Boston Celtics post-trade deadline scuttle

The 2023 NBA trade deadline is in the rearview mirror. The Boston Celtics made one trade, swapping Justin Jackson and two second-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Mike Muscala.

Boston took on about $1.7 million in salary in that deal. That will add about $6.3 million total in terms of salary and luxury tax penalties. That’s not an insignificant amount for a franchise that has danced around tax issues in recent years. But Wyc Grousbeck said Brad Stevens had the go-ahead to add, and it’s likely even more will be added when Boston fills out their roster on the buyout market.

Here’s some more fallout from the deadline for the Celtics:

  • Boston never re-engaged with the Brooklyn Nets on a Kevin Durant trade, beyond the cursory phone call that all 29 teams made. Sources say the Celtics weren’t willing to meet the Nets asking price over the summer and weren’t going to add to their previous offers in-season.
  • League sources say the Celtics briefly re-engaged the San Antonio Spurs about Jakob Poeltl ahead of the deadline, after cutting off previous talks at the end of December when Rob Williams returned to the lineup. Boston wasn’t willing to meet San Antonio’s asking price of a first-round pick, Payton Pritchard and Danilo Gallinari. The Celtics viewed Poeltl as a potential rental and had no plans of trading serious value for only a few months.
  • Multiple teams called Boston on Grant Williams. The Celtics never got close to an offer they seriously considered. One source said, “It was clear they had no desire to move Williams. The ask was a pretty big one.”

Another source said the Celtics wanted a player who could step right into the rotation AND a good draft pick (lottery-protected first-round pick or better) for Williams. That’s as clear of a sign as you’re going to get of how much Boston values Williams, and some potential insight into their summer plans for Williams’ restricted free agency.

  • The Celtics were chasing two things at the trade deadline: another big and wing depth. Sources tell CelticsBlog that Boston was in on several of the wings that were traded, but bowed out due to meeting the asking prices in terms of picks and salary-matching.

One source said, “When it became things like four and five second-round picks, plus matching salary for guys like (Luke) Kennard, (Josh) Hart and (Eric Gordon), Boston was out. They just didn’t have that available. That’s why they pivoted to (Mike) Muscala.”

Sources also said that Muscala having a team option for next season was a draw for Boston too. The Celtics like that he could feature in roster-planning heading into next season too.

  • On the Muscala addition, one veteran scout told CelticsBlog: “He’s basically perfect for them. They can keep running the five-out stuff and they could even play him next to Rob (Williams) if they needed to. Adding Moose (Muscala’s nickname) won’t directly swing the Finals or anything. But it could indirectly swing the Finals by keeping (Al) Horford and Rob (Williams) rested for the next couple of months.”
  • Boston is engaged with several players in advance of buyout discussions. With a role available on a Finals contender and $3.2 million in spending power, the Celtics believe they can beat most offers wing players will get this month.

Players to keep an eye on include Will Barton, Danny Green, Justin Holiday and Terrence Ross.

Also, Boston likes Tony Snell, who has shot 47.6% on three-pointers since joining the Maine Celtics of the G League last month.

  • According to sources, the Celtics had lots of discussions around Payton Pritchard. However, with backcourt injuries to Marcus Smart, and now Jaylen Brown, Boston was reluctant to move Pritchard.

A source told CelticsBlog, “I bet they move Pritchard this summer. But right now, that was a risk Brad (Stevens) wasn’t going to make. As a former coach, he knows you can never have enough point guard depth. But this summer, I bet they do right by (Pritchard) and get him somewhere he can play more and have a bigger role before his rookie deal ends.”

  • Trading Danilo Gallinari was never a real thing for Boston. Sources said no trades for a $10 million-plus player ever got really close, and that’s the only time the Celtics even considered moving Gallinari.

A source told CelticsBlog: “Gallo is trying really, really hard to get on the floor this year. Boston doesn’t expect it, but he is expected to be a big part of next season’s roster. There’s even some thought that after a year ‘off’ Gallo could see one of those fresh legs bounces. They also love what he’s brought to the locker room and training facility too. There’s a reason he’s traveling with the team all the time. He’s a real part of things this season.”

In a way, the Celtics can treat Gallinari as a “free” upgrade this summer. If he can play before this season ends, that’s the bonus of all bonuses. But it’s far more likely he comes in as a Day 1 rotation guy next fall. And that will leave the Taxpayer Midlevel Exception available to be used to add another upgrade.

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