Dwight Powell was better than nothing.
Evidently that was Danny Ainge’s thought process in swinging Thursday’s trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The package of Powell, Erik Murphy, Malcolm Thomas, John Lucas III and two second-round draft picks likely isn’t the haul the Boston Celtics envisioned receiving for Keith Bogans, but it clearly beat the alternatives.
With media day just four days away, the Celtics faced the possibility of entering the unofficial start of training camp with a player they had banished last season either still on the roster or released with nothing to show for it. A little more than a year ago, Bogans figured to be slightly more valuable as a trade chip when the Celtics agreed to take on his salary to make the blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets work.
It didn’t work out that way.
Despite all $5.3 million of Bogans’ contract for the coming season being non-guaranteed, the market was tepid for a 34-year-old swingman coming off a season in which he played just six games partly because of ability, but primarily because he clashed with the head coach. The Celtics excused Bogans from the team in January after a confrontation with Brad Stevens, and the youth-conscious Celtics hardly missed him.
The deal Ainge settled for is not terrible. Powell, a second-round pick out of Stanford, is a mobile big man the Celtics reportedly liked before the draft. He doesn’t shoot well enough to be a stretch-four, and at 6-foot-11, he’s not bulky enough to be a bruiser, so it will take some development for him to find his niche. The greatest tangible benefit to the Celtics might be parlaying two earlier second-round picks from the Sacramento Kings, which reportedly were top-55 protected, into two second-rounders from Cleveland that the Celtics actually will be able to use. A $5.3 million trade exception the Celtics will receive as part of the deal could be useful, too.
But Thursday’s trade does little to address the Celtics’ current roster crunch in the short term. Even with the corresponding move to waive Chris Johnson and Chris Babb, the Celtics have to release at least two players before the start of camp, and need to move at least one player on a guaranteed contract before the start of the season. (Once Evan Turner is signed, the Celtics will have 16 players on guaranteed contracts. The NBA’s roster limit is 15.)
And while Johnson and Babb weren’t All-Stars in the making, they did have their moments last season. Aside from Lucas — who has spent his 10-year career bouncing between the NBA, D-League and overseas — the players coming from the Cavs are largely unknown commodities.
Ainge has made several shrewd, if not earth-shattering, moves this offseason. Landing Tyler Zeller and a draft pick for virtually nothing and netting Turner on a low-risk deal were solid acquisitions for a front office strapped from both a financial and a talent standpoint. This latest move might not lay the foundation for banner 18, but it does help the Celtics avoid what could have been an awkward situation heading into training camp with the Bogans situation unresolved.
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