The Boston Celtics were able to still make history even after being forced to part ways with Gordon Hayward during free agency. The All-Star forward elected to sign with the Charlotte Hornets to a massive 4-year, $120 million deal, ending the Celtics then-plans of negotiating a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers that was reportedly on the table.
Still, the Celtics were able to work out a deal with the Hornets in which they agreed to a sign-and-trade centered around Hayward in exchange for a future second-round pick. The bigger picture for Boston was the $28.5 million trade exception that was created in their favor–the largest trade exception in league history.
Given Boston’s financial situation at the moment, their ability to use the full $28.5 million comes with some restrictions. After signing Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague, the Celtics will be hard-capped and reduced to roughly $21.8 million if they plan to use it this season.
Still, $21.8 million is more than enough to accomplish what the Celtics front office is likely out for. If they plan to use the full $28.5 million, they could always send out additional salaries to reduce the blow of being hard capped.
There are a few formidable names in the league the Celtics could target.
4. Jrue Holiday
Holiday was a heavily sought out player by the Celtics during the offseason. There were multiple reports stating that they’d offered Hayward and their first-round picks to the Pelicans in exchange for Holiday. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Bucks beat them to the punch by offering more draft picks.
Holiday is a last-ditch effort for the Bucks who are set on pulling out all the stops to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to re-sign to a supermax extension. As it appears though, the failure of the Bucks front office to land Bogdan Bogdanovic has sat uneasy with the reigning MVP, meaning he could decide to decline the extension. If that’s the case, the Bucks could be looking at a potential rebuild that starts with utilizing their draft picks from the Holiday deal.
With that in mind, Holiday could be on the trading block next season after the failed, all-in experiment by the Bucks to bring talent in. Especially if Antetokounmpo ultimately declines his extension and elects to test free agency himself, the Bucks will surely begin cleaning house immediately.
3. Aaron Gordon
Gordon actually falls beneath the Celtics trade exception value. He’s due $18.1 million next season and was an interesting piece on most teams’ radar this offseason. His future with the Orlando Magic remains murky. While they were able to make the playoffs during the 2019-20 season, the chances of repeating that feat are slim.
At 25, Gordon could fit a role for the Celtics at the forward position, allowing Jayson Tatum to slide back to his true position on the wing. Gordon averaged 14.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting 43 percent from the field last season. Adding the 6-foot-8 stretch forward would solidify the Celtics’ starting lineup once more after the addition of Thompson to the center position as well.
2. Buddy Hield
There’s no clear cut answer as to which direction the Kings will take with Hield going forward. On one hand, they could ultimately begin the build for the future centered around him along with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. On the contrary, there’s the ongoing dissatisfaction from the budding star with his playing time and usage last season.
How that changes will depend on how the season progresses, but the Kings may be in a better position now to consider moving on from Hield while bringing in a trade exception to use in the future along with some picks. Despite what the Kings coaching staff decides to do with zoning in on Hield this season, he may have already soured on them long ago.
Adding Hield to the front lines with Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Tatum will cement absolute firepower in multiple, unpredictable scenarios. Hield was still able to average 19.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and three assists per game after finding himself coming off the bench at times last season.
1. Victor Oladipo
The Indiana Pacers have already visited the table with the Celtics once this offseason, which could make a reunion at the dealing table easier to come by this time around. They won’t be negotiating around the hefty contract of Gordon Hayward, which could’ve been the stalemate in achieving a deal given his desire for a massive contract.
Indiana and Oladipo haven’t necessarily been on the same terms coming into the offseason. There were multiple reports that Oladipo desired to play elsewhere coming into the season. There was also the minor rift reported stating that Myles Turner was the player that leaked Oladipo’s discomfort, which could signal some tension coming into the season between the two.
Boston coveted Oladipo in any trade talks earlier surrounding Hayward, which means they could surely use their trade exception to come back to that bullet point once more. He’d make an excellent addition in the backcourt with Walker that can interchange ball-handling duties.