Entering the NBA offseason, the Boston Celtics find themselves facing some incredibly disparate circumstances simultaneously. On one hand, the club is in the enviable position of having two young All-Stars locked into long-term deals.
Most teams would probably kill to have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on their rosters.
On the other hand, the Celtics aren’t good enough as constructed to make any kind of noise in the playoffs. And their cap situation will likely be prohibitive in adding substantial pieces to the mix.
As such, the team has a major conundrum on its hands with regard to the future of sharpshooter Evan Fournier, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
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Fournier’s Celtics Tenure Has Been Funky
Fournier was Boston’s top prize at the March trade deadline, logging a 13-3-3 line while shooting 46.3% from distance as a Celtic. And he may have more to offer going forward; the mid-season move and his brush with COVID-19 really did a number on his ability to integrate with the Celtics roster and play at his top level.
In total, Fournier played just 16 games with the Beantowners as a result of his grounding via the league’s health and safety protocols. He continued to struggle physically, too, after returning from his COVID-induced absence.
Regardless, decision time has already come for the nine-year pro and the Celtics. And while Boston owns his Bird rights, Fournier should command a substantial salary on the open market; one that the Celtics could have a difficult time paying.
Doing so could impact team president Brad Stevens’ ability to make other significant upgrades. And it will most certainly add millions to Boston’s luxury tax bill.
However, letting Fournier walk away for nothing may hurt even more. Especially after the team used a significant portion of the Gordon Hayward TPE to acquire him from the Orlando Magic.
So, given all of that, will Fournier return next season or not? Over the weekend, Celtics Wire’s Justin Quinn weighed in.
The Celtics Wire Verdict on Fournier’s Future
In his piece about Celtics players entering free agency, Quinn looked to predict whether or not Fournier and others would get new deals in Boston. For those who count themselves among the sharpshooter’s supporters, his take offers a glimmer of hope that Fournier will return.
Fournier seems to be a pretty divisive player, with some seeing him garnering a big paycheck in his looming free agency while others believe he’ll be pretty affordable even as one of the offseason’s better wing options.
We think the truth is somewhere in the middle, but not so pricy as Celtics ownership won’t bite the bullet and pay up. Having the St. Maurice native’s Bird rights in hand certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Fournier pulled down more than $17 million last season in the final year of his deal. He may get at least that much in free agency in spite of his weird stretch run with the Celtics. Before the trade, he was having a career season, averaging 19.7 points and 3.7 assists per game.
Again, bringing him back will be rough for luxury tax reasons. In terms of free agency, though, the Celtics were never going to be major players anyway with well over $120 million already on the books for 2021-22. Their best avenue to making a major splash will be the trade market either way.
So, taking advantage of Fournier’s Bird rights to keep him in-house, regardless of the excess cost that will come with it, may be the prudent move from a sheer talent standpoint.
Of course, Fournier will also have to decide that Boston is the best place for him. To that end, we’ll have to wait and see what his options are in free agency.