After examining some of the Boston Celtics’ potential bigger-ticket options utilizing the remainder of the Gordon Hayward trade exception, it’s time to set the sights a bit lower.
If the Celtics re-sign Evan Fournier this summer, they will almost certainly be a taxpaying team and would be limited to utilizing the $5.9 million taxpayer midlevel exception as their only means to adding a free agent at an above-the-minimum cost.
The Celtics do have some other smaller trade exceptions that could open smaller trade avenues but, for the purpose of this exercise, we’ll simply focus on veteran free agents that might fit in Boston’s price range and fill their most obvious needs.
Remember, a lot of contenders will still have the $9.5 million nontaxpayer midlevel to chase talent, complicating the path to Boston adding impact talent at a lower cost. Boston essentially would be looking for depth options who complement the core of the team and could provide steadier minutes than what they got from their younger players last season.
Rudy Gay (Last team: San Antonio Spurs)
Set to turn 35 in August, Gay finally might be in Boston’s price range this summer. His experience and savvy would provide a boost at the power forward spot, especially after shooting 38.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season.
He also has experience with new Celtics coach Ime Udoka during his San Antonio tenure and could help promote buy-in.
T.J. McConnell (Indiana Pacers)
Saturation of point guards could keep McConnell’s price tag low (as will his underwhelming 3-point percentage). He’s still a feisty defender for his size who can confidently direct an offense and give you occasional scoring bursts.
Could the Celtics confidently run a McConnell/Payton Pritchard backup backcourt? His passing and defensive tenacity could help mitigate size concerns.
Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
Hop here for a deeper dive on Mills, but there’s a lot to like about how he could infuse a veteran presence at a thinned point guard spot.
Dante Exum (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Speaking of intriguing Aussie hoopers, Exum, who is playing for Australia’s Olympic squad, hasn’t come close to reaching his pre-draft hype. But he’s still a big guard who — if he could ever stay healthy, and that’s decidedly not Boston’s strong suit lately — would be a really intriguing low-cost flyer given his size.
Justise Winslow (Memphis Grizzlies)
The Grizzlies have a $13 million team option on Winslow that seems unlikely to be triggered. Even with Danny Ainge no longer in charge, the Celtics should consider the still-only 25-year-old if he becomes available.
Winslow would offer a whole bunch of positional versatility with an ability to handle the ball and play both forward spots. He seems like an Udoka-type of guy with his grittiness.
Bryn Forbes (Milwaukee Bucks)
The soon-to-be 28-year-old guard has a $2.5 million player option that he can decline with hopes that Milwaukee’s NBA Finals run increased his payday. Forbes shot a blistering 45.2 percent on 3-point shots during the regular season and has played 13.7 minutes per game during Milwaukee’s Finals run.
There’s redundancy with Pritchard, who needs reps to grow, but shooting is a premium if you’re going to maximize a Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown core. Like others on this list, there’s a San Antonio connection.
Georges Niang (Utah Jazz)
A rocky playoffs won’t help his value but the 28-year-old power forward — and Massachusetts native — was good enough to start 10 games in 2020-21 for the Jazz and shot 42.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc during the regular season.
Jeff Green (Brooklyn Nets)
Even at age 35, Green still might be worth an above-the-taxpayer splurge for a contending team. But if the market is cool, the Celtics could do worse than another tour with the veteran forward.
Green got a taste of the Udoka experience this past season in Brooklyn. It helps that he shares an agent with Al Horford and Marcus Smart.
Ish Smith (Washington Wizards)
A card-carrying member of the Celtics Killers All-Stars, signing Smith might be worth the cost just so you don’t have to play him four times per year. More importantly, he would provide a steady ball-handling presence who can give you scoring when needed.
Gorgui Dieng (San Antonio Spurs)
The 31-year-old veteran can stretch the floor from both big-man spots. An underwhelming end of the year in San Antonio doesn’t inspire confidence, but Brad Stevens certainly loves reliable veterans.
Elfrid Payton (New York Knicks)
For all his shooting woes, Payton was still a 63-game starter on a playoff team who can confidently run an offense. We are guessing his price tag might get outside Boston’s range, but because of the saturation of available guards, there is going to be available talent for Boston to pursue that could add depth alongside Smart and Pritchard.