Celtics Eyeing Suns’ Top Prospect Ahead of Trade Deadline: Report

Getty Images Jalen Smith of the Suns shoots the ball over Marcus Smart #of the Celtics during the second half of a game at TD Garden

NBA trade season is officially underway, as Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will be keeping himself busy between now and February 10 — the NBA’s trade deadline.

For the Celtics (20-21), currently tenth in the Eastern Conference at the halfway mark of the regular season, improving the roster is a necessity at this point. Averaging 25.5 and 24.2 points per game, respectively, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have carried the load in their rights.

The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Celtics!

The All-Star duo’s scoring isn’t an issue. However, if Boston hopes it can turn its season around, Stevens will need to bring in reinforcements — which could lead to the Celtics’ former head coach addressing both ends of the floor, according to a new report.

Brad Stevens, Celtics ‘Working The Phones’ in Trade Talks

HoopsHype’s Michael Sotto, the host of the Hoopshype Podcast, says Boston is interested in potentially swapping its 2020 first-round pick Aaron Nesmith for Phoenix Suns’ 2020 first-round pick Jalen Smith.

“Aaron Nesmith and guard Dennis Schroder are also available in Boston,” Sotto said, per The Hoopshype Podcast. “The team’s also made some calls to do due diligence and see what’s out there, including one to Phoenix, regarding Jalen Smith’s availability. So, Boston’s working the phones as well as we get a month out before the trade deadline.”

Averaging 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds in 14.3 minutes a game, Smith carved out an increased role this season, in contrast to his rookie campaign — when he played 5.8 minutes a night in 27 games for Phoenix. He’s also shown loads of potential on the defensive end of the floor as a 20-year-old rim protector.

Sotto’s co-host, HoopHype’s Yossi Gozlan, weighed in the probability that the Celtics deal Nesmith.

“You mention Aaron Nesmith potentially being available — that’s got to be a little concerning considering, he hasn’t progressed from last season and doesn’t really have a firm role in the rotation,” Gozlan said, in response to Sotto’s report via The Hoopshype Podcast. “I’m seeing Celtics fans every night in my timeline begging for more Nesmith minutes, but he hasn’t played since returning from health and safety protocols. So, I could see why he might be a guy Celtics look to move from to help get below the luxury tax.”

Why Landing Suns’ Jalen Smith Could Be a Rental

In one of his better games of the regular season, Smith scored a season-high 19 points on 7-of-9 attempts and grabbed seven rebounds in 27 minutes in his last outing against the Celtics.

“He’s a guy who’s made a much-needed progress from last season,” Gozlan said of Smith’s trajectory as a second-year player with the Suns. “He’s made the most of his big minutes in the last few weeks and might be making the Suns regret declining his team option. But, him potentially being a good player right now means that they might be stuck with him through the trade deadline.”

If the Celtics land Smith, that’s a problem that would become Stevens’ issue in deciding what happens next.

“Since (the Suns) declined his team option, they’re not allowed to re-sign him to a salary next season,” Gozlan explained. “That’s more than the amount he was supposed to get on his rookie-scale deal, and that would apply to any team that trades for him this season. So, if you’re a team that likes Jalen Smith, then why would you trade for him?

“Because now, you’re putting yourself at risk of losing him next off-season, and if another team offers him more than what he was supposed to make — which was $4.7 million — then you can very easily lose him.”