NBA free agency: Consider Celtics options with mid-level exception

Set to dive into luxury tax waters for the 2022-23 season, the Boston Celtics will only have the $6.4 million taxpayer mid-tier exception available to sign free agents at more than one. minimum wage.

It’s still a decent change, but not enough to attract the best talent available, especially since other teams have cap space and/or the $10.3 million non-taxpayer mid-tier for hang from the same pool of the heaviest talents.

The best way for the Celtics to add impact talent this offseason will almost certainly be to use a traded player exception, specifically the $17.1 million Evan Fournier TPE generated last summer. Boston can split that number to scout for talent or splurge on a spot to bolster the bench. The Celtics need to use this Fournier TPE before July 18 and, after giving up four second-round picks to create it (as a spawn of the Gordon Hayward TPE), there should be some motivation not to let it vaporize. .

Forsberg: Seven Celtics thoughts as attention shifts to offseason

There is a bit more flexibility with the mid-level exception. A year ago, the Celtics remained patient, and when the market for point guard Dennis Schroder dried up, they surged. Things didn’t go exactly to plan with that relationship, but Boston maxed their money and then cashed in midseason.

There’s a chance the Celtics won’t even use the mid-tier ratepayer this summer. That could be a valuable asset during the season, especially having a bit more to spend on the buyout market at a time when the team can gauge exactly what it needs to become a surefire title contender again.

Also, keep this in mind: Boston has already committed to a lot of the change before even filling much of their bench. If the Celtics use all or part of the Fournier TPE, the roster is going to get very expensive, very fast. Maybe some of that is mitigated if the Celtics move on from Daniel Theis and sign a cheap third-string center further down the road.

What is feasible if Boston uses MLE? Well, that’s tricky. And that might depend on what gamers are willing to take a bit of a cut to chase a title.

Other teams may offer more money and a bigger role. Boston needs to identify players who know the team’s starting five is already set and understand the limited time the team can offer.

Too rich for their blood?

Before we get into which players Boston can actually land, let’s throw cold water on a few options that seem unlikely:

Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets: It’s fun to dream of bringing home the well-rounded Boston native who tested free agency last season and settled for Brooklyn’s $4.7 million qualifying offer. Brown’s price is expected to climb quite a bit this year – perhaps even beyond the bigger mid level.

Nic Batum, Los Angeles Clippers: The Hornets paid $27.1 million to get rid of Batum and all he’s done since then is shoot 40% from beyond the arc and emerge as the kind of versatile veteran forward championship teams covet. He’ll be opting out of his low-money player option ($3.3 million) with the Clippers, and Steve Ballmer will almost certainly write him an even bigger check to bring him back right away.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Los Angeles Clippers: A young big who flourished last season with the Clippers, Hartenstein can either re-sign with LA for the same non-taxpayer money Boston can offer or find a richer deal from a team with more to spend.

One thing that could work in Boston’s favor: If the Clippers use some of their MLE to sign John Wall, it could open a window for the Celtics to rush (while Luke Kennard becomes a possible TPE target if the Clippers try reduce expenses).

Otto Porter Jr., Golden State Warriors: After resurrecting his career and winning a title at Golden State, it looks like Porter Jr. should be motivated to maximize his potential salary, especially given his injury history. Perhaps the middle tier of taxpayers is enough to set foot in that door, but the two-way wings always seem to find rich paydays.

Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies: Anderson is a dream for the Boston bench (well, maybe if he could shoot a little better on all three – and faster) but he’ll likely find a much bigger salary (unless Ime Udoka can convince the former Spur to take a big pay cut).

Could they help the Boston bench?

These players don’t necessarily jump off the page, but they can help a competitor. How many? Well, that’s why they’re available for the smaller mid-tier (or maybe even just part of it):

Delon Wright, Atlanta Hawks: This 30-year-old combo guard checks a bunch of Boston boxes while being a great defensive mind guard. His use assist rate has long been the best among combo guards, but his defending and rebounding numbers are what jump off the page. The only downside: The Celtics could use a little more size on a bench that already includes Payton Pritchard and Derrick White.

