Celtics Could ‘Realistically’ Trade Veteran Starter This Week, per Analyst

Celtics could realistically trade Tristan Thompson to Spurs

Getty Elfrid Payton #6 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket while guarded by Tristan Thompson #13 of the Boston Celtics during a game at TD Garden.

While there has been chatter that Bradley Beal could request a trade out of Washington prior to Thursday night’s draft, don’t hold your breath on much actual movement of big-name stars this week. Instead, gear up for a slew of smaller moves that will one, help teams maneuver up and down the draft board; two, better configure their lineups; three, rid of perceived unnecessary expenses  — or in the Boston Celtics‘ case, possibly all of the above.

Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz believes a “realistic trade” between the Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs could go down during draft week that will allow Boston to unload big man Tristan Thompson and his nearly $10 million salary. Here’s how he sees such a proposal going down:

  • San Antonio Spurs Receive:
    • C Tristan Thompson
  • Boston Celtics Receive:
    • 2021 second-round pick (No. 41 overall)

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Celtics ‘Just Don’t Need’ Thompson?

“Even though Thompson served as Boston’s starting center in 43 of his 54 games last season, the 30-year-old big man may have fallen all the way down to fourth on the depth chart following the Celtics’ latest trade,” wrote Swartz.

Of course, the B/R columnist is alluding to the Kemba Walker-Oklahoma City Thunder deal which facilitated both Al Horford’s return to Beantown as well as the insertion of intriguing seven-footer Moses Brown into the C’s frontcourt. Add in the previously present Robert Williams III and the team’s arsenal of big men is far more impressive and deep than the group that they finished last season with. With that in mind, Swartz doesn’t see much of a need for Thompson in Boston anymore.

“The Celtics just don’t need Thompson anymore, and they should be happy to move his $9.7 million expiring salary off the books before free agency begins,” he noted. “San Antonio, on the other hand, is in need of frontcourt help.”

While they would receive a second-round pick in this proposal, Swartz highlights that such a deal is essentially nothing more than a salary dump for the Celtics.

“Thompson would compete with Jakob Poeltl for the starting center job for a Spurs team who ranked just 24th in rebounding last season (48.5 percent),” he added. “San Antonio can have up to $49.1 million in cap space, so it would have room for a max free agent even if it takes on Thompson.”

Is Thompson Worth Keeping Around?

Thompson’s performance during his first season with the Celtics left much to be desired. The 30-year-old Ontario native averaged 7.6 points on 51.8% shooting from the field over 54 games. He still remains one of the league’s better offensive rebounders, ranking fifth in the NBA with 3.4 offensive boards per contest. However, his lapses defending smaller players showed through more times than in years past.

Signed to a two-year mid-level deal last offseason, Thompson is likely a smidge overpaid, as Mass Live’s Brian Robb highlighted. This could mean trouble finding suitors to stomach his salary. Unless Boston can intrigue a team like the Spurs who have the available cap space to seamlessly take on Thompson’s contract, they may be best off sticking things out with Thompson as opposed to overpaying to unload him.

“Ideally, the Celtics wouldn’t want to take back a subpar contract or use a draft pick as a sweetener to move him… The team could simply begin the year with lots of depth at the center spot or wait to see if some team comes calling later this summer for an upgrade after striking out on a free agent big target,” Robb wrote. “Either way, Thompson joins a long list of veteran centers (Enes Kanter, Aron Baynes) that could be dealt away from Boston before their brief contracts expire.”


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