If you had any concerns on whether president Brad Stevens would take things cautiously during his first summer on the job, think again. While Thursday night’s draft was mostly quiet for the Boston Celtics, they’ve since followed it up with quite the bang, pulling off not one, but two trades on Friday.
Hours after they swung a three-team deal that sent Tristan Thompson to the Sacramento Kings, the Celtics continued to wheel and deal.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Celtics are finalizing a trade to acquire guard/forward Josh Richardson from the Dallas Mavericks. As part of the deal, Richardson will be exercising his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season.
Of course, that salary number would prove too large for the remaining $11 million trade exception Boston has left over from the Gordon Hayward deal. Yet, because the trade is expected to be completed before the start of the new league year on Monday (via RealGM), Richardson’s current salary of $10.8 would go on the books, fitting seamlessly into the exception.
As for Dallas, the trade looks to be nothing more than a salary dump, as they’ve been looking for some added wiggle room to make a run at free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry, per NBA reporter Marc Stein.
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Richardson Looking to Bounce Back After Down Year
In many ways, Richardson is a better version of the player the Celtics acquired earlier in the day from the Atlanta Hawks, Kris Dunn. Both are defensive-minded guards that should prove to be much-welcomed additions to a Celtics defense who saw their ranking plummet from 5th-best in 2019 all the way down to 16th in 2020.
The 6-foot-6-inch Richardson is coming off his least productive season since 2016, as he ceded a hefty chunk of his offensive duties to the ever-emerging Tim Hardaway Jr. In 59 games (56 starts), the Tennessee product averaged 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Richardson has shown glimpses of being a high-end two-way wing in the past, although it’s been a few years since he’s flashed those attributes with much consistency. In 2018, as a member of the Miami Heat, Richardson posted career highs in points (16.6), rebounds (3.6) and assists (4.1).
The 27-year-old’s shooting prowess from beyond the arc leaves much to be desired, evident by his 33.0% 3-point percentage during his lone season in Dallas. However, now in Boston, Richardson won’t be asked to shoulder much of the scoring load for the Celtics’ offense. Those duties are left for All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. In return, Richardson can take a backseat offensively and focus mainly on making his presence felt on the defensive end.
What Does This Mean for Evan Fournier?
It’s almost been a foregone conclusion that the Celtics will retain Evan Fournier this offseason. However, this latest move could potentially cloud things on that front. Boston still holds Fournier’s bird rights, meaning they could theoretically exceed the cap to re-sign the French wing. Yet, with Richardson’s contract now on the books, stomaching Fournier’s asking price of “around $18 million” (per Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey) could prove to have lingering negative effects on the franchise, as noted by Mass Live’s Brian Robb:
The Celtics are eyeing future financial flexibility — and perhaps a max contract spot for a superstar down the line.
If Fournier signs for multiple years at his expected price range, that handicaps the Celtics significantly, unless another salary-shedding move is in the works. Richardson also only has the player option for the 2021-22 season left on his contract, meaning he’ll be a free agent next summer, opening up cap space for the Celtics.
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