The Celtics roster looks like it’s completely filled out. They now have 15 players for 15 roster spots.
NBA free agency is far from over, meaning much of this is still subject to change. There is still a chance Danny Ainge decides to make another trade to open up an additional roster spot before December rolls around. While it would make sense for the Celtics to add a veteran on a non-guaranteed training camp contract in a normal year, that might prove to be a less than lucrative endeavor for both the Celtics and any potential veteran given the lack of time between now and the start of the season. If this is it for the Celtics, here’s how their offseason grades out. If you want to see the draft grades, you can check them out here.
Deal: 2 years, $19 million
Thompson provides the Celtics with two desperately needed qualities: rebounding and playoff experience. Thompson is 8th all-time in offensive rebound percentage and 2nd among active players. The Celtics weren’t a terrible rebounding team last season, even when Enes Kanter wasn’t playing, but Thompson provides them with Kanter-level rebounding without sacrificing anywhere near as much defensively. Stevens tended to use Kanter in spots to spark the Celtics offense when they needed the easy second chance points he could provide, but teams would relentlessly attack Kanter in the pick-and-roll on the other end and force him off the court. Thompson won’t have that problem. He’ll be a frequently deployed weapon for the Celtics, even if he doesn’t start over Daniel Theis. Don’t be surprised if those two are battling for the starting spot all season long.
Thompson’s shooting is something of a sore spot, but there were some signs of improvement before the pandemic ended Cleveland’s season. Thompson hit 39.1% from deep last year, but only on 23 attempts. It could be an adoration, especially considering he only shot 61% from the free throw line, but Brad Stevens and his assistant coaches have helped bigs expand their range in the past. Fans can hope they can do the same with Thompson, helping him avoid being a liability on offense.
Additionally, the Celtics didn’t even have a player on the roster last season that had played in an NBA Finals game, nevermind one who had won a championship. Thompson, who’s played in 22 Finals games and has a ring to boot, will give the Celtics a much needed figure in their locker room come playoff time.
Deal: 1 year, $ (unknown)
Teague provides the Celtics a veteran backup point guard with significant playoff experience. Over the last several seasons, the Celtics have run with youth or inexperience at this spot with Shane Larkin, Terry Rozier and Brad Wanamaker. Teague offers a nice change of pace. While Teague doesn’t occupy the spotlight in the same way he once did back when he was starting in Atlanta, he remains a high-level backup and will be a huge upgrade over Brad Wanamaker.
Gordon Hayward‘s Departure
Deal: 4 years, $120 million – Hornets
Losing Hayward for nothing is by no means ideal, but Hayward was a free agent with a player option. Ainge couldn’t have just dealt Hayward anywhere. Hayward’s player option served as a pseudo no trade clause and, as it turned out, he had little incentive to opt into 1-year at $34 million when a 4-year deal for $120 million was waiting for him in Charlotte.
Even still, the loss of Hayward’s can’t be overlooked. He’s a legitimate All-Star caliber wing when he’s a top option, a fact the Hornets are betting big on. The Celtics won’t be able to replace his 17 points per game on 50% shooting very easily. Not many players are capable of such production as the 4th option. This is a huge blow to Boston’s overall talent, however, it could be argued that their roster is more balanced without the positional overlap that Hayward consistently struggled to overcome playing alongside Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
This grade was originally a D-, but the Celtics get a bump from obtaining a trade exception. Still, this transaction is not a win for Danny Ainge.
Vincent Poirier Trade
Oklahoma City gets:
Top-55 protected 2021 2nd round pick
$2.6M trade exception
Poirier failed to find a significant role on the Celtics after coming over from France. After complaining publicly about his lack of minutes, it didn’t take long for Danny Ainge to ship him out. Perhaps Poirier will be able to find more playing time on a rebuilding Thunder that just dealt Steven Adams. Poirier profiles as a player who could play quite similarly to Adams if he’s able to reach his ceiling. The Celtics had to pay to dump Poirier and really didn’t get much of anything in return. The whole Poirier experience on the court was a failure, but at least he provided Celtics fans with some funny moments on Twitter. Ultimately, nothing too significant was lost as the Celtics took a gamble on this mystery man from overseas. It worked out with Daniel Theis, so perhaps it was worth it to try again with Poirier.
We’ll see if the Celtics can make the most of the trade exception, but the pick is unlikely to convey and even more unlikely to provide the Celtics with any value even if it did.
Enes Kanter Trade
30th overall pick (Desmond Bane)
2023 2nd round pick
$5M trade exception
I already graded the draft pick portion of this trade in my draft grades article, so this time I’m just going to focus on the Enes Kanter part. Stevens clearly lost a little piece of his soul every time he was forced to put Enes Kanter in the game, so keeping him on the roster for another season never made sense. Getting a $5 million trade exception in the process of dumping a player they didn’t want and a draft pick they didn’t want is at least something, but a lot will depend on what the Celtics are able to acquire with that trade exception (if anything) to really chalk this up as a win.
At the end of the day, it cost the Celtics a first rounder to dump Kanter. Even so, getting him off of the team may be worth the sacrifice. The Celtics clearly never wanted him and only signed him after Al Horford left because he was one of the only proven bigs left on the market. If Danny Ainge knew what Daniel Theis would turn into last season, it’s unlikely he would’ve bothered to bring in Kanter at all.
Jayson Tatum Extension
Deal: 5 years, $195 million (player option)
Locking up Jayson Tatum for at least the next 5 seasons (the final season of his rookie deal and the first four seasons of his extension) is a win, but not as much of a win as some Celtics fans want to paint it as. While it’s great that Tatum will be staying in Boston, it’s pretty standard for superstar players coming off of rookie deals to sign these extensions. Even De’Aaron Fox signed his with Sacramento… and they’re awful. Jayson Tatum signing his with a team and organization as exception as the Celtics was a formality. There is no world in which any rookie star would turn down a contract like this.
In order for Tatum or any young player of his caliber to leave their team, barring a trade, they would have to play out the final season of their rookie deal, risk injury, hit restricted free agency, sign the qualifying offer, return to the team with the entire organization and fanbase knowing they want out (alienating everyone around them in the process), risk injury for another season and then hit unrestricted free agency. The only star player that has ever even threatened this in recent years was Kristaps Porzingis with the Knicks in 2018 before they traded him to the Mavericks. He then delivered the same threat to the Mavericks, but ultimately caved once he hit restricted free agency and accepted the Mavericks max contract offer as opposed to taking the qualifying offer.
Tatum’s extension is a great deal for both sides, but the celebration is a bit much. This was an inevitability all along. Anyone that thought there was any chance Jayson Tatum wasn’t going to sign this extension has no idea what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it does not make up for the loss of Gordon Hayward.
Overall Offseason Grade: C+
Photo: (Shawn Palmer – Guy Boston Sports x SP Designs)