The NBA is closing in on the 48-hour countdown to the trade deadline. This is when things really start to pick up. We’re approaching “last, best offer” time around the NBA.
The Boston Celtics have been active ahead of Thursday’s 3:00 PM ET deadline. One league source went so far as to say, “Boston is doing a lot of talking, considering they don’t have a ton to trade. Or at least that they are willing to trade.”
Here’s what we’re hearing about the Celtics two days out from deadline day:
One league source said about Boston’s rumored interest in Kevin Durant, “I’m sure they’re interested. So are 28 other teams. 29 if you include the Nets just keeping Durant. Everyone has had the conversation about ‘What’s our best offer for KD?’ in the last few days.”
Still, don’t expect anything to happen here. First, Durant would want a trade and the Nets would want to trade him. Unlike with Kyrie Irving, who could walk for nothing after the season, Durant is on a long-term deal in Brooklyn. That gives the Nets more leverage.
Another source told CelticsBlog, “I’m sure Boston would re-engage. We know they talked over the summer. But that’s a huge deal to make in-season. I’m not sure Brad (Stevens) would want to disrupt things that much. But it’s Kevin Durant. You have to at least make the call.”
Most believe that Boston and Grant Williams will get a new deal done this summer. But chatter around the Celtics trading Williams is starting to grow a little louder. One source told CelticsBlog that Boston is wary about what Williams wants moving forward, both in terms of a new deal and a bigger role:
“Grant wants a lot of money. We heard he thinks he’s got $18 to $20 million waiting for him in free agency. And he wants to play more, probably start. Not sure either one of those happen with Boston.”
Is it surprising that Williams would like to play more and maybe start? Not at all. That’s almost all good, young players. It’s more concerning if they don’t want to play more and start. But here’s the important thing: Williams probably does want that, but he’s not letting it take him out of his role. He doesn’t sulk about it. He just plays. If you can’t remember a time when Williams complained about his role or his minutes, that’s because it’s never happened. That’s a big part of what makes him a hard player for the Celtics to trade. He fits so well within the team’s hierarchy right now.
A league source said, “Brad (Stevens) will move Williams if he can get a comparable player that’s under team control for a couple more years.”
That’s not going to be an easy needle to thread. Williams is an important rotation player, but his days on a value contract are running out. It’s no longer the lock Williams is in Boston long-term as it once seemed.
Rival teams have called Boston about Derrick White only to be shut down. One team said, “We thought with all their guard depth, that White might be available. He’s not untouchable, but they would need more than what they gave up to get him.”
Another source said, “White has a ton of value, because he can play both guard spots, on- and off-ball and he can defend most small forwards too. And, for Boston, he fills in for (Marcus) Smart and (Malcolm) Brogdon, who both get hurt a lot. They’ve set a price no one is going to meet.”
Sources told CelticsBlog that teams that called about White included the LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks (pre-Kyrie Irving trade), Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets. None of the talks got particularly close, as Boston wants win-now players, and at least one first-round pick in exchange for White.
Traded Player Exception
The Celtics have a TPE of $5,890,000 from the Dennis Schroder trade at last year’s deadline. Using that TPE has been the focus for Boston at the deadline.
One source told CelticsBlog, “We haven’t talked a player who makes more than $6 million with Boston. They’re offering picks and minor players for our low-salary guys. They want to use that TPE.”
Another rival team said, “It’s clear to us that Brad (Stevens) has the go-ahead to add tax money, because all of our conversations would be TPE trades for them. We just don’t have anyone that’s a fit for that kind of deal, but the Celtics are trying to use it.”
Keep an eye on the Celtics potentially sending a protected first-round pick, or two second-round picks, in exchange for a player that makes under $6 million to fit in the TPE. It seems like Boston has no plans to let it expire.
Opposing teams continue to call on Payton Pritchard. One told CelticsBlog, “They have to trade a guard, right? Pritchard made it pretty clear he wants to play more.”
But others say the Celtics are in no rush to move the third-year guard. One source close to the situation said, “He’s the best pure shooter on the roster. That has real value. Plus, how many games are you winning if other guards are hurt and all you have is Derrick (White)? Nothing against Derrick, but he’s not a 48-minute guard. He needs someone to spot him rest if (Marcus) Smart and (Malcolm) Brogdon can’t go.”
League sources expect the logjam at guard to be something that is resolved over the summer. One source put it succinctly, “They’re trying to win a title. You don’t give away good depth at spots with injury histories. Boston won’t get cute.”
The Buyout Market
With the Danilo Gallinari Disabled Player Exception, Boston has more spending power than most other contenders. That DPE is worth roughly $3.2 million, and it doesn’t prorate like a veteran minimum deal does.
It’s also the presence of the DPE that adds to it being unlikely that Boston will trade Gallinari. If Gallinari is traded before the DPE is used, it automatically expires unused.
One source said, “Boston is going to pick off whoever they want on the buyout market. They have money and minutes. And they’re a title contender. That checks all the boxes.”
Players generally prioritize the following, in order, during buyout season: contending for the Finals, playing a role and then salary. If the first two are equal, the third becomes a nice tiebreaker. The Celtics can offer more money than most others, giving them a nice advantage for post-trade deadline maneuvering.