It would be mutually beneficial if these two division rivals could sit down and complete a couple of trades over the next few days.
The Boston Celtics committed to the Toronto Raptors free agent power forward Amir Johnson and then they traded for the Warriors veteran power forward David Lee dropping last season’s starting power forward Jared Sullinger and one-time starting center Kelly Olynyk to no better than fourth and fifth on the team’s big men depth chart this October.
As pointed out by Basketball Insiders, there’s at least one obvious must do deal here.
If the Celtics can work a sign and trade for Johnson via the Rajon Rondo trade exception, with a non-guaranteed third season, the team would be able to stay over the cap and keep their numerous trade exceptions and Mid-Level Exception.
In order to sign Johnson as a free agent in a couple of days, the Celtics would have to renounce their various exceptions including the very useful traded player exceptions from Rondo ($12.9 million) and Tayshaun Prince ($7.7 million). By using the Rondo trade exception to acquire Johnson from Toronto, Boston gets to hang onto the Prince exception, their other smaller traded player exceptions and their MLE. As the Celtics are starting to look like a playoff threat again this year, those exceptions could prove especially valuable.
The incentive for the Raptors to participate is an $11.75 million traded player exception for Johnson that could be just what they need to acquire another impact player this season. This looks like an easy win-win.
The Celtics big man situation could provide a separate opportunity.
Sullinger has been a thorn in the side of the Raptors averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds over 4 games against Toronto two seasons ago and 12 points and 9 rebounds over 4 games last year. When a young player takes advantage of your team, GMs tend to notice. The only knocks on Sullinger are his injury history and an admitted need to lose weight this summer.
Olynyk is Canadian, a stretch-four/five and just entering his third NBA season. He would be an enticing prospect to develop under the Raptors banner in Toronto.
What the Celtics could expect to get back for a player(s) they’ve bumped to the back of their rotation is to be determined, but it can’t be too much or they’d still be starting. Toronto, on the other hand, could use the depth at the big man spot coming off the bench.
While Boston would probably prefer to not potentially be helping out the Raptors, this is one of those situations where both teams can get what they want. If a call hasn’t been made already, someone is dropping the ball.