Celtics trade targets: Mason Plumlee, Jae’Sean Tate or a Kelly Olynyk reunion?

With Al Horford and Robert Williams signed beyond this season and capable of handling the vast majority of the team’s frontcourt minutes if they are healthy heading into the playoffs, the Celtics do not necessarily have an urgent need on the front line. Still, they should scan the league for another big man as the trade deadline nears, according to league sources who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely. But Luc Kornet has been solid this season, the Celtics should assess options to build depth behind Horford and Williams while giving Joe Mazzulla additional flexibility in the line-up.

AthleticismShams Charania reported again on Monday that the Celtics have expressed interest in Spurs center Jacob Poeltl. Jared Weiss recently shattered that possibility. Here are several other power forwards and centers who might be available at Deadline for one reason or another.

Remember: By combining the contracts of Daniel Gallinari and justin jackson with future picks, the Celtics could absorb nearly $10.5 million in return wages. They could add Blake Griffin to that same group of players to recoup nearly $12.8 million. Any target doing more than that would force the Celtics to part with at least one player who is a little harder to pass.

If the Celtics are looking for a big man to help them play a different style, Plumlee won’t necessarily fit the mold. He hasn’t shot a 3-pointer all season. His occasional attempts to defend perimeter players in isolation have not gone well. Playing him next to Robert Williams probably wouldn’t be an option.

Yet on a bad Hornets team, Plumlee had one of the best seasons of his career statistically speaking. He’s averaging 12.2 points, 9.7 rebounds (3.4 offensive), and 3.6 assists per game while a career-high 67.4 percent from the field. After a mid-career change of shooting hands, his left-handed form can be shocking to the eyes:

Still, the switch seems to have helped Plumlee. He’s shooting 61.5% on free throw attempts, which is far from great but still better than his career 56.3%. Hornets coach Steve Clifford recently said Plumlee’s growing confidence on the line has helped him seek contacts more frequently. His free throw attempt rate (number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt) is the highest of his career. He averaged 16.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in January.

Plumlee, 32, has an expiring contract of $9.1 million. He wouldn’t play much if the Celtics were completely healthy. It doesn’t block shots like Kornet. Still, Plumlee would give them a bit more offense at center save than Kornet.

At 6ft 5in, Tate is definitely not a traditional big man. He rarely played in the center throughout his career. Most of his minutes have come as an undersized power forward.

Wherever he plays, Tate’s defensive versatility shines. When healthy (an issue for him this season), he has the muscle to punch bigger guys and the quick feet to deal with guards. even damaged Rockets ecosystem, he produced some defensive highlights against some of the best players in the game.

The Rockets value Tate’s game for all the reasons other teams care about him. He is one of the few capable stoppers on a team that currently ranks 28th in defensive rating. The 27-year-old is under contract for the 2024-25 season with a team option in the final year of that deal. Houston could definitely hold him off.

If he’s available at a reasonable price, the Celtics should at least make a call. They already have a lot of defensive versatility, but some of their players with this trait are smaller, including Smart Marcus, Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White. Tate would allow them to compose more physically imposing queues.

He could fit in next to Horford or Robert Williams in the frontcourt, allowing the Celtics to keep Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to the small forward and shooting guard. and Grant Williams could even play center forward and center together if the Celtics wanted to try a shorter, but still solid frontcourt. Although Boston has hardly ever used Grant Williams at center the past two seasons, they might feel more comfortable trying this look with Tate’s mace next to him. That type of frontcourt probably wouldn’t be something they’d try too often because Horford and Robert Williams are two of their best players, but the ability to play different styles can be critical come playoff time. Longer term, Tate could even be insurance against the possibility of Grant Williams landing a restricted free agency contract that the Celtics don’t want to match.

The wrong side? Tate would overlap some skills of Grant Williams without providing the same spacing as Grant Williams. Tate has shot an ugly 31% on 3-point attempts in his career, a real problem for an undersized frontcourt player. An ankle injury has limited the 27-year-old to just 13 games this season and has forced the Rockets to limit his minutes lately. Still, he is very tough and can hold a number of positions credibly. If Houston is willing to move him, he’ll help another team’s defense somewhere.

P. J. Washington

The price here will likely be too high for the Celtics to get seriously involved. Hornets are would have leaned to keep Washington, who is expected to enter restricted free agency this summer. Still, teams should call Charlotte to assess what the Hornets would want for him.

Washington hasn’t rebounded well for a frontcourt player (Brogdon’s defensive rebound rate has been better this season), but his inside-out play offers significant offensive versatility. He hasn’t shot 3-pointers particularly well this season (35.6%), but has made 37% of 3-point attempts in his high-volume career for a big man.

He’s been used almost exclusively as a power forward this season, according to positional estimates from Cleaning the Glass, but the Hornets have actually had some success with Washington at center in the past. These lineups tore through opponents with waves of offense, but were responsive on the other end of the court. At the very least, Washington could play a few minutes next to Horford or Robert Williams in Boston’s frontcourt while potentially opening small-ball looks for Mazzulla.

For many reasons, Washington, who is making $5.8 million this season in the final year of his current contract, seems like an outlandish target for Boston. Beyond Washington’s acquisition price at the deadline, the Celtics are expected to re-sign him to a bigger contract this summer. That would be a big ask unless they consider it part of the core in the future. They already have $159 million in committed salary for next season, which would be way above the projected cap even without any other additions. They also still have a decision to make on Grant Williams, who will also be a restricted free agent this offseason. It’s going to get very expensive to keep everyone together even without throwing another soon-to-be-expensive young player into the mix.

Kelly Olynyk of the Utah Jazz. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Would an Olynyk meeting interest the Celtics? Unlike some of the other players on this list, he is not on an expiring contract, but only $3 million of his contract is guaranteed for the 2023-24 season. According to my calculations, a pack of Gallinari, Griffin and Jackson would fall just before reaching the NBA trade limit to match Olynyk’s salary, so the Celtics would have to add extra money to the offer. This could be a deciding factor for Boston, which should then include Payton Prichard, Sam Hauser or Kornet in the swap.

Would the Celtics trust Olynyk’s defense at the end of the playoffs? Maybe not, but he would give them a new dimension as the second big man behind Horford. After a year of shooting in Detroit, Olynyk is hitting a career-high 41.4 percent on his 3-point attempts this season while assisting a Utah offense that came as a major surprise. Although the Jazz are still in the playoff mix, Olynyk could be available due to his contract situation and the belief that the organization isn’t desperate to win right now.

Boucher’s current contract will net him $12.69 million this season, $11.75 million next season and $10.81 million the following season. The Celtics might be against adding so much future salary considering what it would mean for their luxury tax payments. Including the tax, that would be a huge commitment for a backup big man.

Yet, if the raptors decide to stage a fire sale, Boucher is one of their intriguing players – especially if he can recapture the shooting touch that allowed him to hit 38.3% of his 3-point attempts this season 2020-21. He hasn’t been as effective at that distance since.

(Mason Plumlee and Jayson Tatum top photo: Nell Redmond/USA Today)

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