The idea of infusing the Boston Celtics’ inconsistent bench with the shooting potential of JJ Redick is undoubtedly intriguing and yet the 36-year-old guard should not be at the top of Danny Ainge’s traded player exception wishlist.
Redick, a career 41.4 percent 3-point shooter who connected on 45.3 percent of his triples last season in New Orleans, is languishing this year. He’s made only 29.8 percent of his 5.3 triples per game. The Pelicans’ offensive rating plummets to 102.8 when he’s on the court — nearly 7 points below their season average — and Redick’s on-court net rating is minus-11.2 (second worst on the team behind only Jaxson Hayes).
It’s fair to wonder if being injected into Boston's championship-chasing situation could help Redick find his shot. Playing on a team with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown has potential to deliver plenty of open looks. The concerning part is that 55.8 percent of Redick's shots this season have been charted as “open," or at least four feet of space from the nearest defender per the NBA’s shot tracking data, and Redick has made only 34 percent of those 3-point looks.
Couple this with his defensive limitations and the Celtics would be banking heavy on Redick finding his shot in the crawl to his 37th birthday, an age when even some of the NBA’s best 3-pointer shooters like Reggie Miller and Ray Allen started to decline.
All that being said, beggars cannot be choosers. The Celtics were getting quality early returns from their bench but, especially in the absence or rookie Payton Pritchard, that reserve production has dipped. Redick is the sort of knockdown shooter that has potential to not only aid the bench but would be especially intriguing when paired with Boston’s stars.
There are a couple of other factors at play here, not the least of which is the fact that Redick will be a free agent after the season. With Brown’s extension kicking in this year and Tatum’s cap hit set to spike this summer, the Celtics are operating with virtually no way to add veteran talent this summer beyond the taxpayer midlevel exception. Splurging nearly half the value of the Hayward TPE — Redick is making $13 million this year — for a half season of a not-so sure thing is less than ideal as the Celtics look to maximize the Jays window.
It’s worth noting that there are few options in which Boston can utilize the full value of the $28.5 million TPE, especially during this season as they attempt to stay outside the tax. But taking on Redick would limit the size of any splash in the aftermath with only $15.5 million to play with at that point. Boston’s front office could target a smaller salary that still gives them some flexibility for a bigger swing down the road.
A report from The Athletic this weekend hinted Redick, a Brooklyn native, might prefer a Northeast destination for his next team. The Celtics were included among the Nets and Sixers as potential landing spots. Some of Boston’s motivation in any pursuit might be to simply prevent Redick from finding his form with another East rival, especially after both Brooklyn and Philadelphia already upgraded their rosters from last season.
The Celtics have an edge on those two teams in terms of flexibility in making a deal. The traded player exception allows them to take on Redick’s deal without necessarily having to send out matching salary (something that could make trades a bit cumbersome for Philly and Brooklyn). But Boston, both in need of a roster spot and to prevent getting too close to the tax line, would likely have to send out at least one player in any deal along with draft capital. The Celtics could make the money work using players on their roster but it would likely be an overpay at that point.
All of which leaves us wondering if there are better options for Ainge to pursue. Would it be worth a call to Orlando to see if Terrence Ross is available? You get a younger player (29) with better size (6-6) who isn’t quite the same sharpshooter from deep (though he’s at 34.3 percent for the season) but has put himself in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation while averaging 14.7 points per game this season. Ross costs a half million more than Redick this season but is under contract for two additional years at descending salary.
Ainge’s ideal player would almost certainly be a bigger wing, maybe someone that more naturally slots at the 4 with potential to play smallball 5, who brings both defensive versatility and a bit of shooting. When healthy, the Celtics don’t lack for offensive weapons, especially if two of the Brown/Tatum/Walker trio will be on the court most times during games, and defense has been a far bigger concern early on than Boston’s offense
The addition of play-in spots in each conference could limit the number of sellers before March’s trade deadline. The Celtics still need to examine other options, ones that can help them now and deeper into the future, before rolling the dice on Redick.