Celtics

Here’s how the Celtics could take advantage of the Dejounte Murray trade

The Spurs are in rebuild mode, and the Hawks have to shed salary. Will any potential options shake loose?

Celtics Spurs
San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson plays against the Dallas Mavericks during an NBA basketball game. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The Celtics weren’t part of the biggest deal of the day on Wednesday — a blockbuster move that sent Spurs star Dejounte Murray to the Hawks in exchange for three first-round picks and a pick swap — but they could be beneficiaries as both teams deal with the fall out.

The Spurs are clearly in teardown mode — one of several teams that will likely start tanking in an effort to acquire 7-foot-2 18-year-old Victor Wembanyana, who is considered by many draft analysts to be the best prospect since LeBron James. The Hawks, meanwhile, are out quite a few first-round picks and might be willing to part with some of their guard depth as Murray and Trae Young assume spots in the starting lineup.

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Here’s a closer look at some of the players who might shake free as the Spurs commence a teardown and the Hawks try to build a contender.

Spurs

Keldon Johnson — This one might be a stretch. Johnson won’t turn 23 until October, and he just wrapped up the best season of his career — a versatile defender who averaged 17 points per game on 46.6/39.8/75.6 shooting splits to go with 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. But if the Spurs are truly in teardown mode and don’t want to risk the possibility of a second Johnson leap year taking them out of contention for Wembanyana, Johnson would be a perfect fit for the Celtics and is good enough to warrant some real assets up to and including a first-round pick.

Danilo Gallinari — Gallinari is a much easier needle to thread, and the Celtics have read the tea leaves — don’t expect him to spend much time in San Antonio. He’s not a perfect fit, but Gallinari can still space the floor and could provide some depth off the bench on a cheap contract.

Jakob Poeltl — The Celtics have a few different needs to address, but Poeltl might be as good a bench depth piece as you can find — 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game behind Al Horford and Robert Williams would be a welcome upgrade and a great way to try to ensure Williams holds up for the playoffs. The market for Poeltl might get a little too hot for the Celtics’ liking, however.

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Lonnie Walker IV — Walker has generated plenty of buzz, but the path to acquiring him is bumpy at best. The Spurs extended him a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent. If they rescind that and Walker wants to mid-level exception, great! Otherwise, you can probably ignore Walker rumors.

Hawks

Kevin Huerter — We wrote about Huerter as one of our top Celtics targets with the TPE created by Evan Fournier’s sign-and-trade. The Celtics could really use Huerter’s shot creation, ball-handling, and floor spacing. Huerter shot 53 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range last season.

John Collins — The Celtics reportedly have some interest in Collins, but acquiring him wouldn’t be easy — he’ll make $23.5 million this upcoming season, so real talent would have to go out the door. Collins averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds last year and offers both floor spacing and some high-flying acrobatics as a dunker.

The best guess here? A player like Huerter would be of great interest since he fits into the Fournier TPE, and Gallinari could be a solid bench piece. The others might be a bit of a stretch for a variety of reasons.

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