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Celtics acquire 1st-rounder, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton

Center Tyler Zeller (left) and guard Marcus Thornton.

AP/File photos

Center Tyler Zeller (left) and guard Marcus Thornton.

As part of a three-team deal, the Celtics will acquire center Tyler Zeller and a future first-round draft pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with guard Marcus Thornton from the Brooklyn Nets, league sources told the Globe on Wednesday.

In return, the Celtics will send a future second-round draft pick to Cleveland, the sources said. The deal won’t become official until the NBA’s moratorium is lifted July 10.

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Brooklyn will acquire guards Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers, who are trying to clear more salary-cap space as the team pursues LeBron James.

The Celtics were able to help facilitate the deal by using the $10.3 million trade exception that they gained when they shipped Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets last summer, the sources said. That trade exception was set to expire Saturday.

Related: Danny Ainge still working on Kevin Love deal

The pick that the Celtics will receive from the Cavaliers is a 2016 first-round pick that carries top-10 lottery protection. If the pick falls in the top-10 slots that year, the Cavaliers will keep it. If it doesn’t, then it’s the Celtics’ pick.

That cycle could potentially repeat until 2019, when the first-round pick becomes unprotected, meaning the Celtics would get it no matter where it falls.

All told, the Celtics will likely have as many as eight first-round picks over the next four years – and they could have as many as nine if the Philadelphia 76ers reach the playoffs this coming season.

The Celtics also have the option to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2017, which would allow them to take the higher of the two picks.

Ultimately, the Celtics are pursing Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, league sources have said, and this deal improves the Celtics by giving them more attractive assets to make a potential swap with the Timberwolves.

Zeller, a 7-foot, 250-pounder, averaged 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15 minutes per game over 70 appearances with the Cavaliers last season. The 24-year-old Zeller is a former first-round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina.

He is set to make $1.7 million this coming season. The Celtics will also hold a team option on him for the 2015-16 season, allowing them to decide after they see him play if they want to keep him.

Thornton, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, averaged 9.8 points last season, which was divided between the Sacramento Kings and the Brooklyn Nets. He averaged 12.3 points in 23 games for the Nets, and 8.3 points in 46 games for the Kings.

The 27-year-old Thornton is a former second-round pick out of Louisiana State University.

More importantly, Thornton is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $8.6 million next season. By taking on a player who has an expiring deal, the Celtics will have the ability to clear more salary cap space for next summer by letting him go or by dealing him to another team that is looking to clear cap space.

More coverage:

On Basketball: Ainge is attempting to gather assets to acquire Kevin Love

Rajon Rondo says he’s OK with Celtics’ draft

Celtics’ Marcus Smart knows foes will test him

Phil Pressey on guard as roster deadline looms

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.
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