It’s been over two months since the Boston Celtics were awarded an $8.4 million Disabled Player Exception (DPE) following Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury, but general manager Danny Ainge has yet to utilize it.
During the time since it was granted, Boston did rattle off 16 straight victories, perhaps encouraging Ainge to allow the winning streak to play out with the team’s current roster before adding an additional piece.
However, the month of December was a grueling one for this Celtics team, as they played a whopping 17 games, going 11-6 over that stretch. The slump is understandable as through the end of December Boston had played a league-high 40 games, while key players like Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Semi Ojeleye have all missed time over the last month. It could be time for Ainge to use Boston’s DPE money to add some fresh legs to the rotation. Here are some options Ainge might consider to do this.
*Note: The $8.4 million awarded to Boston can only be used to acquire a player via trade who is in the final year of a contract, or sign a free agent to a one-year deal. The DPE must also be used as a whole, meaning it cannot be split between the salaries of two incoming players. The DPE will expire on March 10th, 2018. The usage of the DPE would not bar Gordon Hayward from returning to action this season if his health allows him to do so.
SF Corey Brewer, Los Angeles Lakers
How the Celtics could get him: Trade. Boston sends own unprotected 2020 second-round pick to LA.
The Los Angeles Lakers essentially admitted that the 2017-2018 season was going to be a rebuilding one for the franchise when they acquired Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick from the Houston Rockets back in February.
The Lakers sent Louis Williams to Houston in the trade, at a time when Williams was averaging a career-high 18.6 points in just 24.2 minutes per game. Lakers management chose to cash in on Williams’ value for the pick and a veteran on a short deal in Brewer. Now Los Angeles has a chance to pull off a similar move by shipping off the veteran Brewer to Boston for an additional draft choice.
Brewer’s value is not particularly high at the moment, as he averaged just 3.5 points over 12.4 minutes per game through Jan. 3. The University of Florida product has logged fewer minutes per contest just once during his 10 year NBA career. Yet despite his limited time on the court, Brewer could still be a worthwhile addition to the Celtics.
He struggles stretching the floor, shooting a sub 30 percent clip from three-point range since the 2009-2010 season, but the 37-year-old has always been a reliable mid-range shooter. Brewer has knocked down over 40 percent of his attempts within the arc in every season following his rookie campaign. He is currently canning 57.3 percent of his two-point tries this year and could help Boston with their bench’s scoring production.
Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens was able to find ways for Evan Turner to average 10 points per game during his tenure in Boston without ever cracking the 30 percent threshold from three-point range in either of his two seasons with the team. Perhaps Stevens could squeeze somewhat similar production out of Brewer. His $7.8 million expiring salary would fit just under the $8.4 million DPE.
SF Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings
How the Celtics could get him: Trade. Boston sends own 2020 second-round pick (protected for selections 31-45) to SAC.
Different player, similar story.
As of Jan. 4, the Sacramento Kings with their 12-25 record are above just the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. This is not the situation of a franchise that has much use for the soon to be 41-year-old veteran, Vince Carter.
The Celtics’ could swing a move to bring Carter and his $8 million deal to Boston in exchange for very little. Sacramento and Boston swap mutually expendable assets, as “Trader Danny” has stockpiled enough first rounders for his franchise to not think twice about moving a late second round choice.
Carter’s 24 point performance on 10-12 shooting from the field in the Kings improbable win over the Cleveland Cavaliers is not what you’ll get out of him every night but still highlights what the eight-time NBA All-Star can do in an expanded role.
Carter has only played 30 plus minutes in a game twice this season, one of which came during his aforementioned superb game against the Cavaliers. The former NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion is playing a career-low 14.6 minutes per game through the end of December, having seen the court in just 22 of Sacramento’s 36 contests. As a result, Carter is also putting up the lowest scoring (3.7) and rebound (1.7) totals of his NBA tenure.
The Celtics should by no means throw minutes at Carter, but he is a better player than what he has shown in a Kings’ uniform this season. Semi Ojeleye has been a great wing defender for Boston in his rookie campaign but has struggled greatly to consistently convert his shots from past the arc. This is an area where Carter might be able to help off the pine, burying the open looks on the wing the rookie has been unable to.
C Greg Monroe, Phoenix Suns
How the Celtics could get him: Wait, then sign them.
