Could Celtics expand the Kris Dunn trade? Why a delay signals potential new phase of three-team deal –

The Celtics made one trade over the weekend official by dealing away Moses Brown to the Dallas Mavericks for veteran wing Josh Richardson. However, the team’s second three-team swap involving big man Tristan Thompson has not been processed yet, opening the door for a bigger transaction as free agency begins this week.

The original trade was agreed upon on Friday per league sources with the Celtics acquiring Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Tristan Thompson. The Hawks then agreed to send Thompson to the Sacramento Kings for guard Delon Wright, expanding the transaction to a three-team swap.

The expectation was that this deal would be completed by Sunday since it conceded with the end of the NBA league year and the expiration of one of Boston’s traded player exceptions (Enes Kanter’s) which would have been useful in pulling off the deal.

However, Sunday came and went with no deal being processed, which means the Kanter trade exception worth $4.7 million has expired unused for Boston. That doesn’t mean the original deal can’t still be executed as planned. Boston has a pair of other trade exceptions they can use to absorb the contracts of Dunn and Fernando while still creating a newer bigger trade exception for Tristan Thompson’s 2021-22 salary of $9.7 million.

Nonetheless, the Celtics in all likelihood did not let a trade exception go to waste this weekend for no good reason. Brad Stevens let that happen for one of two reasons:

1. The Celtics wanted to create a larger traded player exception: This is a simple, albeit more unlikely explanation. Waiting until the new league year to make the trade official allows Boston to create a bigger trade acceptation that’s worth $9.7 million instead of $9.2 million. That small bump could be beneficial down the line in a separate transaction for a bigger salary.

2. Boston and the other teams involved are searching for a way to expand the trade: Atlanta, Sacramento and Boston are all over the cap teams heading into free agency, leaving them limited options to improve their roster without trades. A complex three-team transaction like this involving significant outgoing salary and trade exceptions leaves plenty of avenues for other teams to get involved. Whether the trio of teams wants to serve as a facilitator for another transaction during their offseason or one of the teams wants to try to acquire a different player from a new team by finding a way to package him into this transaction, the opportunity is there to grow this deal.

The Celtics specifically have an opening to take back some more salary in the trade by using Tristan Thompson for salary matching if they find a good match. Since they are taking Dunn and Fernando into trade exceptions, they could take up to $14.8 million in salary in the trade if they didn’t want to create a trade exception with Thompson’s salary.

There are a host of players that make under $15 million and would be more appealing additions for Boston in such a deal. A few possible candidates that would fit into that salary spot were covered back in June as options for the leftover Gordon Hayward trade exception (worth $11 million). However, a few names that could be added to that list include

Malik Beasley $14.3 million

Thaddeus Young: $14.1 million

Joe Ingles: $14 million

Jonas Valanciunas: $14 million

TJ Warren $12.7 million

Marvin Bagley: $11.3 million

Additional compensation would need to be involved for any of those names via draft picks or other players but this is a route the Celtics could elect to pursue based on how their own free agent pursuits pan out. For instance, if Evan Fournier signs elsewhere, the door would be open for a Celtics to potentially take on more salary in a trade than anticipated and stay within budget.

There’s no guarantee a new element of the deal would be agreed upon after the delay but the door is now open for all parties involved to expand this transaction if they find a good fit. Being patient on the free agency front could end up paying off for Boston or another team involved in this original deal.