It’s time for Brad Stevens to make a decision on the direction of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are sitting around .500 at the time of this article, but flashes of brilliance could sway Stevens to be a buyer ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline.
In case you missed the first installment of my realistic trade targets series in which I look at guards that could interest the Celtics, check it out here.
If Stevens is going to make any relatively large move ahead of the trade deadline, it would likely be to bring in another wing. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed Boston’s desire to bring in that type of player on the Jan. 18 edition of ESPN’s “NBA Today”, stating the following:
“I think they still want to find another playmaker/wing player to complement the two All-Star forwards.”
Assuming Stevens still has hope that this roster could make a late-season push, let’s look at three realistic candidates he could bring in via trade:
The Celtics have seen enough of Norman Powell throughout the years (especially in the playoffs) to understand how talented he is. The 28-year-old wing is averaging 18.3 points while shooting 39.2% from three in his first full season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
The appeal of Powell is pretty clear. He would immediately become Boston’s third-best three-point shooter while taking some of the scoring onus off of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (similar to the role Evan Fournier played last season).
It also doesn’t hurt that Powell is on a team-friendly contract through the 2025-26 season. He only makes $15.5 million this year, which fits into Boston’s $17.1 million Fournier traded player exception (TPE).
Portland has been decimated by injuries this season, losing Damian Lillard, Nassir Little, and Cody Zeller for extended periods of time. Sitting well below .500, it makes sense for them to dump salary and dodge the luxury tax if possible.
The potential hold-up for Boston in a trade for Powell is ownership’s reluctance to spend up for a roster that doesn’t have legitimate championship aspirations, which is justified. However, if Stevens is convinced that adding a player of Powell’s caliber could take this team to the next level, this could be a realistic move for the Celtics.
Holiday doesn’t provide the same offensive upside as Norman Powell, but the benefits of bringing him in are similar. The 32-year-old veteran is an effective rotation player, averaging 11.1 points while shooting 37.7% from beyond the arc.
According to Evan Massey of NBA Analysis Network, the Celtics have already expressed interest in trading for Holiday. With an abysmal 18-32 record, an Indian Pacers firesale feels like a strong possibility. While players like Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert are likely out of Boston’s price range, bringing in Holiday feels like a realistic option.
The 6’6 wing is locked up through next year for just under $6.3 million, which makes him much more affordable than Powell or the next player on this list. The downside to acquiring Holiday is that he likely won’t move the needle.
Given Boston’s well-documented shooting woes, acquiring a player like Holiday certainly couldn’t hurt.
A lot of people expected the Celtics to trade for Barnes last season, but a deal never materialized. This year, Stevens could finally pull the trigger.
Barnes is the ideal stretch four to play alongside Tatum and Brown and a rim running big like Robert Williams. At 6’8, he’s big enough to guard opposing power forwards, while also shooting an elite 41.1% from three on five attempts per game.
Much has been made of the Sacramento Kings Potential blowing up their roster ahead of the trade deadline. Moving on from Barnes makes sense even if they do elect to keep young pieces like De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
The one issue with Barnes is that he’s making just over $20 million this season, which doesn’t fit into the Fournier TPE. The obvious pivot here is trading Al Horford and picks or a young player to Sacramento, which makes sense for both teams.
If Stevens truly believes that this roster has the potential to make a deep playoff run, bringing in a player like Barnes or Powell is the right move.
Stay tuned for the final installment of this series, where I’ll take a look at realistic bigs that Boston could target ahead of the trade deadline.