The NBA trade season is now (unofficially) open! December 15 is the day NBA front office officials call the start of the early trading season. By that date, most players signed in the summer had become eligible for trades. So far, over 88% of NBA trades are eligible to be traded. On January 15, this number will grow to about 93%.
There is roughly a two-month window for teams to make trades before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Although no major deals have been seen in the near future, the past four seasons have seen trades made in the first few weeks after the unofficial opening of the trade season.
For the Boston Celtics, reports state that they have not been active in trade talks this offseason. Such is life in the NBA with the best record, a fairly deep roster and two key players returning.
But Brad Stevens has shown a willingness to be proactive during a trade. So, it’s time to refresh ourselves on what Stevens does during trades.
Boston has no open roster spots. They got Justin Jackson and Noah Vonle on non-guaranteed deals if they needed to clear a roster spot. Luke Cornett is also on a non-guaranteed deal. But Cornett is a rotation player and won’t be overlooked for a roster spot.
The Celtics are currently about $25.5 million in the luxury tax. Presumably, Boston wants to shave off that image, but they don’t seem to be in a position where it’s necessary to do so. This means that no one has to worry about the depth class being taken away, which may be necessary just to save some money on ownership.
Every player on the Celtics roster is eligible for a trade. That doesn’t mean anyone can be dealt, but there are no restrictions preventing Brad Stevens from making a trade if he wants to.
If we had to pick a player to trade for, we’d defiantly pick Payton Pritchard. Point guard is the team’s deepest position. With all of Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon available, Pritchard can’t crack the rotation. This means that it can be found in theory. But don’t look for a deal as Pritchard has another full season left and Smart and Brogdon are good bets to get through some games.
Danilo Gallinari could also be overlooked. His $6.5 million salary is a pretty decent chunk of salary — within a contract. But with less reputation than Sperling for being aggressive, Boston won’t sign an injured player who doesn’t even suit his dream club. Unless, of course, another injury needs to be fully replenished, “We hardly know you!” will be. For Gallinari period.
The players most likely to lose are Jackson or Vonle. If Boston can shave some money off the tax bill, they could do so by moving a non-rotating player or two.
The Celtics are sitting on any number of monster-sized variations of traded players, but there are only a handful they can use. This is a good place to remind everyone that TPEs cannot be combined with other TPEs or outgoing wages to get extra cash back.
Here are the remaining TPEs in Boston:
· $6.9 Million – Expires 1/19 – From Juancho Hernangomez
· $5.9 million – expires 2/10 – from Dennis Schroder
· $2.2 million – Expires 2/10 – from Ball Ball
· $1.9 million – Expires 2/10 – From PJ Dozier
· $1.8 million – Expires 2/10 – from Enes Freedom
· $1.7 million – expires 2/10 – from Bruno Fernando
Boston has a disabled player except for Danilo Gallinari. The price is $3.2 million and can be used to acquire the player in a trade. But there is a restriction that the player must be on an expiring contract. Unlike TPE, DPE cannot be combined with TPE or outgoing wages to produce additional wages.
One wrinkle: DPE can be used to sign a player to a contract during the offseason. Since Boston has no other signing options to offer, other than the standard minimum exception, the Celtics could save DPE for the buyout period. $3.2 million would be attractive to any ring-seeking veteran who can work for a few months.
The Celtics are very clean about what they have to offer in terms of trades for a first-round draft pick. They have a top-12 protected pick for 2023 from the Malcolm Brogdon trade to the Indiana Pacers. After that, the Celtics all own their own first-round picks.
One wrinkle is that in 2028, the San Antonio Spurs could trade a first-rounder to the Celtics if Boston’s pick is second or later. But that doesn’t make that year’s pick unsellable. For 2028, it gets a bit more complicated, as it should have language that reads something like “Boston or San Antonio’s choice is too bad.”
As far as second round picks go, that’s a bit more complicated. Here’s what we’re looking at by year:
· 2023 – Celtics get choice of Houston, Dallas or Miami. There are protections surrounding this pick, but the Celtics will get one pick from one of those teams. Boston will also have the Portland pick this year. The Celtics pick goes to either Charlotte or Washington.
· 2024 – Boston pick goes to Charlotte or Washington (doesn’t get it in 2023)
· 2025 – Celtics pick goes to Oklahoma City or Orlando
· 2026 – Boston will have little leverage for their own pick, Indiana or Miami.
· 2027 – The Celtics pick goes to Orlando
· 2028 – This pick will either stay with the Celtics, go to San Antonio (if Boston has the #1 overall pick in 2028) or go to Orlando if they land 46-60.
· 2029 – Boston has their own option free and clear of any obligations.
(Note: some conditions are rounded for simplicity)
To really simplify things: The Celtics have four (with five restrictions on the 2028 pick) second-round picks moving forward.
It doesn’t seem likely that Boston will trade their draft-and-stock picks for Juhan Begarin or Yam Madar, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Given that the Celtics are a little light on making any offers juicy in terms of second-round picks, they could offer Begari or possibly Madar at the pick. Both players are good enough that a rival team could be interested.
If the Celtics want to make a deal, or if they want to make a deal, they’ve got everything they need to make one. They’ve got more than enough matching salaries to trade for anyone. You can offer up to three unexpected first round picks. You can use TPEs or DPEs to structure transactions in a helpful way.
But Boston is 22-7 when the business season opens. They have the best record in the NBA, a fairly deep roster and two key players on the verge of a comeback.
The trade season can be boring for Boston’s turnaround. But that means trading season’s less glamorous cousin, shopping season, may not have much to offer. This is life when you’re at the top of the league.