Brad Stevens Could Eye Ex-Celtics ‘Tough Guy’ With TPE: NBA Exec

Brad Stevens, Celtics

Getty Brad Stevens, Celtics

The Celtics have several traded-player exceptions they can use this NBA offseason, though there is, of course, one big one looming: the $17.1 million exception from the Evan Fournier trade with the Knicks last season. The trick is, how can they actually get a player who checks all the boxes that using that exception will require?

The boxes are something like this:

Someone team president Brad Stevens wants to bring in, who will fit, chemistry-wise.

Someone with two-way ability, whom Ime Udoka will actually put on the floor.

Someone another team wants to give away without Boston having to give up much by way of assets.

It won’t be easy to find all three. The third aspect could be the most difficult, because the Celtics have already given up their first-rounders in the past two drafts and Stevens is wary of giving up another first-round pick.  The Celtics are not loaded with second-round picks, either. They have two next season, but have just one in the subsequent four drafts.

One name that has emerged as a possibility that can satisfy all three Celtics requirements: former Celtics forward Jae Crowder.

Jae Crowder Is ‘Gettable’ With TPE

As one Eastern Conference executive told, Crowder is “gettable” because the Suns are looking to shed salary and the feeling is he is in the beginning of his career decline. He will turn 32 next week.

“He is a guy who, to me, makes the most sense for them because he has that toughness they want,” the executive said. “He has been in the Finals, he has played deep in the playoffs for a lot of years and they could use another big guy to stretch the floor. And Ime loves a tough guy, that is the kind of player he was. The Suns are looking to dump some money and he is in the last year of his deal. It is not a huge commitment for them if he does not work out. But he did not shoot it well last year and he is a step slower so you’ve got to be aware of that. But, you know, they’ve got to find a veteran who has just that little bit more left to give, who fits what Ime wants.”

Crowder established himself as an important veteran presence with the Heat two years ago during the COVID-19 interrupted season, when he averaged 11.9 points and shot 44.5% from the 3-point line in 20 games after being traded from Memphis. He was similarly effective in 2020-21 after he signed with Phoenix, making 38.9% of his 3s and averaging 10.1 points for a team that went on to the Finals.

Last year, though, Crowder dipped to 34.8% from the 3-point line and struggled in the second half of the season, making only 33.1% from February 1 on.

Crowder’s History With the Celtics

Crowder has history with the Celtics, having been traded to the team as the most productive returning piece in the Rajon Rondo trade in 2014. He spent three productive seasons in Boston, averaging 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, establishing himself as a hard-working overachiever whom fans enjoyed.

Crowder had a tiff with Boston fans, though, in January 2017 when the local crowd cheered for Gordon Hayward, then a member of the visiting Jazz, who was considered a top Celtics free-agent target that summer. As Crowder said at the time, “I heard the cheering [for Hayward] before the game. I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.”

Crowder was traded that offseason, to the Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving trade. Coincidentally, he was later traded that season by Cleveland to Utah.