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UPDATE: Celtics and Wizards Trade Fell Apart as Sides Try to Meet Deadline

UPDATE (10:30): Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the trade has fallen apart, with the Clippers backing out, as Boston and Washington scramble to meet Porziņģis’ 12:00 opt-in deadline. 

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The Celtics surprised the NBA world ahead of the draft again with a Kristaps Porziņģis trade that appears imminent as of Wednesday afternoon. The reported deal would send Malcolm Brogdon to the Clippers and Danilo GallinariAmir Coffey and Marcus Morris Sr. to the Wizards as salary-matching, along with LA’s No. 30 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The impending move came as the first example this offseason of a team navigating the constraints of the new collective bargaining agreement and following more uneven Celtics postseason front court play. Boston had faced Al Horford turning 37, Robert Williams III attempting to step up after finishing another season playing sporadically off the bench and Grant Williams entering restricted free agency. Grant, according to the Boston Globe, will effectively serve as another outgoing player, whom Boston will continue trying to sign-and-trade.

Porziņģis arrives as a risk, too, especially if the hold-up proves to be a handshake agreement on an extension, which he can sign for two-years, $77 million through 2026 on July 6. He played 65 games in a relatively healthy season with Washington, the best of his career, where he averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 49.8% from the field, 38.5% from three and 85.1% at the free throw line. Encouragingly, he shot over 36% in 2020-21 with Dallas, 2022 with Washington and reached 39% on catch-and-shoot threes last season.

Prior, he appeared in 51 games between Dallas and the Wizards in 2022, 43 games in 2021 and 57 in 2020 suffering from knee, back, ankle and other ailments after tearing his ACL in 2018. His 7-3 height proved disruptive to his career for his perimeter-oriented game. His perpetually high usage doesn’t seem like a natural fit next to two additional star players. He occasionally clashed with teammates and drew a police probe regarding an alleged rape in 2019.

A simplified approach to offense, mostly pick-and-popping, attacking the rim more assertively and some load management worked in Washington though. And that’ll make sense in Boston too. Horford, Porzingis and Williams III will relieve each other’s workload more than the two tenured Celtics, Grant and Mike Muscala proved capable of doing.

Horford looked exhausted by the end of the postseason after doubling his efforts for Williams III, who played only 35 games recovering from September knee surgery. Dreams of Williams III elevating his game to new heights may dim into him providing more complementary efforts in a smaller role, not necessarily a bad thing if he’s consistently active. Porziņģis provides a cross between their impact as both a floor spacer and rim protector, and only turns 28 this August. He provides paint scoring the team didn’t consistently muster outside of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, plus a 46.1% mid-range shot. Flexibility can’t hurt.

Boston’s drop defense under Joe Mazzulla should provide a perfect starting role for Porziņģis inside, standing back at the rim while Marcus Smart and Derrick White fight over screens to lure teams into mid-rangers. Porziņģis allowed 0.93 points per possession against the pick-and-r0ll, a top-five mark in the league according to tracking data. He replaces a bench player in Brogdon though, calling into question who heads to the bench among Horford, Williams III and White, following the latter’s breakout season as a starter. Horford’s ability to guard perimeter players, play up in the pick-and-roll and double-big experience points toward him at least starting games, though he’ll undoubtedly receive the largest minute reduction of any rotation player.

Brogdon’s career with the Celtics comes to a surprisingly sudden end after Boston traded Aaron NesmithDaniel Theis and a first-round pick for him one year ago. He won sixth man of the year, thrived as a shooter and received steady fourth quarter minutes alongside Smart. Some combination of the new CBA, his postseason arm injury, White’s 2023 emergence, a desire to return Payton Pritchard to the rotation and Brogdon’s admitted difficulty playing off the bench all season led to his departure. The Clippers’ willingness to add him at point guard ahead of veterans Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul provided a first-round pick and saved Boston’s need to send one out in favor of added luxury tax payments Boston incurred.

The trade, as it stands, increases the Celtics’ payroll to $172.8-million, just short of the $182.5-million second apron, but enough to utilize the mid-level exception to round out the roster. That amounts to $12-million in tax payments before an MLE signing boosts that figure to $23-million.

Pritchard is extension-eligible this offseason and Boston could negotiate a deal that keeps him with the team long-term as a cost-controlled contributor. It’s worth wondering if he’ll carry the weight of the secondary bench contributions, get moved or become called upon to provide more bench shooting in a back court that lost its best three-point marksman. Brown appears poised to receive the $295-million super max, thrusting the team into a difficult financial position in the near future balancing three high-cost players. Grant, multiple first round picks and failed prospects going out the door put the team in position to make some difficult choices in a few years.

The Brogdon trade marks the first one, trading $22.5-million over two years for $36-million over one, gaining the flexibility to amend the roster in a number of ways next summer. Porziņģis’ push for an extension could change that, and raise additional questions about where the savings will come to counteract his addition to the salary sheet over multiple seasons. The team’s array of salaries expiring in 2025 will likely provide relief at that point.

For now, Boston feels like this move inches them even closer to a championship in the near term, and allows them to figure out the rest later. Brad Stevens’ ability to continue pointing the talent arrow upward impresses. The group’s ability to come together and make things work around a group of high-usage players becomes the next question, as does bench scoring. This trade could make Boston the best defensive team in the league again. The offense will face the same questions about ball control, movement and crunch time pacing that it did before.

Porzingis’ player option deadline comes later tonight at midnight, an unofficial deadline for all sides to agree on a deal.

 

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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