Member Since: 1/14/07
If the Celtics want to upgrade their roster without Kyrie Irving, help will have to come through trades. Should Irving sign with another team, Boston will not be able to clear enough cap room to be any sort of a player in free agency. Instead, they will likely bring back Terry Rozier, who is a restricted free agent, and then work on building trade packages to land an impact player.
Boston missed out on Davis, but don't think he was Danny Ainge's only target, especially with a trove of young players and draft picks that he can dangle to upgrade the roster.
"What is Danny Ainge planning that we're not thinking of right now?" says a league source. "I'm sure Danny has something up his sleeve."
Multiple sources point to Bradley Beal as prime option--particularly if Irving leaves. Beal is coming off his best season and showed a wider range of skills after the Wizards lost John Wall at the end of December. Not only did his scoring average jump to 27.2 points per game post-Wall, but he also looked comfortable handling increased playmaking responsibilities. Beal would fit neatly into a Celtics system that thrives on ball movement and doesn't require a pure point guard--particularly if Gordon Hayward continues to work his way back toward his old self.
Beal will have lots of suitors, particularly among the teams that hoped to land Davis or who miss out on the premier free agents. It's possible the Wizards could try to persuade a team with significant cap room to trade for both Beal and Wall--a deal that would require little in return, since the key for Washington would be to clear Wall's contract. But short of that sort of option materializing, few teams can match the type of package Boston could put together. One league source suggested that Washington would need to strongly consider an offer of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and a protected pick for Beal or that Boston could offer Smart, Jaylen Brown and two future first-rounders as an alternative trade.
The Celtics will be in on Mike Conley, but Utah, Indiana and Detroit are all lining up trade offers too. And they'll likely have the full mid-level exception to work with, which starts at $9.2 million. They could use that to add a veteran point guard to pair with Rozier--Darren Collison, Delon Wright, Patrick Beverley and Tomas Satoransky could be available at that price range, while Cory Joseph should come cheaper. If they end up dealing frontcourt pieces for Beal or Conley, and Marcus Morris walks, they could use the midlevel to land a forward from a group that includes Ariza, Gay, Maxi Kleber, Al-Farouq Aminu and Rodney Hood, says a league source.
In other words, the Celtics have options. And one thing is for certain: They will be aggressive, including in the run-up to Thursday's draft, in which they hold three first-round picks. Says a former GM, "I think they will be active trying to move those picks--possibly for a 2020 or 2021 pick."
Still, as with the other elite teams doing their best to hold onto their places at the top of the NBA, the Celtics will have a hard time putting together as talented a roster if Irving walks away.