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(Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Exploring top Boston Celtics trade exception candidates

Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics possesses a $17.1M trade exception that expires on July 18. (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Exploring top Boston Celtics trade exception candidates

The 2022 NBA offseason has arrived! Last week, the Golden State Warriors captured their fourth title by the Boston Celtics in six games of the 2022 NBA Finals, further solidifying their etch in NBA History as one of the top dynasties over the last half-century. The 2022 NBA Draft begins in just over 48 hours; NBA Free Agency tips-off in 10 days with the NBA’s first Summer League action beginning on July 2 in the California Classic.

In the meantime, every NBA team is faced with multiple offseason conundrums they must solve. For now, we’ll focus on the reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. They’re ultimately faced with how to improve and maximize their talent surrounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to put them over the hump after an awe-inspiring 2021-22 campaign.

It won’t be the easiest task for Boston. They only have one draft choice — a second-rounder (53rd overall) — after trading its 2022 first-rounder for Derrick White at the trade deadline. They have club options on Sam Hauser ($1.56M) and Juwan Morgan ($1.82M) with non-guaranteed contracts for Nik Stauskas ($2.2M) and Malik Fitts ($1.75M) — all of whom were non-rotational players. Technically, 37-year-old veteran Al Horford also has a non-guaranteed deal for $26.5 million in 2022-23 with $19.5 million guaranteed (because they made the NBA Finals), though reports suggest that they are expected to fully guarantee his contract anyways.

Boston, currently rostering $157 million in active cap in 2022-23, also has the $6.34 million taxpayer’s mid-level at their exposal to add another rotation piece or two.

But what I want to focus on today is who could they acquire with their bevy of trade exceptions, specifically their $17.1M one.

What are trade exceptions, you ask? Let me give you a quick rundown:

Trade exceptions essentially allow teams to take back a certain amount of salary without allocating any in return. For example, if I have a $12.0 million trade exception, I can trade for a player within those $12.0 million (+$100K) parameters without having to match salary. These exceptions last for one year.

In laymen’s terms, to create a trade exception, you 1.) Trade salary without receiving any in return (i.e. for picks, minimum contracts, etc.) or 2.) Send player(s) with the higher salary figures in a multi-player deal. For a much better explanation, click here.

Here are some additional rules regarding trade exceptions:

  • They cannot be combined. (i.e. a team cannot combine a $12M TPE and a $5M TPE to make a $17M TPE.)
  • One TPE can, however, be used to trade for multiple players, whether they’re on the same team or not.
  • They cannot be used to sign free agents.
  • The set expiration date cannot be extended or changed.
  • Teams aren’t required to use them. It’s either you use it, or you lose it.

In total, the Boston Celtics holster 10 trade exceptions — four more than the team with the next-most (Brooklyn Nets – 6).

Here is a list of their trade exceptions, from the greatest amount to least:

  • $17,142,857 via Evan Fournier to NYK trade (expires July 18, 2022)
  • $6,907,815 via Juancho Hernangomez to SAS trade (expires Jan. 19, 2023)
  • $5,980,000 via Dennis Schroder to HOU trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $3,804,360 via Romeo Langford to SAS trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $2,161,152 via Bol Bol to ORL trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $1,910,860 via PJ Dozier to ORL trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $1,782,621 via Bruno Fernando to HOU trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $1,669,178 via Enes Freedom to HOU trade (expires Feb. 10, 2023)
  • $1,440,549 via Tristan Thompson to SAC trade (expires July 7, 2022)
  • $500,000 via Moses Brown to DAL trade (expires June 27, 2022)

The likelihood that Boston uses a majority of these exceptions is low. Heck, they may not opt to use their $17.1 exception, though it’s their most optimal route to add talent without opting to use their full taxpayer’s MLE.

For this exercise, I identified some ideal candidates who could fit into Boston’s sizable exception. Let’s jump into it!

Who can fit into the Boston Celtics’ $17.1M trade exception?

Honorable mentions: Marcus Morris, F, Clippers; Malik Beasley, G, Timberwolves; Kyle Kuzma, F, Wizards; Alec Burks, G, Knicks; Justin Holiday, G, Kings; Kendrick Nunn, G, Lakers; Richaun Holmes, C, Kings

PJ Washington, F, Charlotte Hornets — one-year, $5.8M remaining

Okay, maybe I’m cheating a little bit.

If he was the lone incoming salary, PJ Washington could theoretically fit into each of Boston’s top three trade exceptions. Charlotte’s in a bit of an interesting financial predicament right now. Gordon Hayward still has two years for nearly $62 million guaranteed left on his deal; Terry Rozier, who’s reportedly on the trading block (per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer) has four years, $94.5 guaranteed left; LaMelo Ball is due to for a big extension after the 2022-23 season.

