What Josh Richardson trade means for Celtics and Evan Fournier’s free agency – MassLive.com

NBA free agency doesn’t begin until Monday night but that hasn’t stopped the Celtics from having a very busy weekend when it comes to shaking up the roster. Brad Stevens acquired Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando and a 2023 second-round pick for Tristan Thompson on Friday night and followed up that deal with a Josh Richardson acquisition from the Dallas Mavericks for a protected pick per a league source.

What exactly do all of these deals mean when it comes to the Celtics options for free agency? What about Evan Fournier? Let’s dissect a few takeaways from the moves for both the short and long term.

One of Marcus Smart or Evan Fournier probably won’t both be back next season: This is simply a matter of math. While Dunn could still be on the move via a separate deal per a league source, the Celtics brought aboard a starter-level player in Richardson who is a 6-foot-6 wing. He makes a reasonable $11 million for the 2021-22 season but retaining him, Smart and re-signing Fournier would push the Celtics deep into luxury tax territory while also creating a bit of a logjam at the two guard spot.

For that reason, Richardson is likely a backup plan for Boston in the event that Fournier’s market gets too pricy in free agency next week. The Celtics may not be willing to commit the long-term money in order to retain him so Richardson would be a capable replacement. If the Celtics decide they are willing to keep Fournier on a favorable deal, moving Smart would be an option as well if the team does not believe they will be able to afford re-signing him next offseason. Boston could also attempt to get a return for Fournier in a sign-and-trade deal if his price tag gets too high.

The Celtics maintain long-term flexibility: It’s no coincidence that all of the Celtics trades this week involve acquiring players with just a single year left remaining on their contracts (Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando, Josh Richardson). We covered the value of maintaining a clean cap sheet beyond 2022 earlier this week on MassLive, since it allows Boston to pursue multiple potential paths to a third star (trade or free agency). The Celtics have saved some money in these deals (Dunn/Fernando) but they have also ensured they have options beyond this season. A potential bridge season could be in the cards if this continues with no long-term commitments.

More deals are coming since the roster is too crowded: The Richardson trade gives Boston 15 players on their roster at the moment with just 13 guaranteed deals.

Celtics depth chart

Guards: Brown, Smart, Richardson, Pritchard, Dunn, Edwards

Forwards: Tatum, Nesmith, Langford, G. Williams, Parker

Bigs: R. Williams, Horford, M. Brown, Fernando

Current free agents: Evan Fournier, Luke Kornet, Semi Ojeleye, Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall

Needless to say, the Celtics won’t be content heading into next season with that roster. Wyc Grousbeck signaled it would be a busy July for the team last month when talking about the offseason and Brad Stevens has made sure of that so far. Look for additional moves on the fringes for Boston whether or not Fournier is retained in free agency.

The Celtics are putting their trade exceptions to use and creating new ones: Richardson fits into the remainder of the Celtics’ $11 million leftover trade exception from the Gordon Hayward trade while Dunn fits into a $4.7 million exception leftover from the Enes Kanter trade. Both TPEs were set to expire in the coming days so this is good work by Boston’s front office putting them to use.

The Celtics also created a new traded player exception with the Tristan Thompson deal at $9.2 million, leaving Boston with three substantial exceptions, each worth between $5-10 million that they can use at some point in the upcoming season.