When the Boston Celtics acquired Juancho Hernangomez in the off-season, the thought process was that he would fill the stretch-four role the team sorely needed.
Alas, Hernangomez never cracked the Celtics rotation and was subsequently traded to the San Antonio Spurs in late January. But, with Hernangomez no longer on the team, the Celtics again lack a true stretch-four who can protect the paint and provide valuable shooting off the bench.
According to NBA Insider Steve Bulpett, one player who is available and would quickly solve Boston’s problem is PJ Washington of the Charlotte Hornets, “Charlotte is still looking for a new home for P.J. Washington. The Celtics got a nice look at him on Wednesday when the sturdy 6-foot-7 forward showed off his range with four 3-pointers,” Bulpett wrote in a recent article.
Washington is currently earning $4.2 million, with his salary due to rise to $5.8 million next season, which represents a steal considering the big-mans production level over the last few seasons. Another reason Washington’s contract is so enticing is that it fits into one of the Celtics’ TPEs, although they would certainly have to send a player back to Charlotte, as they’re not going to give him away.
Perhaps the Hornets would see value in Aaron Nesmith or Romeo Langford and a future draft pick. Or maybe they would like a deal that lands them Schroder + one of Boston’s young wing’s to give them more bench scoring as they enter a playoff push. The Celtics are in a unique position where they have numerous young talents to float in trade talks, but none of them hold large amounts of value around the league, so they may need to get creative to strike a deal.
Hornets Favor a Center in Return for Washington
“Charlotte hasn’t been to the playoffs in years (a first-round loss in 2016), and unless something crazy happens, they’re going to be there this year,” said one league exec. “But going out in the play-in round isn’t going to cut it down there. It’s obvious from the conversations they’ve been having that they really want a big man,” Bulpett noted.
Boston, who have plenty of wings to trade, are not flush with impactful centers, and while Washington would be a solid upgrade to the bench, there’s almost no chance Robert Williams would be part of any potential trade.
As such, the Celtics could choose to loop in a third team or try to sell the Hornets on the idea of taking back a former lottery pick (Nemsith or Langford) along with some draft capital or an expiring veteran such as Schroder or Josh Richardson. Of course, if a veteran was to get sent to Charlotte, you will likely see a player such as Ish Smith heading in the opposite direction so both teams adhere to roster rules.
Furthermore, a source close to the situation told Heavy.com, “He has pretty much-done everything they have asked of him. If he needs to go somewhere else to thrive, that is OK, he will do that.”
Washington is Having a Good Season
Since entering the league in 2019, Washington has been a starter for the Hornets, but that changed this season as the team’s priorities shifted from rebuilding to fighting for playoff relevancy.
Currently, Washington has started four games out of the 36 he’s played for the Hornets this year. Yet, throughout the season, the third-year big man has produced 9.9 points, 2.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game and is shooting 39.5% from deep and 44.6% from the field.
The Celtics currently rank 22nd for three-point percentage as a team, so adding a career 38.4% shooter from deep would help them keep pace with Brooklyn Nets, who they recently move level with in the conference standings.
Furthermore, Washington’s experience as a starter would allow Udoka to get creative with his rotations and tailor his line-ups based on matchups. Washington’s scoring ability, presence on the glass, and ability to create for others on short rolls would unlock some of the younger player’s games, while also working as an offensive foil for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
There’s just under a week to go before the February 10 trade deadline, and if there’s mutual interest from both sides, Washington is a trade that would make sense and wouldn’t break the bank to get over the line.