The Boston Celtics are all-in on winning the championship. They have the best record in the NBA after creating the best top six in the world. Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have helped the Celtics reach a new level, but do they have enough depth to win it all?
Boston will need at least eight in their playoff rotation. Sam Hauser has turned into an elite shooter to be their seventh, but do the Celtics trust Payton Pritchard to stick in the postseason? The 6’1 guard played 12.9 minutes per game during Boston’s run to the NBA Finals in 2022 but wasn’t part of the nightly playoff rotation in 2023.
The Celtics have a top-heavy roster and trading won’t be easy. Pritchard is their seventh-highest-paid player and earns just $4.0 million this season. Boston is all-in and will look to upgrade before the trade deadline, but they will have to go for someone making $10 million or less. Even that would mean trading Pritchard, but here are a few replacements Brad Stevens and the Celtics should explore.
6. Cedi Osman
The Celtics have plenty of star power. They need a role player, who is comfortable complementing their current talent. Someone who makes the extra pass, spaces the floor, and defends. Boston could use a bit of size to give them more lineup flexibility.
Osman is a 6’7 forward who figures to be available before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The Spurs have the second-worst record in the NBA, and Osman is on a $6.7 million expiring contract.
His stats won’t blow fans away, but he averages 7.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 18.1 minutes per game. The 28-year-old is a career 35.3 percent 3-point shooter and played 18.6 minutes per game for the Cavaliers in the playoffs last year.
The combo forward would offer the Celtics some versatility and flexibility. He won’t command the ball and is comfortable playing any role asked of him, which is exactly what the Celtics need to round out their roster.
5. John Konchar
Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension to begin the season put the Grizzlies in a difficult position. They have made the playoffs three straight years but had just six victories when their star guard returned to the lineup. Memphis has won six of nine since but is still 5.5 games back of tenth in the West.
The Grizzlies could be sellers at the deadline, and the franchise may look to trade Konchar. He starts a three-year $18.4 million extension next season but is playing just 16.8 minutes per game. Memphis has drafted several wings in recent years, and they could look to move on from Konchar to open up more playing time for their young talent.
The 27-year-old is a career 36.8 percent 3-point shooter, who rebounds well and can guard multiple positions. He is comfortable coming off the bench and playing 20 minutes per game. The 6’5 wing will make shots, grab rebounds, and defend.
The Boston Celtics have been linked to John Konchar several times. He is making just $2.4 million this season, and the franchise may be able to acquire him without giving up Payton Pritchard or any of their rotation pieces. They need the Grizzlies to become sellers, but this is a move to watch if that happens.
4. Kelly Olynyk
Multiple reports have linked Olynyk to a reunion with the Celtics. He started his NBA career in Boston after being the 13th overall pick in 2013 and spent four years with the franchise before departing via free agency in 2017. The Jazz are in the middle of a rebuild and are open to trading his $12.1 million expiring contract before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
The Celtics would love to add a 6’11 big man who can provide depth behind Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford and share the floor with them. Olynyk is a career 36.9 percent 3-point shooter, who can make plays, defend multiple positions, and rebound, but acquiring him might be problematic.
Boston does not want to trade away four players to get one, but they will struggle to match the salary of any player making more than $10 million. It is nearly impossible for the Celtics to acquire Olynyk without giving up one of their top six players. Even dealing Payton Pritchard, Luke Kornet, Oshae Brissett, and Dalano Banton for Olynyk leaves Boston about $0.5 million short in matching salary.
Fans can dream about his fantastic fit in Boston and his potential impact, but making the math work is next to impossible. The Celtics could get creative by involving a third team, but that makes things even more complicated.
3. Matisse Thybulle
The Celtics have the best defensive backcourt in the NBA in Derrick White and Jrue Holiday. Both were on the All-Defensive teams last season, and nobody looks forward to facing Boston. Zach Lowe floated the idea of the franchise picking up a third elite defender.
Thybulle signed a three-year $33 million contract with the Mavericks in the offseason, but the Blazers matched it in restricted free agency. He cannot be traded to Dallas, but the 6’5 wing could be on the move before the deadline. Portland is just starting a rebuild, and Thybulle is only playing 23.8 minutes per game.
He has made two All-Defensive teams in his first four NBA seasons. The 26-year-old is comfortable coming off the bench and playing lockdown defense. His offensive game is a work in progress, but Thybulle has shot 36.9 percent from 3-point range over the last two seasons combined.
Matisse Thybulle is making $10.5 million this season, which means Boston would have to trade four bench options to acquire him. This becomes more attractive if the Celtics find someone they desire on the buyout market, but their spending limits them to someone making the non-taxpayer mid-level or under before being waived. This would be a gamble, but one that makes them an elite defensive team.
2. Royce O’Neale
The Nets logjam on the wing has limited O’Neale’s playing time this season. Brooklyn gave up a first-round pick to acquire him in the 2022 offseason. They needed someone who could defend and sink open shots next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets did not expect both stars to be traded with the primary return being wing talent.
O’Neale is averaging 7.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 25.8 minutes per game this season. He has started just six games but is shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range. Every team wants 3-and-D wings, and O’Neale figures to be available before the deadline. The Nets shopped him in the offseason and will be motivated to move his expiring contract.
The 6’4 wing is making $9.5 million and remains extension eligible. The Celtics will be over the second tax apron next season, so now is the time to improve their roster before the restrictions kick in during the offseason. Getting another 3-and-D wing who can make shots and play significant postseason minutes would be massive for the franchise’s depth.
Working out a deal for Royce O’Neale would mean losing Payton Pritchard. Boston could try to get Dennis Smith Jr. back in the deal to give them some point guard and ball-handling depth. Brooklyn could be the perfect trade partner, but working out a deal won’t be easy given the Celtics’ financial restrictions.
1. Patrick Williams
The Bulls are one of the most talked about teams. Zach LaVine is available, and Chicago could fully tear things down before the deadline. DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso will get the headlines, but not agreeing to an extension makes Williams an interesting target for several teams.
The 22-year-old forward is a career 41.3 percent 3-point shooter, but his defense has left plenty to be desired. The Celtics could be the perfect fit. They have an elite defense and could allow Williams to play a lesser role.
The fourth overall pick in 2020 is making $9.8 million this season and becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2024. Williams wants a raise and is reportedly seeking $20-plus million per year. The Celtics need to upgrade their roster and would love to have another young wing with room to grow on.
Convincing the Bulls to trade Pat Will may be difficult, especially after they have watched their former lottery picks blossom elsewhere. If Chicago decides to rebuild, do not rule anything out.
Will the Boston Celtics trade Payton Pritchard and upgrade their roster before the Feb. 8 deadline? Brad Stevens has been aggressive in search of banner number 18. There figures to be plenty of talent available, and the franchise just needs a role player to round out their roster. Stay tuned to see what happens.