Celtics Make Major Move on Veteran Center, Still Silent on Hayward

Enes Kanter, former Celtic

Getty Enes Kanter, former Celtic

The Celtics made an NBA trade. We have been waiting for quite some time for Boston to move a player who had opted in, to pull off some type of transaction involving a big man and, at long last, it has happened.

Only it is not Gordon Hayward. And the Celtics are not the ones getting the big man. Instead, Boston is sending out veteran center Enes Kanter to Portland as part of a three-team trade that is an expanded version of the draft-night deal the Celtics had agreed to with Memphis.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies will get No. 30 pick Desmond Bane from Boston and Mario Hezonja from the Blazers. Portland will get Kanter, who had opted in to the second year of his contract with the Celtics on Thursday. Kanter averaged 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for Boston last year, but never was able to wrest the starting job away from Daniel Theis.

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The Celtics will gt a future draft pick from Memphis.

Kanter will be returning to the Blazers, for whom he played 23 games down the stretch in the 2018-19 season. He was a key in leading Portland to the West finals in 2019.

Trading Enes Kanter Adds Flexibility for Boston Celtics

Moving Kanter and the $5 million he was scheduled to make next season does have some benefit for the Celtics—it gives them more space under the luxury tax, which means more room to either re-sign forward Gordon Hayward or (more likely) use him in a sign-and-trade.

With Kanter gone and little-used French center Vincent Poirier also out (he has been traded to Oklahoma City), the Celtics could have some financial flexibility that would not have been in place if everyone had simply come back en masse. The Kanter and Poirier moves give the Celtics almost $30 million in wiggle room under the luxury tax.

That can be used in a sign-and-trade, if not for a player then at least, possibly, for a trade exception, much as the Warriors did with Andre Iguodala last year (they turned that exception into Kelly Oubre).

The Celtics continue to hope that they can work out a sign-and-trade for Hayward with a starting salary in the range of $20-24 million. The Celtics would like to be able to use their $9.3 million midlevel exception if Hayward goes, but can only do so if they are far enough below the league’s luxury tax.

Celtics Could Still Sign-And-Trade Gordon Hayward

The Celtics intend to keep Theis heading into next season, and he is likely the team’s starting center at this point. Third-year man Robert Williams is the top candidate for backup minutes, and Williams showed improvement as last season went on.  He struggled to stay healthy for the second straight season but averaged 5.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 13.4 minutes over 29 games this year.

There have been rumors that the Celtics could move Hayward for a big man like Myles Turner, but Boston has not seemed very eager for that kind of deal.

The Celtics also like Grant Williams’ possibilities as a small-ball center and remain intrigued by the potential of 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall as a tall-ball center. Fall spent most of last season in the G-League, where he averaged 12.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in just 23.3 minutes per game.

If the Celtics proceed without Hayward, they will have the full $9.3 million midlevel exception to either find another center or address other areas on the roster.

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