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What Celtics trade exceptions signal about Brad Stevens ability to shape Boston’s offseason | Brian Robb

The Boston Celtics enter the 2022 NBA offseason with nine active traded player exceptions, more than any team in the league. They also hold the second-largest trade exception worth $17.1 million thanks to their sign-and-trade of Evan Fournier to the Knicks last August.

While the volume of Boston’s TPEs is impressive on paper, the majority of them are inconsequential. Six of the nine are worth $2.1 million or less, which really won’t be useful for Boston since they won’t be landing any kind of impact player via trade on that type of salary. These smaller ones can be helpful when it comes to filling out an uneven trade player-wise but they won’t have much use beyond that. Most will simply go unused due to their small amounts.

However, there are three trade exceptions that Boston owns that can take on some mid-level salary and that’s still a valuable number for a team that enters the offseason well over the salary cap. Here’s a closer look at those noteworthy exceptions.

  • Evan Fournier: ($17.1 million remaining)
  • Juancho Hernangomez: ($6.9 million remaining)
  • Dennis Schroder: ($5.9 million remaining)

While the Celtics will have some money to spend in free agency with their taxpayer mid-level exception (just above $6 million), they can address multiple parts of their roster with these TPEs without necessarily giving up players to get a deal done. A trade exception allows Brad Stevens to deal future draft picks for a player without having to match the money per usual NBA trade rules if the player’s salary fits into an exception. Creating and using TPEs to add talent has been a huge tool over the years for capped-out teams to remain in contention, something that happened plenty in the past decade with the Cavs and Heat.

We’ll be dissecting all of the player possibilities for these TPEs in the days to come here at MassLive but one essential part of Boston’s biggest TPE weapon ($17.1 million) that bears watching is the timeline Boston must use it on. Traded player exceptions have a one-year expiration date from when they were first created and while the Schroder and Hernangomez TPEs could be used during the 2022-23 season since they don’t expire until 2023, the Fournier deal was completed last offseason. That means Boston’s biggest TPE weapon will go away for good on July 18th if it’s so unused by then.

That reality along with a likely willingness by team ownership per league sources to significantly expand Boston’s payroll for next season will place a greater sense of urgency on the offseason for Boston’s front office in the next few weeks.

The Celtics will need to be aggressive on the trade front, particularly during draft week and in the lead up to free agency to find a potential worthy fit within that price range. Other teams will know that the Celtics are working against a timeline and could hold it against them in negotiations if any trade talks extend closer to July 18 for use of the Fournier TPE since it’s a use it or lose it situation for Boston.

The Celtics are also limited in trading for players that are currently under contract with the TPE so a sign-and-trade scenario in free agency won’t be useful for them. Boston’s already flirting with the hard cap ($151 million) with their current projected payroll and league sources tell MassLive that triggering the hard cap this offseason is a non-starter for Boston since it would hamper the team’s flexibility and spending into the luxury tax.

The bottom line? The Celtics can get creative with these team-building tools this offseason but time is of the essence for their most impactful weapon. Draft week is one of the NBA’s biggest trade windows of the year so don’t be surprised if Boston gets into the action sooner rather than later as they try to ensure they can remain a top contender in the East.

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