Greg Monroe, along with his albatross $17.8 million contract, was shipped midseason to the Phoenix Suns as a salary matching tool in the trade which sent Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. With the Suns looking to rebuild their roster for the future, Monroe does not really factor into the team’s long-term plan and has been a buyout candidate ever since he arrived in Phoenix.
If Monroe does hit the free agent pool after a buyout agreement with the Suns, the Celtics should consider using their DPE money to sign him.
Monroe has improved his play since being traded from Milwaukee, averaging a near double-double with 11.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 14 contests with the Suns, 11 of which he started. The big man would pair great alongside Al Horford by adding a tough interior scorer to Horford’s spacing abilities in the Celtics frontcourt. Since the trade Monroe has been shooting an impressive 60 percent from the field, while also converting on 74.2 percent of his attempts from the free throw line.
Coach Stevens does not really have any big men outside of Al Horford who can be depended upon late in games. Monroe gives the Celtics that option as his rebounding skills could help Boston win crucial rebounding battles in the fourth, while still being a reliable offensive option and not a liability from the charity stripe.
High-End Role Players/Spot Starters
PF Ersan Ilyasova, Atlanta Hawks
How the Celtics could get him: Trade. Boston sends own unprotected 2019 first-round pick and 2021 second-round pick (protected for selections 31-55) to ATL.
The Atlanta Hawks are sinking fast and could end up with the 2018 NBA Draft’s top selection come season’s end. Through Jan. 2, the Hawks have compiled a league-worst 10-27 record which should lead them to become major sellers at the trade deadline.
Like some of the players already on this list, Ersan Ilyasova is a veteran player on a bad team. Unlike the prior players though, Ilyasova has a much higher upside and will fetch a greater return on the trade market.
His $6 million contract fits within the DPE, but Boston will have to surrender a bit more to get him. The Celtics could have as many as five first-round selections over the course of the next two NBA Drafts and would be unable to fit all those players on their roster, so surrendering their own choice in 2019 does not really hurt too much. Meanwhile, the protected second rounder is more of a sweetener than anything else.
For Boston, they get a valuable floor-spacing big man to roll out with their second unit or the occasional start in Ilyasova. Aside from Al Horford and Marcus Morris, the Celtics do not have any bigs who can consistently knock down shots from past the arc. Aron Baynes’ range does not extend into three-point range, Daniel Theis has had his moments but cannot be regularly counted on, and Guerschon Yabusele has seen the majority of his minutes this season come in garbage time scenarios.
Ilyasova is in the midst of a solid season for the Hawks and the 6-foot-10 big man could be invaluable for Boston off the bench. He’s connecting on half of his two-point attempts this season and is putting down his triples at a rate of 40.6 percent, his highest rate since 2012-2013. That efficient scoring has Ilyasova averaging 11.4 points per game and could really do some damage alongside Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum off the Celtics’ bench.
SG Monta Ellis, Free Agent
How the Celtics could get him: Sign him.
The 2016-2017 NBA season was the first time Monta Ellis failed to reach double-digit points per game (8.5) since his rookie season back in 2005-2006.
Ellis simply did not shoot the ball as often last season as he had in prior campaigns, averaging 7.5 shot attempts per contest. This was a considerable step back from his 12.6 attempts per contest the year before and the 16.9 shots he put up per game in 2014-2015.
Though his shot attempts dipped, Ellis converted them at a pretty identical rate to past seasons across the board. His 44.3 field goals percentage and 31.9 percent clip from past the arc were actually slight improvements from the 42.7 percent field goal mark and 30.9 percent three-point rate Ellis put up in 2015-2016.
At age 32, it is clear that Ellis is no longer the shot creator he once was, but that skill is not necessarily a necessity for him to contribute offensively in Boston.
The Celtics’ second unit has led by Rozier and Tatum, with both youngsters being more than capable of creating offense. A scorer who can complement those two and take advantage of the open looks they create by drawing in defenses is what Boston currently lacks. Even in the near twilight of his career, it is a role Ellis could fill nicely.
SG Tyreke Evans, Memphis Grizzlies
How the Celtics could get him: Trade. Boston sends own unprotected 2019 first-round pick and unprotected 2021 second-round pick to MEM.
Tyreke Evans is playing some of the best basketball of his nine-year NBA career right now. Luckily for the Celtics, he’s doing it for a bad team, the Western Conference’s second to last place Memphis Grizzlies, and his $3.29 million deal means he would fit under the DPE.
