Celtics

Celtics have ‘list of people’ in mind to use $17.1 million trade exception on

The Celtics have until July 18 to use it.

Brad Stevens has multiple ways to add veteran players to the Celtics this offseason. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

A week after their season came to a disappointing end in the NBA Finals, the Celtics had a quiet night at the NBA Draft, selecting one player at the very end of the night.

Now, the Celtics’ focus turns to the point of the offseason where they could actually add players that can lift them over the top to win a title next season. Free agency, which begins on June 30, is certainly one way to do that. But Boston is currently slated to be well above the salary cap.

The Celtics do have a major chip though to add some talent: a $17.1 million trade exception. Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens says he is more than willing to use it to add veteran talent.

“We’re exploring every avenue to use it. That’s the bottom line,” Stevens said in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” on Friday. “At the end of the day, the way that it works, you just don’t take somebody from another team. You have to meet their needs for the trade request. There’s a lot that goes into it. We have a list of people that we think could fit really well on our team that could fit into that. If the right deal comes along, we’ll be willing to do it, for sure.”

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While the Celtics can add several kinds of players with the exception, there are a few rules and things to keep in mind when thinking of possible trade ideas. For starters, the exception expires on July 18 as it was created when guard Evan Fournier was sign-and-traded from Boston to New York last offseason.

The other rule to keep in mind is that it can only be used to acquire a player making a $17.1 million salary or smaller. So, let’s say in the instance that Kevin Durant does seek a trade from the Nets amid their dysfunction, the Celtics wouldn’t be able to use the trade exception to facilitate a deal because he has a $44.1 million salary next season.

This also isn’t the Celtics’ first rodeo with a major trade exception. When Gordon Hayward left for Charlotte via free agency in 2020, Boston was able to negotiate a sign-and-trade that gave it a $28.5 million trade exception, the largest in NBA history.

The Celtics used part of it to acquire Fournier from the Magic at the trade deadline in 2021 and they used the rest of it to acquire guard Josh Richardson from the Mavericks in the ensuing offseason. Both players were in the final year of their contracts at the time the Celtics acquired them. That might be the case for the Celtics again this time around as several teams are looking to offload salary for free agency.

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One of those teams looking to move off salary ahead of free agency is the Knicks. New York actually made a pair of trades on draft night to save money, moving Kemba Walker to Detroit, as it reportedly gears to make a run for Dallas point guard Jalen Brunson. Wing Alec Burks, who is set to make $10 million next season and has a team option for the year after that, could be of interest for the Celtics. The 30-year-old made 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers last season, a talent Boston could certainly use after its offense fell flat in the Finals.

Another team looking to shake things up is the Wizards. Washington’s looking to keep star guard Bradley Beal, who is a free agent, but is reportedly looking to retool its roster after missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons. Forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both on expiring deals and have scoring and shooting talent that could be enticing to the Celtics.

Moving out West, the Clippers were looking to move sharpshooter Luke Kennard ahead of Thursday’s draft, according to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney. Kennard, who led the league in 3-point shooting percentage last season, still has two years and an option left on his contract, but he might not see the floor much next season with stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George expecting to make a full return. Forward Marcus Morris, who played for the Celtics from 2017-19, could also be moved for a similar reason.

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Heat guard Duncan Robinson could also be a target. A career 40.6 percent 3-point shooter, Robinson’s considered one of the best deep shooters in the league. But he struggled for much of the past season, losing his spot in the starting lineup. As Robinson spent much of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics on the bench, the Heat could be willing to rid themselves of Robinson’s contract as he heads into the second year of a five-year, $90 million deal.

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