When the Boston Celtics acquired Juancho Hernangomez from the Memphis Grizzlies towards the tail end of the offseason, it was viewed as a low-risk move to add some shooting to their frontcourt. The team dealt away Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards — two guards they had very little use for — in exchange for a 6-foot-9-inch big man who at his peak has shot as good as 42.0% from 3-point range.
The hype surrounding Hernangomez began to slightly build during exhibition play, as the Celtics opted to start the 26-year-old Spaniard over veteran Al Horford in their preseason opener. While the decision turned some heads, head coach Ime Udoka warned against reading too much into the move. Udoka’s cautionary words have since proved to carry weight, as Horford has manned the second-most minutes per game (26.7) amongst Celtics big men, while Hernangomez has been delegated to bench warmer.
An afterthought in Udoka’s rotation, the Celtics appear to have little use for Hernangomez at the moment, a sentiment that a handful of NBA executives recently shared with HoopsHype. While the NBA season is still very much young, that’s never stopped trade speculation from running rampant. With a contract best suited for salary-matchup purposes, these four execs see Hernangomez as the “most likely” Celtic to be traded:
Juancho Hernangomez is buried on the bench in Boston and is owed a combined $14.3 million through the 2022-23 season, which could be used for salary matching purposes in a trade.
Hernangomez’s Outlook & Contract Situation
Hernangomez is signed through the 2022-23 season. However, his $6,632,880 base salary next season is non-guaranteed. At this point, it looks unlikely that Hernangomez would stick around Beantown long enough for that guarantee to kick in (salary becomes fully guaranteed on June 30th, 2022). Of the Celtics’ first five games of 2021-22, he’s seen the court in only two, logging a total of eight minutes.
On his career, Hernangomez has averaged 5.7 points on 43.0% shooting (35.1% from beyond the arc) to go along with 3.5 rebounds. He flashed for a short stretch in Minnesota, averaging 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game over 14 contests (all starts) with the Timberwolves in 2019-20. However, his production inched back down towards his typical career output across a 52-game slate (six starts) this past season, averaging 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Should Hernangomez be moved prior to this season’s trade deadline, it would mark his third new team since the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Less than a month before arriving in Boston, the former No. 15 overall pick was traded from Minnesota to Memphis in exchange for point guard Patrick Beverley.
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Celtics Look to Bolster Play on the Defensive End
Whether Hernangomez stays or goes, the Celtics will need to elevate their play on the defensive end, because their efforts over the early part of this season simply won’t cut it.
“When the ball is thrown up, we’ve just got to be ready. And it can’t start on the offensive end,” said Dennis Schroder following Boston’s loss to the Washington Wizards. “That’s one thing that we want to change — bring the mentality on the defensive end and then just play off of that.”
The Celtics currently boast a record of 2-3 and sit in 12th-place in the Eastern Conference. Thankfully, they’ve got plenty of time to turn things around.
“It’s early in the year,” Harford told reports. “There’s some things that we need to address and just continue to make sure that we don’t fall into any bad habits or anything. So I’m looking forward to our practice on Friday, and making sure that we start the right way there and that we build and go from there.”