The Celtics were on the precipice of winning their 18th banner, but now face an offseason searching for the final piece of the puzzle. With the core returning for another run at a title, how do they get over the top?
At a projected $25 million over the salary cap, the answer is unlikely to come via free agency. A player-for-player swap seems out of the picture as well as Boston would be hesitant to move on from their top six rotation players and the market for Payton Prichard and Aaron Neismith is nonexistent at best.
Enter the Traded Player Exception (TPE), an NBA rule for teams over the cap that allows them to take in salary without trading another player in return. Thanks to Evan Fournier, Netflix’s Hustle star Juancho Hernangomez and (checks notes) Tristan Thompson, the Celts have multiple levels of expiring TPEs to send in a trade in order to make a salary match.
The biggest chip Brad Stevens has at his disposal is the Evan Fournier TPE for $17.1 million. The clock is ticking as it expires on July 18th so let’s run through a few scenarios on players who could be looking at apartments in the North End.
Nightmare Scenario: Marcus Morris, 2023 cap hit $16.3 million
A ball-stopping, iso-heavy, veteran forward. While his tenacity and toughness would gel well with the defending Eastern Conference Champs, there is a solid feel of ‘been there, done that’ and this move would bring the Celtics in no way closer to achieving the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Likely Scenario: Kevin Huerter, 2023 cap hit $14.5 million
Atlanta has been rumored to be blowing it up and Huerter could be a solid, albeit uninspiring addition for Ime Udoka’s squad. A sweet shooter, splendid defender and talented playmaker, he could spell Tatum and Brown as well as play alongside them in crunchtime.
In a summer full of NBA stars swapping jerseys, Brad Stevens is ready to pounce.