Chris Forsberg

Pondering options for Celtics who fit into the Grant Williams TPE

The Celtics generated a $6.2 million traded player exception by sending Grant Williams to the Mavericks.

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Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told reporters in Las Vegas earlier this week that the team might try to add depth at the forward positions before wrapping up summer roster construction.

Boston has one open spot on the parent roster, along with two players on nonguaranteed deals in Justin Champagnie and Luke Kornet. The team also has two remaining two-way slots after signing 2022 draftee JD Davison to a second two-way deal last week.

The Celtics have limited means to add talent, with virtually no way to sign free agents beyond minimum salaries. If the team yearns to preserve maximum in-season flexibility, it would steer clear of using the $5 million taxpayer midlevel (which would hard cap the team at the $182.5 million second apron).

Boston’s best path to potentially adding talent would be utilizing a $6.2 million traded player exception generated by delivering Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks in a three-team sign-and-trade deal.

So who could the Celtics target at that salary level? Ballooning contracts don’t make it very easy to find low-cost talent but here are a few of the names that jumped out: 

Saddiq Bey, Atlanta Hawks ($4.5 million)

The 24-year-old Bey is entering the final year of his rookie pact, which might at least entice the Hawks to consider trade possibilities and keep the price tag relatively low. Alas, the Hawks are also thinner at the power forward spot after finally moving John Collins.

Bey would offer Boston a 2020 do-over after the Celtics chose Aaron Nesmith with Bey still on the board (he went 19th to Detroit). Bey shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in 25 games with the Hawks last season and is at 36 percent for his career. Boston could use a little bit of his Villanova grit given its offseason departures. 

Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers ($5.7 million)

The Cavaliers added Georges Niang and Max Strus this offseason while drafting Emoni Bates. That could put a crunch on perimeter shooters like the 26-year-old Wade, who had an up-and-down year last season. Wade is a career 36.2 percent shooter beyond the 3-point arc but he brings the sort of size Boston might covet (6-foot-9, 228 pounds). He started 60 games over the past three seasons and is a solid team defender. 

Otto Porter Jr., Toronto Raptors ($6.3 million)

The extra bit of padding built into TPEs could leave the Celtics just enough room to ponder someone like Porter. His health probably doesn’t make it worth the risk. Porter played 63 games for Golden State in 2022 and aided their title run (including against Boston in the NBA Finals that year).

The Raptors rolled the dice in signing him to a two-year deal last summer and he played a mere eight games this past season. That might drive down the price for someone that would be a depth piece. but if Porter Jr.’s salary forced the Celtics above the second apron, it might not be worth even taking on the contract.

Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic ($5.3 million)

Would the Magic and their glut of young talent be willing to sell low on the soon-to-be 25-year-old forward? The former 16th overall pick is entering the final year of his rookie deal and played only 27 games last year due to injuries. The scouting report suggests a 3-and-D wing but Okeke hasn’t shot the ball well at the NBA level (32.3 percent on 4.2 attempts per game for his career).

Precious Achiuwa, Toronto Raptors ($4.4 million)

Will the Raptors start selling off pieces, or try to ride what they’ve got? If the firesale starts, Boston could inquire about Achiuwa, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The soon-to-be 24-year-old might cost a bit more but would provide depth up front where the Celtics have health concerns.

Ultimately, every deal involving a wing has to be balanced with a priority of (1) Playing Sam Hauser more than the Celtics did a year ago to further aid his development, while gauging his ability to be a consistent rotation presence and (2) Preserving draft capital for the sort of surefire move that might aid a championship-caliber team.

If you don’t think any of these players move the needle for a championship hopeful, then it’s probably best to ride what you’ve got. Ultimately, the TPE simply opens another avenue for the Celtics to consider adding talent without handcuffing themselves in the event that a bigger in-season splash comes their way.

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