ESPN’s Bobby Marks breaks down Celtics’ options at NBA trade deadline

ESPN’s Bobby Marks breaks down Celtics’ options at NBA trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The NBA trade deadline is a little more than two weeks away, and we’re already starting to see some deals get done.

The Indiana Pacers acquired star forward Pascal Siakam from the Toronto Raptors last week. And then on Tuesday, the Miami Heat landed point guard Terry Rozier in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

What will the Boston Celtics do?

They might not do much. For starters, they have the best roster in the league, so there’s not a lot of weaknesses that need addressing. Boston also has no major injuries and owns the league’s best record at 34-10.

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Another reason why the Celtics might not be very active around the trade deadline is that they don’t have many tradeable contracts they can dangle on the market. They also are hindered in some ways by the league’s new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

One advantage the Celtics have over many of their other contending teams is that they still own most of their draft picks. The only first-rounder the C’s don’t own is their 2029 pick (owed to the Blazers from the Jrue Holiday trade). The Spurs also have the right to swap 2028 first-round picks with the C’s (from the Derrick White trade). But aside from that, Boston has its full war chest of draft picks.

“That’s what people forget about Boston,” ESPN’s Bobby Marks said on a new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast. “They’re not like some of these other teams. They’re not like Milwaukee. They’re not like Phoenix. Yes, their payroll is high, but … they’re still sitting on the draft equity.”

It takes salary to make a deal, though, and if the Celtics are going to acquire someone whose salary is in the $9-15 million range, matching that amount of money could prove difficult. It’s not as easy to do that as it was in previous years because of the new CBA. The Celtics have just two players whose salary for the 2023-24 season falls between $3 million and $17 million in Payton Pritchard and Al Horford.

“It’s basically that $6.2 million trade exception (for Grant Williams), right? Let’s just remove the draft equity out of there because that would come into play if a player becomes available here,” Marks said. “But I think ownership has committed that they’re willing to spend. They’ve always said, ‘Hey, if we have a championship roster, we can go out and do it.’ Because they made the trade last year where they saved money and then they went out and got Mike Muscala at the deadline where they added back money. So it’s almost like rotating the money around here. They’ve got an open roster spot. They are top-heavy. You’re not moving your top six, right? Your six guys are your core guys.

“I found it funny, and I try to stay off the rumor mill — like, ‘Oh yeah, Boston would like Kelly Olynyk.’ I’m like, yeah, I’m sure they would like Kelly Olynyk in Boston. Yeah, you’re trading like seven guys (to make the deal work). That’s the reality of it.

“You have to look at it as, besides the exception, you can only take back within 110 percent of money coming in. That’s hard. So if you’re trading for a $10 million guy, you’re trying to send out like $9 million and change. The old days of getting within $5-6 million are not there anymore.

“So I think you’re looking at guys who fit into that $6.2 million TPE. I don’t think New Orleans would do it, but Naji Marshall would be great, right? Kind of a big wing here. But he plays for them. I don’t think you would trade a first-rounder (for Marshall) because he’s on an expiring deal.

John Konchar in Memphis — guys like that who are on a controllable contract. Those are kind of your wing guys that you’re going out and trying to do. Payton (Pritchard) signed this rookie extension here. We always say he’s got a poison pill restriction, right? But Payton’s on a good contract, and when you’re high with salaries, you need those $7 million players or $8 million players just to balance out the rest of your roster here.

“Listen, they will be active like all 30 teams and as far as what you can fit into that $6.2 million.”

The new CBA also limits what the Celtics can do in the buyout market.

“They’ll be active in the buyout market,” Marks said. “But with the (CBA) restrictions, they can only sign players whose salary was below $12.4 million from their pre-existing contract.

“Like, if Gordon Hayward became available, he’s out of the mix. If Kyle Lowry became available, he’s out of the mix. If Alec Burks became available, potentially. So you’re limited here as far as what you can do.”

It would be wise for the Celtics to add at least a depth piece before the trade deadline, preferably in the frontcourt to lessen the workload of Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford to keep them fresh for the playoffs. But if you’re expecting a major splash, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Also in this episode:

  • Which team has gotten better with their most recent moves?

  • How much can Doc Rivers help the Bucks?

  • JD Davison 1-on-1

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