When the Boston Celtics take the floor in Sacramento on Wednesday night, they may very well be getting a close look at a future teammate. That is, if NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg’s ‘ideal‘ Traded Player Exception (TPE) scenario plays out to fruition.
The Celtics insider believes that Kings forward Harrison Barnes should be in contention for the No. 1 spot on “Danny Ainge’s traded player exception wish list.” A quick glimpse at the 28-year-old’s play this season, and it’s easy to see why.
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Harrison Barnes, the Ideal TPE Option?
The former NBA champion is shooting a career-high 50.4% from the field in 2020-21, including 43.5% from beyond the arc. Furthermore, his 16.9 ppg, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists are all personal-bests for Barnes since joining Sacramento three seasons ago. All this, while playing sound defense on opposing threes and fours, as Forsberg alludes to.
“He brings size and defensive versatility. He has championship experience and knows how to contribute to winning as a fourth option on a talent-filled roster,” Forsberg writes. “He’s making a hefty but not prohibitive $22.2 million this season and is under contract for two additional years at descending money.”
Just to cover all our bases, we’ve got offensive efficiency? Check. Defensive versatility? Check. Championship pedigree? Check. Sounds like a perfect answer to Boston’s infamous TPE conundrum. So what’s the holdup?
As Forsberg notes, Barnes checks in with a “hefty but not prohibitive” $22.2 million this season and remains under contract for two additional years at “descending money.” With that said, while Boston’s TPE checks in at $28 million, they can only use $20 million of that money as they are nearing the luxury tax.
In other words, the Celtics must send a player or two packing if they hope to fit Barnes into their plans.
Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford Floated as Trade Pieces
So what might a Celtics-Kings trade package look like?
“We’d guess the conversation starts at both an intriguing young talent (Aaron Nesmith? Romeo Langford?) and a first-round pick,” Forsberg states. “Celtics fans might scoff, but if the C’s believe they are championship contenders for the foreseeable future, there shouldn’t be hesitation in moving future picks that are likely to slot in spots 25-30. Especially not when pursuing the sort of talent who could bolster a roster that has some obvious holes.”
Nesmith, a 21-year-old rookie, struggled out the gates this season but has proven more reliable on both ends of the court as the year has gone on. Albeit with sporadic minutes. As for second-year wing Romeo Langford, he remains out after undergoing an offseason wrist procedure to repair a torn tendon. In 2019-20, Langford averaged 2.5 points on 11.6 minutes per game.
Despite being engulfed in trade talks ever since receiving the largest trade exception in NBA history upon Gordon Hayward’s move to Charlotte, Danny Ainge and the Celtics have remained stagnant. That is almost certainly bound to change with veterans such as P.J. Tucker and J.J. Redick rumored to be on the move ahead of the March 25 trade deadline.
However, Barnes may prove to be the most tantalizing target for Boston. He’s by far the youngest of the bunch (doesn’t turn 29-years-old until late May). He’d add a nice pop to the Celtics’ front-court on the offensive end. Yet, most importantly he knows his role.
Barnes’ ability to serve as a puzzle piece during the Golden State Warriors’ championship run in the mid-to-late 2010s would point to him working well alongside and behind superstar duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
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