One of the entertaining NBA parlor games of the past few weeks among Celtics fans has been speculation on whom the team could bring in with the traded-player exception acquired in the sign-and-trade that sent Gordon Hayward to Charlotte.
The exception is worth a league-record $28.5 million but because of luxury tax rules, the Celtics likely will only use about $21 million of it. Boston has a year in which to use the exception (that will be altered as the NBA schedule returns to normal) or could use it prior to the March 25 trade deadline.
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Speaking on NBA Radio on Sirius XM this morning, former Celtics forward and current broadcaster Brian Scalabrine tossed out three names—“a 4-5 guy who can shoot the 3,” according to Scalabrine—the team could consider to slot into that TPE: P.J. Tucker of the Rockets, Aaron Gordon of the Magic and Rudy Gay of the Spurs.
P.J. Tucker, Aaron Gordon Might Be Tough To Acquire for Celtics
Tucker and Gordon have come up on lists of potential targets for the Celtics plenty of times, but it could be a stretch for the Celtics to land either one.
Gordon especially. The Magic entertained trade offers for Gordon over the past year but never came close to pulling the trigger on a deal, because their asking price was too high. It is doubtful that the Celtics, offering picks and a salary dump, would be able to pry Gordon from the Magic.
Orlando, too, has gotten off to an impressive 4-0 start. Gordon has played a reduced role with the team this season, averaging only 24.5 minutes but the Magic are not looking to mess with their chemistry, not if they continue to play this well.
The Rockets could look to dismantle the team should they finally make the decision to trade star guard James Harden. That would mean Tucker would hit the market, and though he is 35 years old, he has value as a rebounding forward who can defend and shoot 3-pointers.
But again, the Rockets may get better offers for Tucker than a pick or two and a salary dump.
Rudy Gay Realistic, But Could a Star Come Celtics’ Way?
Gay might be the most realistic target for the Celtics’ exception. He is 34 and made the adjustment to being a bench player in San Antonio, having averaged 17.1 points over the course of his career.
The rebuilding Spurs would likely be willing to give him away for a draft pick, but one problem for the Celtics is that Gay simply has not been a good shooter in recent years. He shot 40.2% from the 3-point line in 2018-19, but that was an aberration—he shot 31.4% the previous year and 33.6% last year.
Gay is currently shooting 23.3% from the arc.
Another Spurs veteran, LaMarcus Aldridge, has also been linked to the Celtics through a potential trade into their TPE.
Scalabrine did say that he felt the Celtics would be willing to use the entire $28.5 million exception if they were to get a true star player in return. Problem is, there are not a lot of teams sitting on star players they would like to dump and the Celtics—so replete with other teams’ picks in recent years—have only their picks going forward.
“If they could get an all-time franchise player,” Scalabrine said, “and I don’t think they could because they don’t have the picks, the ownership of the Celtics would go into their pockets and spend that money if it’s an all-time great. Outside of that, they’re looking for guys that are better deals, like one-year deals. Aaron Gordon is on an expiring, Rudy Gay is expiring, P.J. Tucker expiring.”