Coaches Sound off on Key ‘Emergency’ Additions for Celtics Roster Hole

Hamidou Diallo Pistons

Getty Hamidou Diallo Pistons

It’s become common by now for the Boston Celtics at the start of an NBA season: The year will open with team president Brad Stevens sitting on a significant traded-player exception. Or, in this case, two of them.

The difference is that the TPEs the Celtics have are worth significantly less than we saw two years ago, when Boston used $28.5 million from the Gordon Hayward trade with Charlotte to add Evan Fournier from the Magic. The Celtics then got a $17.1 million exception heading into last year from the Knicks’ acquisition of Fournier in the summer of 2021.

What’s available now is $6.9 million from last winter’s Juan Hernangomez trade, expiring on January 19, 2023, and $5.9 million, from dealing Dennis Schroder at the trade deadline, expiring on February 10. The Celtics, according to sources around the NBA, would only use the TPEs in an “emergency.”

TPE rules state that the Celtics can only use the TPEs separately, and the Celtics do not need to send out matching salaries to other teams in a TPE trade. They might need to trade out a draft asset or a young player to give the other team some incentive to do a deal in the first place, but with the top 10 spots in their rotation pretty much set, it’s doubtful they’d send out more than a second-round pick or two just to fill spot No. 11.

While the focus on the deficiency in the roster has been on the center spot, where using a TPE could provide depth behind Robert Williams and Al Horford, the Celtics also see themselves as having a weak spot on the wing, where the team would like to add another big defender who can knock down 3-pointers. The team has added veterans Justin Jackson and Denzel Valentine to the training camp roster to battle for that role.

If neither pans out, though—or if there is an injury on the wings—the Celtics could turn to a TPE solution for a 3-and-D wing. Of course, every team wants that kind of player, so they’re hard to find. The Celtics might have to gamble to get the depth they need.

With that in mind, Heavy Sports asked a pair of assistant coaches, one from the East and one from the West, how some of the wing options who would fit into the available TPEs would work with the Celtics.

Wishful Thinking TPE Wing Options

Justin Holiday, Hawks. Salary: $6.3 million. 2021-22 stats: 10.1 points, 39.4% shooting, 36.7% 3-point shooting.

West assistant coach: “He’s the ideal. Veteran guy, really good defender, smart player, can handle the ball a little. Knocks down 3s usually, he is an above-average shot-maker which is what you’re looking for from a defensive guy. But that’s why the Hawks wanted him, right? So it is hard to imagine that they will want to move him unless their whole season goes South. If they do trade him, they’d probably want something in return.”

Hamidou Diallo, Pistons. Salary: $5.2 million. 2021-22 stats: 11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 49.6% shooting, 24.7% 3-point shooting.

East assistant coach: “He’s a really good finisher at the rim, he’s very good with the ball in his hands on the attack but he is mistake-prone though he seemed to clean that up a little last year. Same with his defense—you always want him to be better defensively than he is, but he has pretty good tools, he is good on-ball and he might get there as a guy who can help. Can’t shoot, though, and four years in, I am not sure he’s going to fix that. He’s young (24) and I don’t think the Pistons are really looking to give him up but he’ll be a free agent and they need shooters, so maybe he can be had if they decide to give up on him mid-season.”

More Realistic Wing TPE Options

Torrey Craig, Suns. Salary: $5.1 million. 2021-22 stats: 6.6 points, 45.4% shooting, 32.9% 3-point shooting.

West assistant coach: “Definitely disappointing last year after Phoenix brought him back. He’s not a great shooter but he is solid defensively and can guard multiple positions. He did not seem quite right last year and maybe he was hurting, maybe it’s just getting older (Craig will turn 32 in December). He did not play much in the playoffs (7.7 minutes). They are getting (Dario) Saric back and that will help their depth so they might be willing to let him go if he’s not playing. If you can get him to be even a league-average shooter, though, he’s going to be a worthwhile piece.”

Moe Harkless, Hawks. Salary: $4.6 million. 2021-22 stats: 4.6 points, 45.9% shooting, 30.7% 3-point shooting.

East assistant coach: “You have a much better chance getting him from the Hawks than you would Holiday (who came to Atlanta with Harkless in the Kevin Huerter deal). He plays hard, most coaches like him, but he is not going to give you a lot offensively, just never been a good shooter. But he’s been in the league forever now (10 years) and it’s because coaches like him. If you keep him in the second unit, he can play pretty good defense, keep up his hustle. Not sure he is going to have a role with the wings the Hawks have so he might be someone you can get.”

Justise Winslow, Trail Blazers. Salary: $4.1 million. Stats: 5.7 points, 42.8% shooting, 22.7% 3-point shooting.

West assistant coach: “They liked what he did there last year and if you put him with (Gary) Payton off the bench, that is a really good pair of defenders on the wing in your second unit. But you look at that roster and, they’re trying to win but it doesn’t look like they’re good enough especially if (Damian) Lillard is not back to his old self. Winslow makes sense as a fourth or fifth wing off the bench on a good team but not on a team that is probably a 10 or 11 seed. Chauncey (Billups) really likes him so that might keep him around, but if they start selling off pieces, he’d be one of the first to go.”


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