Two months into his new role as the team’s president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens has demonstrated a clear willingness to strike when he sees opportunity.
Just over one month after trading former All-Star point guard Kemba Walker to the Thunder, Stevens orchestrated a pair of deals Friday that helped Boston’s future flexibility and bolstered their backcourt depth.
First, the Celtics agreed to a three-team deal in which center Tristan Thompson will be traded to the Kings, and the Celtics will acquire Hawks point guard Kris Dunn, forward Bruno Fernando, and a 2023 Atlanta second-round pick, multiple league sources confirmed.
Later Friday, the Celtics used the remaining $11 million trade exception from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade with the Hornets last fall to acquire veteran wing Josh Richardson from the Mavericks, according to a league source.
Richardson, who averaged 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 for the Mavericks this past season, is expected to opt into the final year of his four-year contract. His arrival could be a signal that the Celtics are not confident in their chances of re-signing guard wing Evan Fournier after free agency begins next week.
Dallas traded Richardson to free salary-cap space to pursue a maximum-salary free agent, according to ESPN.
One source said that after Boston acquired Al Horford from the Thunder last month, it was clear the team needed to create space in a crowded frontcourt that also included rising big man Robert Williams, so it made sense to part ways with Thompson. It is also a bit of a cost-cutting move for Boston.
Thompson had one year remaining on the two-year, $18 million deal he signed last season. Dunn will make $5 million next season and Fernando has a $1.8 million salary, saving Boston about $3 million.
The Celtics added Dunn and Fernando using trade exceptions that were created in deals last season, a league source said. Those exceptions were set to expire this offseason, so by using them to acquire these two players, the Celtics created a new $9 million exception by trading Thompson. That exception will expire in one year.
Dunn, a former Providence star, was selected by the Timberwolves with the fifth pick of the 2016 draft. He is an elite defender whose career has been slowed by injuries. He was hampered by a right knee sprain with the Bulls in 2019-20, and after signing with the Hawks prior to this season he underwent surgery to remove cartilage from his right ankle. He played in just four games with the Hawks this past season.
He could provide backcourt depth after Kemba Walker was traded to the Thunder in the Horford deal. There is also a chance this could be just one step in a series of moves as free agency opens Monday, the source said.
Fernando, a 6-foot-9-inch center, was a second-round pick in 2019. He averaged 1.5 points and 2.4 rebounds over 31 games with Atlanta this past season.
Thompson, 30, averaged 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds during his lone season with the Celtics. He missed nearly a month after testing positive for COVID-19.
“We never really got a good shot to see what this puzzle looks like,” Thompson said after Boston’s opening-round playoff loss to the Nets in May. “Every time we had a piece missing, and that piece was an important piece. But this team never had a fair shot to see what the makeup is.
“But this is a business and I’ve been in it for 10 years, long enough to know the mentality in Boston and what’s expected. So the guys that are higher up have to make the decisions and do what they feel is best for the franchise.”