A few days after the Celtics season came to a sudden end with a loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens sat at a dais and discussed taking this team’s final, elusive step.
Stevens pointed out that the Celtics had been just 48 minutes from their second consecutive Finals appearance and that most of their key pieces are under contract for next season, so a roster reconstruction was unnecessary. But he acknowledged that there was a need for some retooling.
According to a league source, the Celtics have been exploring trades that would reduce some of the congestion in their talented backcourt and bolster their depth at the wing or big positions.
Third-year guard Payton Pritchard had career lows in games (48), minutes per game (13.4), and scoring average (5.6) this past season, and in February he spoke about his desire to be traded to a team that would offer more opportunity. The source said that the Celtics remain high on Pritchard, and there is no tension between him and the organization.
Guard Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, had an excellent season that was slightly smudged by a rough ending. Slowed by a forearm strain, he was just 1 for 16 from the field and scored 2 points over his final four games of the conference finals.
The two-year, $45 million extension Brogdon signed with the Pacers before being traded to the Celtics last summer is set to kick in next season. Pritchard, meanwhile, is due to make just $4 million next season.
But the source stressed that financial obligations will not guide the roster decisions. Ownership paid about $69 million in luxury taxes last season and continues to show a commitment to building a championship roster during this title window.
Jaylen Brown remains an essential part of that picture. The source said the Celtics do not intend to trade the All-Star forward, and that all signs continue to point toward Brown signing a five-year, $295 million super-max extension this summer.
The source said it remains quite likely that forward Grant Williams, a restricted free agent, will be back in Boston next year, but that the Celtics have received inquiries from teams about sign-and-trade possibilities involving him.
The Celtics would have the ability to match any offer sheet Williams signs, and barring a surprisingly massive deal, they would do just that. The source said the Celtics most likely will simply re-sign Williams on their own, but a sign-and-trade would allow them to recoup some assets if the sides ultimately decide to part ways.
Last fall, Williams and the Celtics were unable to agree on a contract extension, with Williams seeking a deal worth about $54 million over four years. He fell out of coach Joe Mazzulla’s rotation for long stretches during the postseason but remained a valuable piece when given the chance.
“Everybody around the league knows that Grant can add value to a winning team,” Stevens said earlier this month. “We know that. We’re big fans of his and I thought he played [well] and did a lot of good things when he got the opportunity. But I don’t think it was an easy roster to always decide who would play, because we did have a lot of good players.”
Meanwhile, the Celtics continue to fortify Mazzulla’s staff. Earlier this month, they hired lead assistants Charles Lee and Sam Cassell, and a league source said Monday that they have added former Celtics guard Phil Pressey.
Pressey played for the Celtics from 2013-15 and spent last season working as an assistant at Missouri.
The source said the team is likely to add at least one more behind-the-bench coach in the coming weeks.
Celtics draft picks Yam Madar and Juhann Begarin are not expected to play for the team’s Las Vegas summer league squad, a league source said, primarily because of commitments to their European clubs.
Madar, a 2020 second-round choice, is finishing his season with KK Partizan of the Adriatic League. Begarin, a 2021 second-round pick, recently signed with Nanterre 92, which competes in France’s top pro division.