d bring an immediate spark to the bench unit with his speed and energy and would be a fun backcourt running mate with Marcus Smart off the pine and would also help take the onus off Kemba Walker. Giving up a first-round pick for him would bring risk since he’s an expiring deal but there’s a good chance he’d be worth the price.
Rudy Gay, SF/PF
Salary: $14 million (expiring)
Analysis: Has played pretty well during the last three years in Sacramento but is past his prime. As a score-first wing without a great 3-point shot, not sure if bringing him in alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would make a ton of sense. Also makes a little bit too much for what he does. Don’t think he’d be worth giving up a first-round pick for.
Trey Lyles, PF/C
Salary: $5.5 million (expiring)
Analysis: Wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up as a free agent since his salary for next season is non-guaranteed. A stretch big