Celtics Acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, 1st-Round Pick In 3-Team Deal

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The Celtics will acquire Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller, and a 1st-round draft pick in a three-team deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets, according to multiple reports.

According to several reports, the Celtics are using the Traded Player Exception (TPE), acquired in the deal that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, to make the move. The Celtics will also give up a second-round pick.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appears to have timed this deal in conjunction with Cleveland’s desire to clear salary cap space to make a run at free agent LeBron James. In helping the Cavs clear Jarrett Jack’s salary, the Celtics pick up three valuable assets. They may also have facilitated James’s return to Cleveland and exodus from Miami.

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The Cavaliers drafted the 7-foot-1-inch Zeller out of North Carolina with the 17th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He has career averages of 6.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He gives the Celtics (finally) a center to pair with their crush of power forwards on the front line.

Thornton is a 26-year-old shooting guard who has played with three teams in seven NBA seasons. He averaged 12.3 points in 26 games for Brooklyn last season, but most of his value from Boston’s perspective is his expiring $8.69 million contract.

The only downside of the deal from Boston’s perspective, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, is that the pick from Cleveland is protected. The Celtics now have two first-round picks next season, three in 2016, and two in 2018.

While the trade may end up freeing the Celtics up for a big move this summer, it could also free them up to go after a big-time free agent in 2015. If the Celtics can’t swing a trade for Kevin Love by training camp, they could make a run at him as a free agent next summer.

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