Gary Harris Jr., Orlando Magic: He’s an Indiana kid, so you know Brad Stevens already has a thing for him. Work even more in favor of Harris: He is still a solid defender who took 46% of his three corners last season in Orlando. Catching and shooting might be the extent of his limited offense, but the Celtics bench needs versatile defenders and any shots they can add.

Caleb Martin, Miami Heat: If the Celtics don’t have immediate plans for their MLE money, there’s worse than floating an offer sheet above Martin’s $2.1 million qualifying offer from the Heat. At least it forces a cash-strapped rival to use their own MLE to keep one of their young development projects going.

Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets: With Kyrie Irving joining, Mills might be motivated to stick around and see what happens. But if he’s worried about the calamity, or just his role with Irving and Ben Simmons (presumably) on the court more than last season, then he could turn down a $6.2 million offer and find some work. similar money from other suitors with the MLE taxpayer.

Mills’ previous relationship with Udoka could be a selling point, and Boston could benefit from a big-game-tested vet who’s shot 40 percent on three and can lead a second-unit offense.

Guerschon Yabusele, Real Madrid: He just came off the Boston books last season and he just signed a three-year extension with Real Madrid. But you can’t convince us Yabusele isn’t Al Horford’s best succession plan after seeing his progress abroad.

Roll the dice

Want to get your money’s worth? You have to roll the dice.

TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers: Warren has only played four games over the past two seasons. For such a good goalscorer as before the injury, he needed a lot of shots. Still, beggars can’t choose, and the 6-foot-8 wings that shot 40% from 3-pointers from 2018-2020 don’t grow on trees.

Joe Ingles, Portland Trail Blazers: After a torn ACL and set to turn 35 in October, Ingles would likely be a mid-term addition. The question is, what will he be left with and do the Celtics want to pay to find out?

LaMarcus Aldridge, Brooklyn Nets: Defensive limitations seem to rule this one out, but Udoka’s past history forces us to include Aldridge, who would have epic mid-range battles against Jaylen Brown after practices.

Make the most of a minimum veteran (or something less than the MLE taxpayer)

Just because you have $6.4 million to spend doesn’t mean you have to use it all. Here are a handful of low-cost players we’d consider filling out the roster:

Tomas Satoransky, Washington Wizards: Let the rest of the league focus on their dismal numbers in New Orleans. We choose to focus on his sizzling 22-game finish with the Wizards, where the 6-foot-7 point guard posted a 33.9 assist percentage (96th percentile among all combo guards). His height at the guard post is intriguing.

Ish Smith, Washington Wizards: Yes, we’re like 1,000 words into an offseason article about the Celtics’ offseason goals and now we’ve mentioned two Wizards guards not named Bradley Beal. This particular Celtics killer is a solid ball handler who seems to score in spurts whenever he sees the green (but maybe only when he sees the Celtics green). His assist percentage ranked in the 84th percentile among all point guards, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The counter-argument is that, if you want an undersized point guard who is generally stable on the ball and has even more offensive upside, just play Pritchard more.

Robin Lopez, Orlando Magic: The Celtics need a big bruiser who can play with Joel Embiid’s guys in the position. The 7-foot Lopez can do that and give you a steady diet of hook shots. He would be a cheaper option for a big third if the Celtics were comfortable potentially moving Theis.

Dewayne Dedmon, Miami Heat: He’s 7 feet tall, bounces and plays hard. This checks all of our third string boxes in the center. Call us crazy because Dedmon had a relatively quiet playoff against Boston, but he was a nuisance for 15 minutes in that late March game where Miami secured the No. 1 seed in the East.

Wesley Matthews, Milwaukee Bucks: We’re probably giving too much credit to that game where Jayson Tatum fought Matthews in the Eastern Semifinals. But he shot 40% from three in the 2022 playoffs and can defend above his waist. Plus, they’re thin picks on the wings that meet Boston’s needs.

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