Celtics

Who might the Celtics trade before the deadline? A closer look at every player on the roster

The Celtics are reportedly very active as the deadline approaches. Who might they trade?

Celtics trade deadline
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looks to pass against the New York Knicks during the second half of an NBA basketball game. AP Photo/Adam Hunger

After a disappointing season so far, the Celtics are reportedly very active in the trade market as Brad Stevens approaches his first deadline.

The extra activity makes sense: With more than half the season behind them, the Celtics are still hovering around .500 and have been wildly inconsistent. So who might be on the move? Here’s a closer look at everyone on the roster.

Jayson Tatum

Contract: 5 years, up to $195 million (player option 2025-26)

The Case For A Trade: The constant trade speculation has to be eating away at Tatum and Brown, and maybe a huge shake-up would help. Tatum would certainly bring back a big name, and maybe a Celtics team built around Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and whoever they acquired in exchange for Tatum would — at the very least — be interesting.

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The Case Against: Jayson Tatum is a 23-year-old forward capable of scoring 50-60 points in a game on any given night. He’s having a down season from 3-point range, and he’s still averaging 25.8 points per game (imagine how we would be talking about him if he was shooting 3-pointers like last year).

At the core of the Celtics’ ethos is a desire to compete for championships, and competing for championships requires a superstar player. Jayson Tatum is on a path toward genuine superstardom, and you don’t deal that type of talent at 23 in a speculative move.

What do we think? The Celtics, of course, will not be trading Jayson Tatum at the deadline or in the near future.

Jaylen Brown

Contract: Four years, $106 million (free agent in 2024)

The Case For A Trade: How serious do the Celtics want to get about moving pieces around? Acquiring a star won’t be cheap, and Brown would shake free some intriguing names around the league.

The Case Against: The Celtics’ grand plan seems to be creating a new Big Three, and Brown is certainly good enough to be included in that grand plan. Getting stars is hard, and the Celtics already have two of them.

What do we think? The Celtics keep broadcasting that they don’t want to trade Brown, and they shouldn’t. Not only is he a star, finding fair value in a deal for a 25-year-old wing on a very friendly contract won’t be easy.

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Brown gets better every year, and he’s more than capable of stepping up whenever Tatum is out. The Celtics should make more moves around the margins — whether in player or team personnel — before they give up on trying to maximize the two.

Marcus Smart

Contract: Four years, $76 million (starts next season)

The Case For A Trade: Again, if the Celtics want to get serious about acquiring talent, talent will have to be sent away. Smart will draw a lot of interest league-wide — his All-Defense first team awards are a primary selling point, and he’s a proven playmaker.

The Case Against: The Celtics are 7.3 points per 100 possessions better with Smart on the floor and have fallen apart at times in games when he is injured or sick.

What do we think? This feels like one of the more likely avenues. Smart would bring back value. Smart plus picks would bring back more, especially as the Celtics hover around the lottery.

Still, the Celtics have not proven they can play well consistently without Smart, so in any potential deal, they would need to make sure they have the requisite playmaking to complement their stars. They might miss his defense and playmaking more than they think.

Robert Williams

Contract: 4 years, $48 million (starts next season)

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The Case For A Trade: There’s not much here, unless a star becomes available (and even then, there’s a case to be made for trying to hang on). The best case we can make is that Williams would have a lot of trade value, and perhaps there’s an opportunity to sell high.

The Case Against: Williams is an unbelievable athlete who is quickly growing into his potential in a greater role. What’s more, he’s on a very team-friendly deal, and he negates the need to pursue a starting quality center for the next four years.

What do we think? Don’t bet on Williams going anywhere. He’s too valuable in both the short term and the long term.

Al Horford

Contract: Four years, $109 million (this year and next remaining, next year partially guaranteed at $14.5 million)

The Case For A Trade: Horford is struggling from deep this season, and the Celtics clearly have their center of the future in Williams. Horford’s contract is big enough to open some doors matching salary, and his partial guarantee next season could be particularly friendly.

The Case Against: While Horford’s salary could be useful to match, it’s also hefty: He’s slated to make an even $27 million this season. Meanwhile, Williams has been very healthy by his standards and has still missed 11 of the first 48 games. Are the Celtics really ready to shed their insurance policy?

What do we think? Trading Horford wouldn’t be a disaster, but the Celtics might be better served waiting until the offseason when bigger names might come available. At that point, the matching salary/partial guarantee/expiring contract could turn Horford into a genuine asset.

Dennis Schröder

Contract: One year, $5.9 million

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The Case For A Trade: This one is pretty simple: Schröder sees himself as a starter, and it’s hard to argue based on his statistics. There’s almost no chance the Celtics will re-sign him next season and almost no chance they contend for a title this season, so dealing Schröder gives them a chance to recoup an asset for a player who almost certainly be gone by October.

