Welcome to NBA speculation season.
The Los Angeles Clippers are shopping sharpshooter Luke Kennard ahead of Thursday night’s 2022 NBA Draft and will look to move him next month if no deal can be reached, according to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney.
Kennard led the league in 3-point shooting during the 2021-22 campaign while converting a career-best 44.9% of his six attempts per game. Kennard, a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has two years left on his contract with a club option for the 2024-25 season. He’ll carry cap hits in the neighborhood of $15 million each of the next three seasons.
Enter Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics president of basketball operations recently acknowledged the organization would be looking to improve on the offensive end. Stevens specifically noted how bringing in a facilitator would help with ball movement, while adding another scorer, perhaps to the second unit, would be of interest, too.
Kennard, while not the playmaking wing that would fill in for Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum when those two go to the bench, would provide scoring with his shooting prowess. Kennard is a 42.5% shooter from long range in his five years in the league.
The Celtics’ biggest strength during their in-season turnaround and eventual NBA Finals appearance was their defense. Boston finished the season with the best defensive rating of any team in the NBA. Their versatility on that end, with bigs like Al Horford and Robert Williams, along with Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, was pivotal to their success.
Boston might take a bit of a step back in that versatility by adding Kennard to the mix, but the reality is great shooters don’t tend to be great defenders. Just like above-average defenders don’t usually shoot 45% from the 3-point line.
Miami Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, for example, vanished in the postseason due to his inability on the defensive end. Robinson, who’s a few years older and a 40.5% career 3-point shooter, was a liability on defense. Kennard, though, is not that. He’s fine on that end of the floor and would have the pieces around him to succeed in that role.
Stevens and Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck confirmed the Green would be willing to push their chips into the middle of the table this offseason. Grousbeck indicated the Celtics will go into the luxury tax for only the second time since the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade, should that option and necessity present itself.
The Celtics should be able to make it work financially, too. Boston has three traded player exceptions, with Evan Fournier’s $17.1 million expiring July 18. The salary of Kennard, should Boston find the trade assets to deal to Los Angeles, would fit in that Fournier exception without having to trade back matching salaries. Boston reportedly could trade Payton Pritchard or Grant Williams for a first-round pick.
All told, Stevens and the Celtics should pursue Kennard, either before or after Thursday’s NBA draft.