Who could the Celtics trade? On Payton Pritchard, the disabled player exception and more

The trade deadline is just over three weeks away, so let’s analyze the likelihood The Celtics they will cash in on their players and assets this season. Boston will be looking for a little more athleticism on the wings and potentially another multi-level point guard, so who could they be giving up to make those changes?

An obvious candidate on this list, Pritchard has several reasons to welcome the trade. He is just over a year away from restricted free agency, and turns 25 later this month. Jayson Tatum he’ll be halfway through his second contract by the time Pritchard starts his, and Pritchard is about a month older than Tatum.

A good sign of an unsustainable situation in NBA is when your role declines from your rookie season, which happened to Pritchard more because of opportunity than ability. But he hasn’t developed his game enough to get the market excited about his potential in a higher role, especially considering he’ll be nearing his prime when he hits free agency.

The three guards ahead of him on the depth chart have long-term deals and Sam Hauser he generally holds down the second spot when coach Joe Mazzulla goes deeper into the bullpen, so most of Pritchard’s minutes come open when there’s an injury. There are teams that have more cap space for him and feel he can grow into a rotation player with that opportunity.

Similar to with Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford, perhaps Pritchard can show signs of fulfilling his potential with a consistent role. That’s the downside when you get drafted as a candidate who manages to maneuver deals for veteran depth at the same time. This could be the best thing for both sides, as Pritchard and his teammates have shown he deserves more of a chance elsewhere.

Verdict: Should be available.

Pritchard still has a year to audition, but the spotlight is on Grant Williams. He turned down a four-year extension offer before the season that would have guaranteed $48 million and come with additional incentives, targeting somewhere in the range of $15 million to $20 million per year in restricted free agency.

But since the return of Rob Williams, Grant Williams’ game has taken a hit. He didn’t play more than 30 minutes for three weeks, he stopped closing games, and his rhythm was simply broken.

His three-point percentage dropped from 46.5 percent in the first 28 games of the season to 29.3 percent in the 15 games since the sophomore Williams returned. But he’s been forcing the issue lately, attacking the rim more aggressively and producing well in wins against Dallas, Chicago and Brooklyn in the past two weeks.

Williams looked like he made a brilliant bet when the season started and his attacking game has clearly changed. But the consistency of the role is taking a toll on his market value, as most of this summer belongs to lottery teams trying to figure out if Williams can become their leader through a rebuild if they throw him a sack.

There are reasons to make a deal, but the Celtics are in a good position for him in free agency. Their main need right now is an athletic wing/forward depth and while Williams may not have the length or dangerous vertical, he’s proven to be one of the best 3-D players coming off the bench in the league. It is difficult to upgrade, especially given its long-term growth potential. He is 24 years old and the Celtics have his equal rights.

Al Horford he’s only making $10 million next season, so there’s room in their luxury tax bill to give Williams the money he wants and potentially even a starting spot. But Mazzulla started Derrick White instead of Williams most of the time when it’s open, so re-signing Williams wouldn’t guarantee a starting four. It’s a tough spot for both sides, but market conditions should allow them to agree something this summer.

Verdict: The Celtics should listen, but not buy.

Brad Stevens has been bold in building a rotation of big combo guards in the backfield, all of whom are good on both ends but have a weak spot. The group balanced out pretty well and two of the three seem to make an impact every night.

White and Malcolm Brogdon have two years left on their contracts. There is no worry that they will become lame ducks, and the attack has succeeded so far. Marcus Smart and White seem to be more instrumental in the team’s success and often have night outs, but Brogdon has enough big games taking over the offense that it’s clear why they want to keep him when Tatum and Jaylen Brown inevitably hit a wall in the postseason.

This dynamic is working and there is no reason to stop it.

Verdict: Hold the fort unless something special comes up.

Al Horford

Horford just signed a two-year, $19.5 million extension last month.

Verdict: Why do you even ask?


Blake Griffin. (John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)

While Griffin has an actual role at times, he and Jackson are primarily there for the vibes. This team has maintained a strong locker room culture and these two are at the heart of that. Griffin is more instrumental as he works some matchups and has a lot of veteran wisdom to impart, but either of the two could be used in an exchange.

Verdict: Potential trade for matching pieces.

Jayson Tatum

Who would you even trade Tatum for at this point? The list is incredibly short. Or someone who recently won the MVP or Luka Dončić. Would you even trade it for Steph Curry or LeBron James now? The Celtics have their dream player and he isn’t going anywhere.

