The Celtics acquisition of Gordon Hayward in free agency means several things. First, Boston had acquired an All-Star wing player to complement Isaiah Thomas. Second, it meant the Celtics had added a player who gets them closer to contending with the Cavaliers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Third, it created a situation in which they would have to part ways with one of their core players to create enough salary cap space to afford Hayward's contract.
Rumors have spread across the internet and sports talk radio concerning Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. Someone had to go to make the money work for Hayward.
After two days of speculation, it looks like Avery Bradley is the odd man out. Bradley has reportedly been traded to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forward Marcus Morris.
Bradley was always the most likely to go because of financial reasons. Entering the final year of his contract, he was likely going to be too expensive for the Celtics to retain past 2018 and by moving on from his $8.8-million salary this season, they create the room to sign Hayward. This is the cost of doing business in the NBA, if you want stars you need to sacrifice your depth.
Moving on from Bradley has to be tough for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. He came to Boston as a first round pick in the 2010 Draft and immediately proved to be an excellent defensive player. Then, despite fighting through injuries that limited him in his seven years - he has only played in 70 games twice in his career - he also developed into a capable scorer. Bradley became a leader on the team after the 2013 trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets and has blossomed into one of the most underrated two-way guards in the NBA. He is the type of competitor that Boston fans adore and he will certainly be missed.
The silver lining in trading Bradley is that Morris is a nice player who will add some important veteran depth to the bench at a cheap price. Morris is coming off a season in which he averaged 14 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and while those numbers will likely dip, this is a solid acquisition by Ainge to bolster Stevens' options.
Remember, Boston is bidding farewell to Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller, and Jordan Mickey. That leaves them with Al Horford as the only experienced forward and then 2016 first round pick Ante Zizic, 2017 second round pick Semi Ojeleye, and recent free agent signing Daniel Theis from Germany as their other bigs. Bringing Morris into the fold is a positive.
Stevens, who professes an affinity for versatile players, now has a rotation that looks like this:
Guards: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier
Wings: Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Abdel Nader
Forwards: Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Ante Zizic, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis
I'm not a salary cap expert but I do believe that the Celtics, being over the cap of $99-million but under the luxury tax limit of $120-million also have the Mid-Level Exception (about $8.4-million) and Bi-Annual Exception (about $3.3-million) at their disposal to add more experienced depth. The idea of relying on Zizic, Ojeleye, and Theis for a (fringe) title contender is laughable and is something Ainge is likely to address.
Ainge may also not be done making trades. Crowder's role has been reduced by the signing of Hayward and the drafting of Jaylen Brown in 2016 and Jayson Tatum in 2017. He's a valuable player who can defend and hit 3's and is also on an excellent contract. Smart is a bulldog on defense who has shown signs that he has potential as both a scorer and play maker. Rozier showed flashes of being able to contribute significantly on both ends of the floor last year and really just needs an opportunity to play more as he's behind Thomas and Smart in Boston. The Celtics also have a treasure chest of draft picks to entice teams to deal.
A few days ago I floated a three-way deal between the Celtics, Knicks, and Rockets. The key is that Anthony wants out of New York in order to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland or with Chris Paul in Houston. Boston has the young players and picks needed to become the necessary third team in a deal and Ainge should be looking to get Carmelo to the Western Conference instead of strengthening his biggest rival in the East.
Here is an updated deal, that seems to work by ESPN's Trade Machine.
Boston would add Clint Capela as well as Trevor Ariza. Capela gives the Celtics a rim protector and rebounder to play alongside Horford and Morris while also minimizing the need for Zizic, Ojeleye, and Theis from being expected to play significant minutes before they're ready. Ariza, on the last year of his deal, makes the trade work financially and also adds a veteran presence on the wing to support Hayward and take pressure off of Brown and Tatum.
The Knicks would add Eric Gordon, Jae Crowder, and Terry Rozier as well as the first round pick owed to Boston from the Grizzlies. Gordon, who would become expendable in Houston, adds much needed scoring to the Knicks. Crowder is a solid two-way forward and Rozier is a promising young guard. Ryan Kelly simply makes the money work. Adding a pick in addition to dumping Anthony's salary are also excellent incentives for the Knicks to deal.
The Rockets create a three-headed scoring monster of James Harden, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony in this trade. That's probably not enough to beat the Warriors in the West but it certainly puts Houston in the discussion for being a title contender. The Rockets also pick up Kyle O'Quinn to help replace Capela.
Under the parameters of this trade, Boston's rotation would look like this:
Guards: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart
Wings: Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Abdel Nader
Forwards: Al Horford, Clint Capela, Marcus Morris, Ante Zizic, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis
To add depth at guard, the Celtics could utilize their Mid-Level and Bi-Annual Exceptions.