Dunn traded to the Celtics, but could be become part of another deal?
NBA free agency doesn’t begin until Monday night but that hasn’t stopped the Boston Celtics from having a very busy weekend when it comes to shaking up the roster.
Brad Stevens acquired New London’s Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando and a 2023 second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks for Tristan Thompson on Friday night and followed up that deal with a Josh Richardson acquisition from the Dallas Mavericks for a protected pick per a league source.
What exactly do these deals mean when it comes to the Celtics’ options for free agency?
What about Evan Fournier?
Let’s dissect a few takeaways from the moves for both the short and long term. Either Fournier or Marcus Smart probably won’t be back next season: This is simply a matter of math.
While Dunn could still be on the move via a separate deal per a league source, the Celtics brought aboard a starter-level player in Richardson who is a 6-foot-6 wing. He makes a reasonable $11 million for the 2021-22 season but retaining him, Smart and re-signing Fournier would push the Celtics deep into luxury tax territory while also creating a bit of a logjam at the two-guard spot.
For that reason, Richardson is likely a backup plan for Boston in the event Fournier’s market gets too pricy in free agency next week. The Celtics may not be willing to commit the long-term money in order to retain him so Richardson would be a capable replacement.
If the Celtics decide they are willing to keep Fournier on a favorable deal, moving Smart would be an option as well if the team does not believe they will be able to afford re-signing him next offseason. Boston could also attempt to get a return for Fournier in a sign-and-trade deal if his price tag gets too high.
The Celtics maintain long-term flexibility: It’s no coincidence that the Celtics’ trades this week involve acquiring players with just a single year left remaining on their contracts (Dunn, Fernando, Richardson).
The Celtics have saved some money in these deals, but have also ensured they have options beyond this season. A potential bridge season could be in the cards if this continues with no long-term commitments.
More deals are coming since the roster is too crowded: The Richardson trade gives Boston 15 players on their roster with just 13 guaranteed deals.
Needless to say, the Celtics won’t be content heading into next season with that roster.
Look for additional moves on the fringes for Boston whether or not Fournier is retained in free agency.
The Celtics are putting their trade exceptions to use and creating new ones: Richardson fits into the remainder of the Celtics’ $11 million leftover trade exception from the Gordon Hayward trade while Dunn fits into a $4.7 million exception leftover from the Enes Kanter trade.
The Celtics also created a new traded player exception with the Thompson deal at $9.2 million, leaving Boston with three substantial exceptions, each worth between $5-10 million that they can use at some point in the upcoming season.
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