A large chunk of the Boston Celtics‘ 2020-21 NBA campaign was consumed by speculation of how they would choose to deploy their record-setting $28.5 million traded player exception (TPE) acquired in the Gordon Hayward deal. The majority of the TPE went to acquiring Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic at last March’s trade deadline.
Of course, Fournier’s tenure in Beantown was short-lived, as he jettisoned to New York this offseason. Thankfully, the Celtics were able to turn their backcourt loss into an asset, swinging a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that yielded them — yet again — another hefty exception ($17.1 million).
The league gives a team one full calendar year to use their TPE. Fournier’s sign-and-trade was finalized on July 17, 2021, meaning the clock is theoretically ticking on president Brad Stevens and the Celtics to make a move — although, not really. Despite having time on their side, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz has turned the clock forward a few months, looking at possible candidates to fill Boston’s TPE.
“Players that would fit into this new exception and could be available include Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams ($17.1 million), Orlando Magic point guard Markelle Fultz ($16.5 million) and Washington Wizards forwards Davis Bertans ($16 million) and Kyle Kuzma ($13 million),” wrote Swartz. “If Celtics ownership is comfortable going further into the luxury tax, new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens could acquire a nice rotation piece without having to send out any of his own players.”
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Fultz’s History With Celtics
Fultz is likely the most noteworthy name floated by Swartz, mainly due to his pre-draft connection to the Celtics. Boston originally owned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft and, at one point, was expected to snag Fultz with the selection. While Fultz still ended up being the first prospect to hear his name called that year, it wasn’t by the Cs. Boston traded back with the Philadelphia 76ers, landing the No. 3 overall pick and eventual franchise cornerstone Jayson Tatum. As for Fultz, he struggled mightily early in his career with his shooting form and confidence. However, he’s blossomed into a solid contributor in recent years with the Magic, averaging 12.2 points and 5.2 assists since 2019.
His career 26.5% 3-point percentage certainly gives reason to pause, as well as the fact that he’s coming off a torn ACL. Yet, at just 23-years-old, he may still be worth a flyer in hopes he can become the player so many lauded him to be coming out of Washington — even if he can’t, he’d still likely serve as a quality sixth-man, role player.
Overview & Fits of Potential TPE Candidates
Kuzma has failed to live up to the glimpses of high-level “good-ness” he flashed early in his career, namely in 2018 when he averaged nearly 19 points per game over 68 starts with the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, he averaged nearly 13 points per game last season, while shooting 36.1% from beyond the arc. He, along with Bertans, would likely slide in as a backup at the 4-spot. Bertans actually may be the more intriguing of the two due to his shooting range, as he’s a 40.7% career 3-point shooter.
In reality, Adams may very well be the most ideal contributor. The 28-year-old, 6-foot-11-inch big man would immediately compete for minutes alongside Robert Williams and Al Horford in the frontcourt. A proven veteran, Adams has averaged at least 10.9 points and 9.0 rebounds in three of the past four seasons. With speculation that the Celtics could look to move off of Horford’s contract in the somewhat near future, the New Zealand center could be a solid plug-and-play option either next to Williams or behind him.