The Boston Celtics have a lot of decisions to make this off-season after a disappointing finish to a strong season. Boston went down 3-0 to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals before ultimately falling to the Heat in Game 7. The Celtics now need to turn their attention to the offseason. Celtics’ president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, has decisions to make on Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Blake Griffin, Payton Pritchard, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, and Marcus Smart.
NBA Rumors: Boston Celtics Expected To Trade At Least One of Their Point Guards
While Stevens is obviously disappointed with how the season ended, he told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston on June 1 that he firmly believes in the team’s foundation.
“I really believe in our foundation. It’s really hard to be in the mix in this league. The competition is great. Sometimes things have to go your way, and sometimes they do. But you’ve got to do everything you can to take the luck out.”
“Listen, we didn’t have a great playoff run in whole. And we certainly were outplayed for the better part of that Miami series, even though it went seven games,” said Stevens. “So we have a lot of work to do. But it doesn’t mean that we need to make mistake activity for achievement. For my seat, I think we have to understand what’s really good and how hard it is to have a foundation, and then figure out how to build off of it.”
“I think you always have to look for people that fit well with your best players, that accentuate your best players, and then put that team and that group together,”
“As I said in the press conference, not having [center Robert Williams III] for the better half of the season — I actually thought our depth bigs did a great job all year of and gave us a chance to have a great seed and be a top seed in the East and fill those minutes and fill those times. But I thought that we had a lot of guys that were on the perimeter and a lot of guys that could help us on the perimeter.
“We just have to look at everything and figure out, OK, how does it all fit together? Is it is it as good of a fit as it can be? Obviously, we can’t always predict health, but we have to make ourselves as fortified as possible, both on the perimeter and on the interior.”
Brown, who had a difficult Eastern Conference finals, is eligible for a huge extension. Stevens indicated that the Celtics are intent on keeping him, according to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss.
Brad Stevens on Jaylen Brown: "I can say without a doubt we want Jaylen to be here, he’s a big part of us, we believe in him & I'm thankful for him. I’m really thankful for when guys have success, they come back to work. When they get beat, they own it & they come back to work."
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) June 1, 2023
Williams is a restricted free agent, while Griffin is unrestricted.
Celtics Needs To Slash Salaries To Avoid the Super Apron
Boston has 13 players under contract for the upcoming season, with salaries combining for over $166 million. This does not include the projected extension for Brown, who could sign a five-year, $290 million deal, which won’t kick in until next year.
Danilo Gallinari is likely to exercise option his $6.8 million option. Mike Muscala and Justin Champagnie have nonguaranteed deals. But neither of those players’ salaries is a huge burden, so that they won’t make a difference. Therefore, the only way for the Celtics to drop salary is via trades. The C’s are $11.4 million under the prohibitive second tax apron.
So, as long as Brown wants to remain a Celtic and Boston can negotiate a deal suitable to them, then Brown is off the table. That leaves Smart, White, Brogdon, and Pritchard as players to be moved if they plan on keeping Williams. All four guards can play the point or off the ball.
Williams has improved in each of his first four seasons. The 24-year-old is a good shooter, although he has become a catch-and-shooter from the 3-point line. He is also a decent defensive rebounder and a solid defender. Williams is guaranteed the requisite $8.4 million qualifying offer from the Celtics. However, other teams are expected to try to lure him away by throwing lots of money at him. The following is what Stevens told NBC Sports Boston about Williams’ impending free agency.
“I can’t talk about details of contracts and specifically with Grant’s own restricted free agency. All those are down the road right now. As far as when we can discuss those things with him or with you.”
Malcolm Brogdon Is The Most Likely of the Celtics PG’s to Be Dealt
The problem for Boston is that Brogdon, Smart, and White each are making over $18 million this season and are under contract through at least 2024-25. Brogdon is slated to make the most of the three players at $22.5 million each of the next two seasons. Which is why Brogdon is the most likely to be dealt of the trio. Plus, he has the most trade value of the three due to his playmaking ability on the offensive end.
The 2022-23 NBA Sixth Man of the Year had a tremendous first season in Boston. The 30-year-old averaged 14.9 points on 48.4% shooting from the field while knocking down two treys a contest at a career-best 44.4% clip. He added 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and committed 1.5 turnovers. However, Brogdon didn’t shoot the ball well during the postseason, connecting on 41.8% of his tries.
Smart is a top-notch defender and has improved as a distributor in each of his pro seasons. While the 29-year-old has improved offensively, he is still a below-average shooter. Smart still has three years and nearly $60 million on his deal left. But it is his toughness and defensive ability that the Celtics can’t afford to lose.
Though consistency has always been an issue for the 28-year-old combo guard, White is a strong two-way player. White had a solid season for the Celtics, shooting 46.2% from the field, including a career-best 38.1% from beyond the arc. But he really showed his value during the Celtics’ playoff run, compiling 13.4 points and 2.5 treys while shooting 50.5% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the 3-point line. White has two years and $37.4 million left on his deal.
Payton Pritchard Unhappiness Will Likely Result In a Trade
Pritchard opened up about wanting a more significant role at the trade deadline. However, that won’t happen with the Celtics unless they get rid of one of the four guys in front of him on the depth chart. Even then, the 25-year-old may not get as big of a bump in playing time as he wants, despite his shooting prowess, as he sometimes struggles on the defensive end. This is why Peter Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston deemed him a trade candidate.
“I really feel for a guy like him because there are guys that work at it, and then there are guys that are obsessed with it. And he’s obsessed with it. You know, that’s kind of his personality,” Stevens said. “He works at it. He’s a really good player, as I’ve told him many times this year. Everybody knows you’re a really good player, not only in this building but around the league. … But we don’t know how that’s all going to shake itself out moving forward.”
Pritchard is an outstanding scorer off the bench and should draw interest from teams looking for a good fourth or fifth guard. Statistically speaking, Pritchard is coming off his worst season, as he averaged 5.6 points in 13.4 minutes over 48 appearances. He is a career 40% shooter from distance though he only shot 41.2% from the field and 36.4% from the 3-point line this past campaign.
Pritchard is extension-eligible though he is only slated to make $4.0 million in the final season of his rookie deal. So, which teams could be interested in Pritchard? Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Utah, and Toronto immediately come to mind as teams interested in Pritchard.