The NBA trade deadline is essentially here. The Boston Celtics own a record $28.5 million traded player exception. They’ve lost three of their four games since returning from the All-Star break and currently sit in eighth-place in the Eastern Conference standings. Somethings got to give — right?
Readily linked names such as Jerami Grant and Harrison Barnes continue to be perceived as the apple of Boston’s eye. However, according to former Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger, those players may prove a bit pricey for the Celtics’ taste. Rather, he highlights a specific under-the-radar player that the team “could go for” at the deadline — one who would keep the much-discussed TPE firmly intact.
“One player who really interests me for Boston is Larry Nance of Cleveland, because he potentially allows the Celtics to have their cake and eat it too,” The Athletic columnist said. “Nance’s contract is small enough that trading Thompson and two firsts for him would create a salary match, leaving the entire $28 million exception available for other pursuits.”
Nance’s salary for 2020 checks in at $11.7 million. In 2021 it drops to $10.6 million and then decreases by another million in 2022.
“Barnes is in the same boat, a player who is signed for two more years at declining money, although his contract is nearly double Nance’s and would eat into the trade exception,” Hollinger added.
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Celtics Have Reported Interest in Nance
The Celtics are among six teams reportedly eyeing the Cleveland Cavaliers forward ahead of the March 25 trade deadline, per Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor.
Other interested parties include the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to Fedor, the latter has been “aggressively” pursuing Nance since the offseason.
Unlike Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Boston Celtics, Fedor notes that the Cavs have no “untouchables” on their current roster. With that said, Nance is perceived as a core player, who the NBA reporter believes will only be moved if Cleveland is “blown away by an offer they can’t refuse.” In other words, don’t expect him to go anywhere.
Still, the phone continues to ring in Cleveland, with Nance being the player receiving the most interest. Among the offers that the Cavs have reportedly received was a package including “multiple late-first-round picks,” per Fedor.
What Nance Brings to the Table
After not appearing in a game since February due to a fractured finger on his left hand, Nance has since returned to the court following the All-Star break. The Akron (OH) native has quickly picked up where he left off, averaging 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and four assists per game over his last two contests.
Nance is an interesting trade target for Boston and falls in line with recent rumors that have circled the team. While big-names such as Nikola Vucevic and the aforementioned Jerami Grant have dominated headlines, role players such as Kyle Anderson, Thaddeus Young, and now Nance continue to creep up in trade chatter. True, the latter three won’t revolutionize the C’s roster, but they each offer position flexibility and could be had at a fairly reasonable price, i.e. non-roster gutting.
In terms of Nance, the versatile forward has proven to be a defensive difference-maker for Cleveland in terms of regulating opponents’ threes and fours. His 3.7 deflections per game in 2020-21 rank fourth in the entire NBA, per NBA.com’s player hustle stats. Furthermore, Indiana Pacers’ T.J. McConnell is the only player to average more than Nance’s 1.8 steals per game this season.
While not overly young (28-years-old), nor an offensive powerhouse (8.2 ppg career scorer), the Wyoming product is the jack-of-all-trades type of player that would improve any roster. This season, Nance has averaged 9.7 ppg, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Adding to his intrigue, the 6-foot-7-inch forward is currently shooting a career-best 37.7% from beyond the arc, checking off the box of “shooting with size” that Danny Ainge so adamantly desires.
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