The Bucks leapfrogged the Celtics and became championship favorites after acquiring Damian Lillard from the Trail Blazers this week. But the mechanics of this deal created some new avenues for other contenders to strike back.
Bucks All-Star Jrue Holiday was sent to Portland in the deal, and the 33-year-old point guard will likely be rerouted because he does not fit the Blazers’ youth movement. League sources said this week that the Celtics have interest in acquiring Holiday. It would not be easy, but it’s certainly possible.
The Blazers would primarily be interested in Boston’s draft capital, and aside from owing the Spurs a potential 2028 pick swap, the Celtics own all of their future first-round choices. They also have the Warriors’ 2024 pick, and a massive collection of second-rounders.
But with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown entering their primes, the value of the future firsts will not be very high. Furthermore, the salary-matching requirements in a Holiday deal would be tricky.
Holiday is due to make $36.6 million this season, and under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Celtics can take back 110 percent of the salary they are sending out. Any deal would have to start with point guard Malcolm Brogdon’s $22.5 million deal. But Brogdon is under contract for next season, too, so Portland might want to send him elsewhere. The Celtics would also likely have to part ways with either Al Horford or Robert Williams, who will make $10 million and $11.6 million this season.
Horford, 37, would be the logical choice. His 45.5 percent 3-point shooting last season might be an outlier, and he has started to regress in other areas. But his departure would be a substantial hit to the Celtics’ frontcourt depth and leadership.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger, a former NBA executive, floated an interesting proposal that would involve the Celtics keeping Horford and Williams and meeting the salary-match requirements by adding Blake Griffin to a deal via sign-and-trade, along with several other smaller salaries. But something like a five-for-one becomes complicated, too.
Nevertheless, if the Celtics view Holiday as the piece that can help them over the top, they certainly will think long and hard about diving in.
▪ Holiday is not a free agent and doesn’t really have leverage in this situation. But it’s worth noting that his agent is Jason Glushon, who also represents Horford, Brown, Sam Hauser, and even Marcus Smart.
▪ A league source said Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis scrimmaged Wednesday for the first time since being shut down with plantar fasciitis in mid-August. The source said Porzingis looked good in the scrimmage and has not experienced any setbacks.
▪ A league source confirmed that veteran wing Lamar Stevens’s one-year contract with the Celtics is an Exhibit 9 deal, which is essentially a nonguaranteed training camp contract. That’s somewhat surprising considering Stevens started 25 games for the 51-win Cavaliers last season and appears to fill a void as a pesky defender. But he is very much in the mix to make the final 15-man roster regardless.
▪ Grant Williams was like a little brother to a lot of the Celtics. They loved having him around, and sometimes they also just wanted him to zip it. It seems that he hasn’t been changed by his new surroundings in Dallas.
“I think Grant is a great leader,” Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic said. “He talks a lot, sometimes too much. But he’s a great guy and he’s going to help us a lot.”
▪ The Athletic reported Thursday that the Warriors could soon be selected to host the 2025 All-Star Game. That’s unrelated to the Celtics’ push to host the game for the first time since 1964. Boston’s bid is centered on the 2026 event, league sources said.
▪ The Maine Celtics hired Blaine Mueller as head coach. Mueller had been with the Bucks since 2018, working his way up from player development and video assistant to full-time assistant coach. He replaces Alex Barlow, who left to become an assistant at Butler, his alma mater.