The only potential wrench in acquiring him could be his value on the trade market.
Through Jan. 3, Evans is currently averaging 19.6 points per game, a career mark second only to the 20.1 points per contest he scored during his Rookie of the Year campaign back in 2009-2010. The 28-year-old is scoring a lot, but more importantly, Evans is doing so efficiently.
Evans is taking 5.2 three-pointers per game while knocking down 42.2 percent of them and is connecting on 47.3 percent of 15.1 field goal attempts per game. Numbers like that from a guy on a bad team will grab the attention of contending squads looking to pounce on the opportunity to bolster their roster for a playoff run.
Getting into a bidding war for Evans would be foolish, especially since he will be likely looking to capitalize on his impressive year in the offseason with a decent sized contract the Celtics are unlikely going to be able to match.
Throwing in a top-25 protected first rounder in 2020 would probably get the deal done, but that seems too pricey for the Celtics. An additional second rounder in either 2022 or 2023 might be as far as Ainge will go to bring Evans aboard.
PF Chris Bosh, Free Agent
How the Celtics could get him: Sign him.
Former NBA star Chris Bosh has seen an unfortunate amount of drama in personal life during recent weeks.
After evicting his mother, Frieda Bosh, from a Texas home owned by the 11-time NBA All-Star, she was arrested in late December for allegedly exploiting a disabled man in a drug distribution ring she was running.
It is unclear if these developments have deterred Bosh from his interest in an NBA return.
The two-time NBA Finals champion has not played in an NBA game since Feb. 9, 2016, because of blood clotting issues, but had expressed a desire to play again back in early December.
“That’s still there in front of me,” Bosh said on The Full 48 podcast hosted by Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “The window is still open. Once I close the doors, it’s closed. I don’t open it back up. That’s kind of me as a human being. That’s just one of the things about me. … But yeah, for me, I don’t close anything until I’m officially done. So until that day, I will definitely let everybody know when that day comes if it comes soon. I still, of course, work out and everything. I’m still doing work on the court. That’s very important to me. I’m still keeping my options open for the future. I know a lot of people don’t know that, but don’t write me off just yet.”
If Bosh were to play this season it would likely be for a contender and no top team in the Association can offer him more money than the Celtics.
It’s uncertain exactly what kind of player Boston would be getting if they landed Bosh since it has been almost two years since he last played an NBA game, but it could still be worth the gamble. The Celtics’ DPE will expire on Mar. 10, so if Ainge cannot make a move before the trade deadline and there are no contract buyouts that peak his interest, Bosh could be a great last resort.
Best case scenario, the 33-year old Bosh still maintains the skill set which made him a matchup nightmare during his NBA career; a near seven-footer who could stretch the floor and rebound efficiently. Boston would get a guy who was a nightly double-double threat, averaging 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during his 13 years in the league.
Worst case scenario, Bosh has lost more than just a step and struggles to find his offense, averaging below double-digit points per game for the first time in his career. He would mentor Boston’s young bigs in Theis and Yabusele but provide little on-court impact and the two sides part ways at the end of the season. The reality would likely be somewhere in the middle, but a player with a resume like Bosh’s should not be bet against.
SG Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
How the Celtics could get him: Trade. Boston sends own unprotected 2019 first-round pick, unprotected 2020 second-round pick, and unprotected 2021 second-round pick to LAC.
The Los Angeles Clippers are at a crossroads in the direction of their franchise.
A core of Blake Griffen and DeAndre Jordan will not win anything and the team’s front office must begin the process of retooling their roster. Though Lou Williams is a talented player, his expiring $7 million contract has more value to the Clippers as a trade chip right now, and the Celtics should take notice.
Williams has averaged a career-high 21.7 points per game through Jan. 5 at the age of 31. The 2015 NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner is converting on 44.7 percent of his field goal attempts while canning 40.6 of his tries from beyond the arc. In addition to his excellent scoring, Williams is also getting his teammates involved and dishing out a career-high 4.8 assists per game.
He has done all this largely in a reserve role for Los Angeles, starting just seven of the 35 games he’s played, but he might actually be more valuable to Boston in their starting lineup.
Inserting Williams in with the starters allows Brad Stevens to play Jayson Tatum with the second unit full-time. The reverse could also be true, with Williams on the second team and Tatum playing longer with the starters, but it gives the Celtics added flexibility in their lineups and bolsters the bench’s offensive firepower either way.