The Case Against: Schröder does offer dynamic ball-handling and scoring the Celtics don’t really get elsewhere. If they swing a deal for Smart instead, keeping Schröder around for the time being might be prudent: The starting lineup with Schröder in place of Smart obliterates opponents by 19.3 points per 100 possessions.

What do we think? Trading one of Smart or Schröder feels plausible, so it might just come down to preference for Stevens.

Josh Richardson

Contract: $11.6 million expiring this season, followed by a one-year extension worth $12.2 million

The Case For A Trade: Like Schröder, Richardson likely isn’t part of the long-term plan, and he’s having a good season. Trading him now could be a sell-high move given the volatility in his 3-point shooting over the years, which is currently a sparkling 39.8 percent.

The Case Against: See above. Richardson is having a good season, and he’s a productive guard who defends and handles the ball. How will the Celtics balance their short-term desire to win with their long-term desire to build a contender?

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What do we think? Trading Richardson seems unproductive. He doesn’t have a lot of upside at this point, so teams are unlikely to overpay. What’s more, unlike Schröder, he will be around next season. If you were betting on one or the other, Schröder feels significantly more likely to be dealt.

Grant Williams

Contract: Third year of a rookie deal, extension eligible after this season

The Case For A Trade: Is Williams really a 42.4 percent 3-point shooter? Could this be a moment to sell high?

The Case Against: Williams might really be a 42.4 percent 3-point shooter, and if so, he’s could be a highly valuable player if he signs a rookie extension this offseason.

What do we think? The Celtics should tread lightly trading either Williams. In Grant’s case, he is part of a few intriguing lineups that have crushed opponents, and he offers reliable floor spacing the Celtics simply don’t have elsewhere. If he is going to be traded, this summer feels more likely as part of a big deal.

Romeo Langford

Contract: Third year of a rookie deal, extension eligible after this season

The Case For A Trade: A team looking for a young wing with plenty of potential in nearly every facet of his game could do worse than a look at Langford. His contract status provides teams with a lot of control, which they generally value.

The Case Against: Langford simply isn’t that valuable as a trade chip at this stage.

What do we think? If the Celtics trade veterans at the deadline, the hope (presumably) would be to give Langford more of an opportunity to showcase himself rather than offloading him.

Aaron Nesmith

Contract: Second year of a rookie deal.

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The Case For A Trade: Not much here. Maybe a team liked Nesmith in pre-draft workouts and values him highly?

The Case Against: Much like Langford, the trade value here isn’t high, and the Celtics would probably like a better look at Nesmith themselves before they move on from him.

What do we think? Nesmith still has shooting upside, and he hustles like crazy. He’s also a much better athlete than he showed in college. The Celtics might be better served showcasing him, whether for their own rotation or for opposing teams.

Payton Pritchard

Contract: Second year of a rookie deal

The Case For A Trade: If the Celtics wanted to deal Pritchard, the window to trade him was immediately after Summer League when he looked like a borderline starter.

The Case Against: Pritchard’s lack of playing time has presumably tanked his trade value, but he still has plenty of potential. Now probably isn’t the time.

What do we think? Pritchard — like Nesmith and Langford — needs to show a lot more in either direction before the Celtics make a decision about his future.

Enes Freedom

Contract: One year contract, $1.7 million

The Case For A Trade: The center rotation is crowded. Freedom also doesn’t offer the same level of defense against Joel Embiid any more — the Sixers superstar is simply too good at this stage.

The Case Against: Freedom isn’t taking up much cap space, and he offers some offense in certain scenarios.

What do we think? We’ve reached the part of the roster where players would be salary filler in a deal. Still, don’t bet on Freedom being traded: However you feel about the message, his off-court activism is complicated for teams who employ him.

Bruno Fernando

Contract: One year, $1.8 million

The Case For A Trade: There isn’t a strong one.

The Case Against: There isn’t a strong one.

What do we think? If Fernando gets dealt, you can bet the Celtics needed somewhere between $1-2 million to get a deal done.

Bol Bol

Contract: One year, $2.1 million

The Case For A Trade: Maybe a team is a big believer in Bol Bol.

The Case Against: The Celtics have Bol’s restricted free-agent rights at the end of the season, and they just acquired him citing his intriguing upside.

What do we think? Nope.

P.J. Dozier

Contract: One year, $1.9 million

The Case For A Trade: Maybe a team is a big believer in P.J. Dozier.

The Case Against: The Celtics have Dozier’s Bird rights at the end of the season, and they just acquired him.

What do we think? Nope.

Brodric Thomas and Sam Hauser

Contract: Two-way

What do we think? Theoretically, you can trade a two-way player but why bother when you could simply cut them and sign a different one at any time? Two-way players make good money, but they are in an uneasy spot.

Conclusion

The guess here is that one or more of Smart, Schröder, and Richardson get dealt in a move to clear playing time for the young players, and the Celtics start setting themselves up for a busy summer. In any case, we can probably expect plenty of rumors — and maybe even some action — over the next two weeks.

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