Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Boston Celtics Get: Nikola Vucevic
Orlando Magic Get: Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams III, unprotected 2022 first-round pick
The Boston Celtics’ $28.5 million trade exception, generated in the Gordon Hayward deal over the offseason, isn’t actually worth that much. Because Boston used its taxpayer mid-level exception, it’s hard-capped this year, which means it can only use $21.8 million of its TPE.
That rules out using it on pricier trade targets, but it’s still one of Boston’s most valuable tools. The Celtics could use it to get Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic, for example.
Dreaming bigger would require the Celtics to package a bunch of salary and attach it to draft compensation. Maybe their trade partners would rather have picks and salary relief than a wad of unwanted cash, but the Celtics could acquire a higher-end piece this way. And they have the assets to pull it off.
Nikola Vucevic is one of the best offensive centers in the game, and he’s been part of quality Magic defenses for several years now. Boston head coach Brad Stevens has a track record of conjuring schematic magic to produce strong defenses with less-than-ideal personnel up front, so we should trust him to make it work with Vooch.
To get him, the Celtics would need to surrender Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Tristan Thompson (can’t move until Feb. 28) and Robert Williams III, plus at least one unprotected first-rounder.
That sounds like a lot, especially with Pritchard and Smart involved. But this raises the Celtics’ offensive ceiling with a spacer and scorer at the 5 like they’ve never had before. Daniel Theis could slip into the reserve role for which he’s better suited, still providing defensive optionality against the right matchups. Meanwhile, Vucevic could produce a supercharged version of the bygone Al Horford era with his high-volume scoring.
It’s risky, but that’s kind of the point here.