BOSTON — The Celtics are turning the page after coming up two wins shy of a championship, eager to find ways to bolster the roster this offseason and get them over the hump for next season.
Brad Stevens has the OK to go above and beyond to get the Celtics to the promised land, so it’s nice to know that C’s ownership is willing to pony up the pennies. The Celtics president of basketball ops. has already said that he wants to add more playmaking and shooting to the Boston lineup, but how Stevens accomplishes his offseason goals will be the most interesting part of the summer.
The NBA Draft is out of the mix, considering the Celtics own just the No. 53 pick on Thursday night. In free agency, the C’s have the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, which is worth just under $6.4 million.
A trade or two is Stevens’ likeliest avenue to add this offseason, and he just so happens to have a slew of Traded Player Exceptions at his disposal. Eight of them to be exact.
But half of those TPEs are worth under $2 million, and the clock is ticking on the biggest one: The $17.1 TPE from sending Evan Fournier to the Knicks last offseason.
Here is the full list of TPEs that the Celtics own, including their expiration dates:
- Evan Fournier – $17.1 million (July 18)
- Juancho Hernangomez – $6.9 million (January 19)
- Dennis Schroder – $5.9 million (February 10)
- Bol Bol – $2.2 million (February 10)
- P.J. Dozier – $1.9 million (February 10)
- Bruno Fernando – $1.8 million (February 10)
- Enes Freedom – $1.7 million (February 10)
- Tristan Thompson – $1.4 million (July 7)
TPEs can be used to acquire a player (or players) through a trade or a waiver claim, but cannot be used to sign players outright. They can’t be combined or added to outgoing player salaries to bring in more salary, and a player who is acquired through a TPE must have their salary fit within that TPE.
So there are a number of guidelines that Stevens needs to follow with those TPEs, not to mention he has to go out and find someone that not only fits into those guidelines, but also fits Boston’s needs and Ime Udoka’s system.
“There’s a reason why a lot of the trade exceptions go unused,” Stevens said Tuesday when chatting about Boston’s offseason. “We have a bunch of them right now. The big one expires in July. We’ve got a couple of others that expire later. They’re all reasonable amounts that we can take good players in with.
“So you balance that with, OK, what’s the cost that you’re going to have to pay, are you going to bring somebody in that’s going to add to — not necessarily take away — which you obviously don’t want to do,” he continued. “So it’s still about being prudent and thoughtful about what the deal is. We’re going through the whole list. We’re trying to find guys who fit what we need and will fit in with how we want to play and how Ime wants to coach.”
There are a few players who could fit into the Fournier expectation and fill a need on the Celtics’ roster. Orlando’s Terrence Ross ($11..5 million) will likely be on the move and was rumored to be a Boston trade target at last year’s deadline. Atlanta sharpshooter Kevin Huerter ($14.5 million) would certainly help boost Boston’s outside scoring. Miami’s Duncan Robinson ($16.9 million) would provide more shooting, but his defensive deficiencies may outweigh that offensive boost.
Memphis’ Dillon Brooks is also an intriguing option, more as a defender than an outside shooter, but he’d likely be a one-year rental before hitting free agency in 2023.
Using the TPE is much easier said than done, and there is no way that Boston will use all eight of them between now and February. Several of them will come and go without every being used.
But Stevens will be hard at work trying to make use of that big one over the next month, his biggest and best way at bolster a roster that needs a little extra something after coming up short in the NBA Finals. There is the potential that something could get done at the NBA Draft this week, which is when most deals get done, but Stevens will have a few more weeks before the buzzer sounds on that large Fournier exception.
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