Boston Celtics

Houston Rockets center Clint Capela dunks the ball during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at Toyota Center. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff,

The Celtics are going to need a big man, with or without Kemba Walker. But if and when they do sign the free-agent point guard to a max deal, their best hope for a starting center may be a trade.

And that’s exactly what Danny Ainge is reportedly trying to do. According to Matt George, a reporter and sports radio host in Sacramento, a source in Houston says the Celtics have “significant interest” in becoming the third team in a sign-and-trade that would send 76ers guard Jimmy Butler to the Rockets. The Rockets probably need that third team because of the salary they’d need to clear off the books in order to land Butler.

George speculates that the Celtics’ interest in dealing with Houston is for big man Clint Capela, who has been rumored as a potential target in the past. But bringing Capela’s $14.8 million hit aboard would put the C’s well over the cap, so they’d need to send salary out to make the trade work.

Celtics trade rumors: C's looking to potentially trade for Houston Rockets center Clint Capela. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston Rockets center Clint Capela grabs a rebound away from Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

The likely move might have to be Marcus Smart ($12.5 million) heading out the door to make room for Capela. They may need to include the Grizzlies’ top-6-protected first-round pick in 2020.

The 6-foot-10 Capela averaged a career-high 16.6 points (64.8 percent from the field) 12.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks for the Rockets last year, so he would be a legitimate starter to add to a roster that theoretically would also include Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. The C’s can also add a reserve big through the mid-level exception, assuming they stay under the cap.

We’ll keep you up-to-date with more Celtics trade rumors as the offseason rolls along. But there could be a lot happening over just the next week.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at