In short, Washington might be the lone fish left out. He was on the block at the trade deadline, but didn’t get moved. Should he be this offseason, however, one would assume the team trading for him is likely going to extend him. With Boston’s loaded cap sheet, I’m not sure they would unless they’re willing to go deep into the tax. If not, they would likely have to part with salary elsewhere. Washington would be a provide good 3-and-D frontcourt depth, but at what cost?

Maxi Kleber, F, Dallas Mavericks — one-year, $9M remaining (becomes fully guaranteed on July 3, 2022)

This one might be another long shot.

Dallas might not be in any mood to trade Kleber. Though with the addition of Christian Wood for pennies on the dollar, one can’t help but wonder how expendable Kleber is.

Kleber is still arguably Dallas’ most versatile defender, oftentimes defending the opposition’s top wing. Despite being 6-foot-10 and 240-pounds, Kleber moves his feet exceptionally well and would theoretically fit well into Boston’s switch-heavy defensive scheme. On the offensive end, he stretches the floor even though his 3-point shot was pretty inconsistent last season, hitting just 32.5 percent of 4.3 attempts after netting a combined 37.8 of his 3.8 triple tries from 2018-21 (three seasons).

In summary, I think Kleber would fit well dawning Celtics green, but I’m unsure how available he truly is.

Larry Nance, F, New Orleans Pelicans — one-year, $9.7M remaining

Like Kleber, I’m not sure how willing New Orleans is to field calls on Larry Nance. But he’s the quintessential do-it-all-type player, which is why he made this list. He defends, playmakes, rebounds, applies solid capable pressure and can even shoot some (34.7 3P% on 2.2 3PA from over last four seasons). He averaged 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 22.6 minutes per game in an injury-plagued 2021-22 season. If New Orleans, for some reason, is looking to move off him — Boston should pick up the phone.

Terrence Ross, G, Orlando Magic — one-year, $11.5 million remaining

How many more deadlines/offseason are we going to throw Terrance Ross into trade proposals? I’m not sure, but if a team were to pounce on Ross, now would be the time.

The 31-year-old is coming off a down season, averaging 10.0 points on 39.7/29.2/86.2 shooting splits — a 51.5 true-shooting percentage, his lowest since 2017-18 — in 23.0 minutes per game off the bench. Though they’d be selling low, a tanking Orlando could move off him for an asset or two. I think a sixth-man role in Boston would be a good start to rejuvenate his career. After all, Ross is a two-level scorer that could fly off screens and create off the catch while providing capable defense. Boston could use that behind Tatum/Brown.

Kelly Olynyk, F, Detroit Pistons — two years, $25 million remaining ($3M guaranteed for ’23-24; it becomes fully guaranteed on June 28, 2023, or 3 days before 2023-24 league year, whichever comes later, per Spotrac.)

Could Boston re-unite with Olynyk?

The 6-foot-11 stretch big dealt with multiple lower-body injuries throughout the 2021-22 season, posting 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and in 19.1 minutes across 40 games. He shot 44.8 percent from the floor, 33.6 percent from 3-point range and 77.5 percent from the free-throw line.

Olynyk is a smart basketball player and could provide additional floor spacing and playmaking for the Celtics’ bench unit. He would help bridge the non-Timelord/Horford minutes better than Daniel Theis, in all honesty. The Boston Celtics have reunited with Horford and Theis under general manager Brad Stevens — why not Olynyk?

Josh Hart, G, Portland Trail Blazers — two-years, $25.9 million remaining (’22-23 becomes a fully guaranteed $12.96M figure on June 25, 2022; has a ’23-24 player option)

Like Nance, Hart, 27, is a do-it-all player. Standing at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, he averaged 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game, sporting 50.4/34.3/75.8 shooting splits in 54 combined games with New Orleans and Portland last season. He’s a superb defender and epitomizes the grit and desire that Celtics lore loves. I wouldn’t be surprised if Portland sells high on him this offseason.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Washington Wizards — one-year, $14.0 million remaining ($4.9M guaranteed; becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before June 28, 2022, per Spotrac).

Similarly to Ross, Caldwell-Pope, 29, would be a good two-way wing off the bench. He’s could come at a slightly steeper cost, however. KCP is primarily a spot up threat, but offers enough off-the-dribble juice to bend defenses. He doesn’t need to be in a featured role offensively, and he’s also a sound on- and off-the-ball multi-positional defender to hound opposing guards/wings.

Derrick Rose, G, New York Knicks — two-years, $30.1 million remaining ($15.6M cap-hit in ’23-24 is a club option)

This one should’ve been in the honorable mentions category because I presume Thibs asks for a package consisting of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Boston’s 17 championship trophies and majority ownership of the organization for Taj Gibson, let alone Derrick Rose. Jokes aside, Rose is an intriguing guard option if he can stay healthy, but I don’t think it happens.

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