Understanding the Daniel Theis trade: Why did the Celtics give the Bulls a great man for Mo Wagner, Luke Kornet?


The Celtics are finalizing a second trade deadline deal Thursday, moving Daniel Theis into a three-team trade with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards that also sees Jeff Teague and Javonte Green being traded. Boston lands fourth-year center Mo Wagner to Boston along with Bulls big man Luke Kornet.

So what are the motivations behind the deal from Boston’s perspective that is apparently a step down for Boston on the court? Let’s look at the factors involved.

The Celtics needed to cut pay after acquiring Fournier: Boston had a couple million dollars they needed to lose on payroll to fall below the luxury tax line this season, a priority for a team that is below the .500 mark and will pay the luxury tax on the years to come if you want to put together a contender in a loaded Eastern Conference.

The Celtics had a variety of options to cut salary, but leaving Theis was the easiest way to achieve this goal without losing other assets on the roster. Bringing in Wagner (expiring $ 2.1 million salary) is a cut on the court, but it provides a great option for Boston that can replace some of Theis’ 3-point shots. Meanwhile, the Celtics fall below the luxury tax line, giving them needed breathing space to stay under the tax and potentially add a buy player. Paying the tax this season wasn’t a big deal for Boston property according to league sources, but the prospect of triggering the harsher repeater tax earlier this decade by staying in it during 2020-21 was enough to make it. staying below that threshold a priority. In the present. Avoiding the tax now keeps Boston three years away from activating the repeat tax, rather than facing it next season.

Opening the door to more opportunities for young people: Theis move was made for financial reasons, but the other factors involved with other names in this deal clearly opened the door for Boston’s younger bench players. Jeff Teague had played two of his best games of the season last week, but all year he had been consuming the playing time of Payton Pritchard and Carsen Edwards with disappointing results. Similarly, Javonte Green gives Brad Stevens one less veteran option on the wing, opening the door to more opportunities for Aaron Nesmith to get regular reps alongside Romeo Langford once he’s cleared to return. Rob Williams will also become the team’s starting center as long as Tristan Thompson remains on the sidelines and can keep that spot if he performs well in the new role. Boston’s front office knows that a large part of the team’s future hinges on those recent draft picks becoming useful (or more) rotation players, and for that to happen, they need to play more now. Not all of them will become something worth keeping in the long run, but taking some veterans out of the equation will put Brad Stevens in a situation where he will have to lean more on the youngsters on the bench, for better or for better. worse.

Theis was not part of the long-term plan for Boston: The German center played well in his 3.5 years in Boston, but the team’s payroll for next season made it very likely that the team could pay Theis what he would order on the open market this offseason as he was ready to convert. in a free without restrictions. agent. Rather than letting him go for nothing this offseason, they chose to proactively move him. The team will also create a new $ 5 million trade exception after it is doled out, as they will bring Kornet and Wagner to the smaller TPEs in Boston.

At the end of the day, there wasn’t much to change some tough big picture decisions looming for Boston. They still have tough decisions to make this offseason involving future core and roster players. However, they acquired a name that improves the team at Fournier present and potentially more if the two parties agree to a long-term deal eventually. This exchange helps keep the team’s finances in order for the present and paves the way for young people to play a bigger role the rest of the way in a variety of positions. We will see if they are up to the challenge.

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