Brad Stevens’ Free Agency Conundrum: Keep Him or Leave Him?

Getty Images Evan Fournier of the Celtics

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has a big decision to make, this summer.

Deciding what to do with Celtics free agent Evan Fournier, who was acquired just before this year’s NBA trade deadline, should be the most difficult conundrum for Stevens, this offseason.

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On one hand, retaining Fournier secures a double-digit scoring wing, who connected on 46.3% of his 3-pointers with the Celtics. But on the other; it’s going to cost you.

After shedding around $20 million in cap between now and 2023 due to Brad’s Kemba Walker for Al Horford trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Stevens could be setting the Celtics up to potential buyers in 2022’s NBA free agency pool — where Boston could attempt to lure Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal to jump ship. And, if that is the plan, does it mean the Celtics are not interested in bringing back Fournier?

Will The Celtics Re-Sign Evan Fournier?

SB Nation’s Keith Smith, who recently broke down the finance behind the Celtics potentially re-signing Fournier, sees good reasoning on both sides.

“Most around the NBA have Fournier pegged as somewhere between $15 and $20 million as a starting salary next season,” Smith wrote, via SB Nation. “That seems reasonable, given his previous salary, skillset and age. In general, most seem to have him right around $17-18 million.”

However, not working in the Celtics’ favor is how much money someone like Fournier can command, this offseason — where All-Star talent in this year’s free agency is scarce.

“The 2021 free agent class is devoid of stars,” Smith added. “However, the teams with cap space have to spend that money on someone. That usually leads to second and third-tier players like Fournier getting overpaid. As it stands today, somewhere between six and eight teams project to have at least $20 million in cap space this summer. Normally, that wouldn’t be overly scary for the Celtics opportunity to retain Fournier.

“This summer, however, it gets a little hairier. Of the those projected to have cap space, multiple teams could use a player like Fournier. He’s a better shooter than many of the free agent wing creators and he’s a better creator than many of the free agent wing shooters. In other words: Fournier’s skillset in demand.”

If Evan Fournier Walks, Celtics Retain Full MLE

So, is it in the Celtics’ best interests to bring Evan back?

“If Fournier walks, Boston will open up the ability to use the entirety of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception of about $9.5 million,” Smith wrote. “If they retain Fourier on a contract of at least $15 million, they’ll be over the tax apron and limited to the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception of about $5.9 million. That’s a big difference in spending power.”

How the Celtics’ new head coach decides to spend that money will be interesting. Brad certainly has his work cut out for him.