The Boston Celtics have flexibility ahead of the March 25 NBA trade deadline thanks to the $28.5 million trade exception they received in exchange for shipping Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets.
The question is how they’ll use it.
Several names have been tossed around as potential trade targets, but Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix explained Thursday on NBC Sports Boston’s “Early Edition” that the Celtics should call the New Orleans Pelicans about a veteran they’re reportedly open to dealing.
“I’m still fixated on JJ Redick,” Mannix said. “You talk about a battle-tested player with playoff experience who can shoot the basketball.”
Redick, the 11th overall pick in 2006, is a little long in the tooth. He turns 37 in June and currently is in his 15th NBA season. It’s fair to wonder just how much gas is left in the tank.
There’s no denying Redick’s shooting prowess, though, and Mannix believes the Duke product is more than capable of holding his own on the defensive end in Brad Stevens’ system.
“How many guys have rolled through Boston that couldn’t defend a lick before they got there and lo and behold the Celtics still have a top-five defense in this league,” Mannix said. “Was Isaiah Thomas some kind of defensive stopper? Evan Turner played big minutes for Brad Stevens, he wasn’t a great defensive player by any stretch. They find ways to make guys work as team defenders. And JJ Redick has been around long enough to be a great team defender.”
Of course, acquiring Redick might not be enough to put the Celtics over the top in the Eastern Conference. But it’s a start.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge on Thursday identified “shooting with size” as Boston’s biggest need while shopping with its trade exception. And though Redick, at 6-foot-3, isn’t the biggest guy, he undoubtedly checks the second box.
The worst thing the Celtics could do, in Mannix’s opinion, is sit on their hands through the trade deadline, not making a meaningful splash to augment their roster around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“What I don’t want to see happen is for this team to get the trade deadline and for us to have the same damn conversation about ‘Well, there really wasn’t a lot out there’ and that trade exception expires,” Mannix said. “That is an incredibly valuable trade exception. You don’t have to absorb a bad contract to move off one. You’ve got to take advantage of that if you’re the Celtics. If that means throwing in a protected first-round pick, I don’t care, you do it. Whether it’s Harrison Barnes or JJ Redick, you make something happen.”
The trade exception — the largest in NBA history — expires in November and can be used in acquiring multiple players.