Celtics continue to come up in various rumors for bench help
The Celtics haven’t made their first big off-season move yet, but they continue to pop up in reporting around the NBA, indicating that they’re at least trying.
Most urgent for Celtics President of Basketball Ops Brad Stevens is his Traded Player Exception (TPE) for $17.1 million, which was originally created when he sent Evan Fournier to the Knicks last summer. The C’s have to use that TPE by July 18, before it expires.
They reportedly made progress on a possible deal to use it on veteran Knicks swingman Alec Burks, but according to Brian Robb of MassLive, they ultimately turned down New York’s offer.
The decision to pass on Burks, as Robb put it, “was likely a calculated gamble about the team finding something better with their bigger TPE in the next two weeks.”
Here’s another idea that’s been thrown out there: if you ask NBA insider Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, Stevens could find the best fit for the Celtics and their TPE in Suns forward Jae Crowder. Yes, the same Jae Crowder who seemingly left Boston on less-than-pleasant terms with the fans.
The way Deveney explains it is that Crowder “checks all the boxes” of a two-way player who Stevens would see as a fit for the Celtics’ both on and off the court, and who wouldn’t cost much in terms of draft capital. Crowder’s $10.1 million salary would fit well under the TPE, which could lead to the Celtics pulling a Burks and balking at another offer.
Crowder likely wouldn’t solve the Celtics’ need for improved scoring off the bench. He’d be more utilized to play tough defense against key opponents on the wing. Crowder shot just 39.9 percent from the field last season, and was even worse from three (34.8 percent).
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 10: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against Jae Crowder #99 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 10, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
On the other hand, Crowder would bring an element of toughness to the secondary units, and there’s certainly familiarity with Stevens. Crowder originally came to the Celtics in 2015 from a trade with the Mavericks, then departed for the Cavaliers in free agency after the 2016-17 season.
But there’s also a good chance that Stevens would look at Crowder the same way as Burks. Why use a $17.1 million TPE on Crowder and another, even less valuable bench piece, when they could conceivably spend it on one player who delivers more overall value?
Ultimately, the most likely scenario is that Stevens uses the TPE on a player that fills the team’s need for a more reliable scorer off the bench, and finds a gritty defender another way.
If Stevens insists on aiming as high as possible for the TPE, he could look at the Hawks’ Kevin Huerter, who’s on the books for a $16.25 million AAV over the next four seasons. Huerter has been bandied about as one of their stronger potential targets.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 23: Blake Griffin #2 of the Brooklyn Nets is fouled by Grant Williams #12 of the Boston Celtics during Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 23, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images).
Would Blake Griffin provide enough of what the Celtics are looking for, as a reserve who can come off the bench and galvanize the unit and drop instant buckets?
According to Deveney in another column at Heavy.com, at least one Eastern Conference exec wouldn’t be surprised if the Celtics were “in the mix” for Griffin’s services. He will be an unrestricted free agent, and averaged a career-low 17.1 minutes per game last season while making just $2.6 million.
So, Griffin sure could come cheap for whoever takes a chance on him. The Celtics won’t have to use their TPE, and even the mid-level exception (~$6.3 million) might constitute an overpayment. But Griffin is still efficient around the rim (56.5 percent on two-pointers last season) and would have a chance to deliver more value at the offensive end than Daniel Theis, Grant Williams, or any other reserve in the Boston frontcourt.
Still, the 33-year-old Griffin isn’t as explosive as he used to be and wouldn’t be likely to provide heavy minutes. So even if the Celtics land him, the hope would be that they still have a bigger move in mind.
A Side of Wings
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 22: Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Atlanta Hawks shoots a jumper against Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat during the third quarter in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round at State Farm Arena on April 22, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Based on the Celtics’ reported interest in Alec Burks, and other names being linked to them, the likelihood is that their most significant bench addition is a swingman who can be a reasonable replacement off the bench for Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown when they need a breather. Offensively, anyway.
Danilo Gallinari would fit that mold. According to Jake Fischer at Bleacher Report, the Celtics have been “linked” to Gallinari, as well as the Pacers’ T.J. Warren. As of this writing, it has yet to be reported what the Hawks decided to do with Gallinari, who is on the books for about $5 million but jumps to $21 million if he’s on Atlanta’s roster after 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. So he’s likely to end up on waivers, then pass through and become a free agent, since probably no one will be willing to pay him all that money. (Update: Never mind! Gallinari is headed to the Spurs in a trade involving guard Dejounte Murray, per Adrian Wojnarowski.)
Warren, meanwhile, is on track to become an unrestricted free agent. He has been linked to the Celtics in past trade rumors. Warren missed the entire 2021-22 season after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot, so he will be inexpensive. Prior to that, Warren had established himself as a fine scoring forward, averaging 16.8 points on 50.6 percent shooting over his past five seasons on the court. His three-point shooting has been up-and-down though, as high as 42.8 percent and as low as 22.2 percent in any given year.
Like Griffin, these are other affordable options who could improve the Celtics’ depth and fill needs. They won’t necessarily put them over the top for a championship, though.
The more the Celtics come up as “interested” without actually making a move, the more antsy Boston may get. But Stevens has already shown enough to engender confidence that he’ll do something intended to improve the roster. It would be surprising if the C’s rolled it back with exactly the same roster top-to-bottom, especially on the bench.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on all the latest news & rumors in the Celtics’ off-season here at 985TheSportsHub.com.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at email@example.com.