Which Players Should the Celtics Target With Their Trade Exception?

Danny Ainge did it. Gordon Hayward may be gone from Boston, but he didn’t leave for nothing at least. Yesterday it was announced that the Celtics and Hornets completed a sign-and-trade that sent Hayward and two future second-round picks to Charlotte for a $28M trade exception and a second-round pick.

What does having a trade exception mean? It means that a team can use a trade exception to eat up cap space that they do not have. For example, if the Celtics wanted to trade for a player making $25M a year, they could use that trade exception to absorb the salary coming in.

Trade exceptions don’t always get used, but this one is much different than the rest. The trade exception that the Celtics received is the largest in league history. Boston was given an exception that could drastically change this team.

Boston will have up to a year to use this trade exception before it expires. Although it’s nice to think about some players that the Celtics should target now, it’s more realistic to believe Danny Ainge won’t use it until next offseason. There will be more options by then, and we can see how this upcoming year plays out before using it.

So let’s say Kemba Walker blows his knee out and isn’t the same player again. Danny would probably put that exception towards a point guard that can replace him. Or he could get another wing. Or a big. Who knows what Danny Ainge has going on in his crazy mind, but all I know is he has many options going forward.

Let’s just say Danny Ainge wants to use this trade exception for this upcoming season. Who should the Celtics target with the gigantic trade exception they just got from Charlotte?

Trading for Evan Fournier or Buddy Hield would make so much sense for the Celtics. Both would add shooting and plenty of scoring into the starting lineup. Both players averaged at least 18 points and shot above 39% from three last season. They’d easily replace the scoring Hayward leaves behind, then add some.

I know the Celtics just signed Tristan Thompson and didn’t end up trading for Myles Turner, but he could still be on the table. I prefer Capela over Turner, but both players would bring something to the table that would make this team better. Whether it’s Turner’s ability to defend the paint and spread the floor, or Capela’s ability to run the floor and play solid defense, they’d both be welcomed in Boston.

Bradley Beal is a pipe-dream, but let’s dream for a second. Washington has zero intentions of trading Beal at the moment, but we all know things change quickly in the NBA. Within a month, Beal could be requesting a trade, and Washington could blow it up.

Beal makes more than Boston’s trade exception, and they certainly would need to bring more to the table if they want Washington to accept a deal, but it could happen. We all know how close Jayson Tatum and Beal are. I know neither of them would mind playing alongside each other one day.

There’s a bunch of other players the Celtics could also target with their trade exception, but those are five that I think are the most realistic or would help the team the most.

Danny Ainge will have Boston fans on the edge of their seats for as long as he holds onto the exception. We’ll be asking ourselves if he’ll ever use it or if he’ll actually get somebody good with it. Only time will tell, but at this point, I think we all know that we need to be patient and trust Danny Ainge.

Photo: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

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