Verdict: LOL

Jaylen Brown

There is a hidden clause in the CBA that requires Brown to be in trade rumors every season. It’s a curse to be a star next to another star who can reliably lead the offense. It’s incredibly unlikely that someone of Brown’s caliber will hit the market in the next month, and the Celtics aren’t in a position to trade Brown for parts.

The only incentive to move him now is if the front office thinks he won’t make the All-NBA and would be seriously interested in leaving in unrestricted free agency in July 2024. If he makes the All-NBA, he qualifies for a supermax contract that players rarely turn down . Worryingly, if he declines for any reason, the team knows he’s a run threat and his market value will take a big hit.

The Celtics still have the cash advantage if he were to opt for free agency, but it would still be a huge risk to lose a blue-chip talent for nothing if fringe All-NBA players such as Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray brought wealth in the trading market.

This is the biggest selling moment for Brown. But why would they oversell Brown unless they think he might leave? The Celtics have a real shot at a title this season, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever have a better chance at 18 than they do now with Brown at the helm.

Verdict: Not going anywhere in the deadline. We’ll see this summer.

With Boston’s fiery center, it’s always been about availability over ability. He basically makes a mid-level exception for the next four seasons and would likely fetch twice that much on the market, even with his injury history. The only reason to move him is if they can find another starting center, but Williams fits this team so well on and off the floor that his value to the Celtics is far greater than another team — his injury concerns will likely scare him off anyway.

Verdict: Continue to develop Williams, but look for potential pivots during next season.

Another shrewd move by the front office, Kornet was considered an underrated player for several years that the team wanted to keep. He’s shown his worth this year, reviving his NBA career with solid minutes and assuming a semblance of a Rob Williams role. Cornet competitions only he’s worth keeping around, but he’s been a solid rim roller and floor spacer this year while playing good defense at the rim. For the 13th player on the roster, he was exactly what they were hoping for this season.

Verdict: More than just a contract, but clearly tradable.

Sam Hauser

Finally breaking into the rotation this year, Hauser was exactly what you’d expect. A smart both-way player who can do one or two things that make him worth minutes, but not enough to get real minutes when he’s not burying his shots.

Brad Stevens gave him a multi-year contract this summer because he believed in what he saw in training and in Maine. Hauser started so hot that he had too much room to fall. He will eventually be fine and still doesn’t have enough value in the league to achieve anything worthwhile that reflects his potential as a rotation player.

Verdict: Not yet.

While he could still provide value next season, this team is far enough down the tax line that they will likely prefer to use Gallinari rather than the trade exception if a deal is made. He could be helpful next season, but at his age and coming off of this nagging injury, the Celtics will likely try to find someone else in the mid-tier of the taxpayers.

The Celtics could use another big wing who can impact the game with athleticism or ball skills, the latter of which was supposed to be Gallinari’s job.

Verdict: Probably a trade.

Disabled Player Exception

When Gallinari went down for the year, the team received $3.3 million in DPE because he is expected to be out for the season. This can be used as a trade exception or free agent chip, allowing them to write someone off the buyout market for more than just the bare minimum until March 10th.

The Celtics will have to pay the luxury tax for anyone they sign for more than the minimum this season, so it’s not likely they’ll just throw as much as they can at someone on the fringes of a playoff rotation. But there is also $6.9 million Juancho Hernangomez traded player exception (TPE) that expires on January 19 and $5.9 million Dennis Schroeder TPE that lasts until the due date.

Schröder TPE is most likely to be used as Hernangomez TPE expires on Thursday. Usually, deals are made this early for financial positioning before the deadline, but the Celtics already started that process when they traded Noah Vonleh to San Antonio in the first week of the year.

Verdict: Stock up for buyback season.

Marcus Smart

Saving the ultimate trade rumor machine and Celtic’s longest tenure for last. The rough edges have been smoothed a bit in his offensive game this year and he has taken the next step as a dynamic playmaker. Smart isn’t a traditional point guard who’ll just run a high pick-and-roll in a drive-and-kick, but he piles up dimes in a more diverse array than almost any of his peers at the position.

The Celtics have completely calibrated themselves around his skills to the point that no one seems to care that he’s exactly 33 percent from deep for the third straight season. Hey, at least he’s incredibly consistent. Smart won Defensive Player of the Year last season and ranks in the top 10 in the league in assists per game, but is making just $17.2 million in the first year of his extension. He wants to be a Celtic all his life and at this point there is no reason to assume that he won’t be.

Verdict: Love and trust.

(Top photo: Brian Fluharty / Getty Images)

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