The Celtics made a rather innocent move at the end of the first round on Wednesday night, trading the No. 30 overall pick to Memphis in exchange for two second-round picks, according to a league source. On the surface, the move makes sense. The Celtics had already used two of their first-round picks earlier in the night and there wasn’t really room for a third rookie on the top of an already overcrowded depth chart for 2020-21.
However, with 12 hours having passed since the draft ended, there is still no resolution to another component of the deal: A potential salary dump by the Celtics as a part of the transaction. Who could be on the move? And could another trade be directly tied to it? Let's work through the possibilities in play.
Enes Kanter has a player option that he has to make a decision on by Thursday evening. It's worth $5 million and that's more than he will get on the open market so if money matters to him most, he opts in. Additionally, Vincent Poirier is earning $2.6 million next season in the final year of his contract that Boston would probably like to clear from the books in order to save some money and free up a roster spot.
The Grizzlies have a number of different trade exceptions they can use, which means they can take back some salary in from Boston in a trade (into an exception) without having to send anything back. One of those trade exceptions is worth just under $5 million and could technically fit Kanter’s current salary for the 2019-20 season.
However, the Celtics are unable to trade Kanter until he opts into his player option for next season. Therefore, this creates a delay in executing a potential trade that both sides may be waiting on. If Kanter opts in, he could be moved as part of the deal (with the No. 30 pick) for two second-round picks from Memphis. If Kanter opts out, the Celtics could instead opt to move a smaller salary in Poirier off the books into one of the Grizzlies’ trade exceptions. The Celtics would probably include cash to cover next year’s salary of either player in such a deal to appease the Grizzlies for helping them out and waiting to push the deal through until the day after the draft.
As friend of BSJ Ryan Bernardoni points out, the Celtics have until midnight to pull off this move if it involves Kanter getting dealt. Why midnight tonight? Friday marks the beginning of the new league year as free agency begins, which means Kanter’s new salary ($5 million) wouldn’t fit into the Grizzlies biggest trade exception (his 2019-20 salary of $4.8 million would if he’s dealt by midnight).
There’s also a third wildcard in play here. It’s possible the Celtics won’t want to include Poirier or Kanter in the Grizzlies deal (if