Celtics dump Tristan Thompson to clear room for Josh Richardson trade

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics are moving Tristan Thompson in a three-team trade to clear room for Josh Richardson.

The 2021 NBA Draft may be in the rearview mirror, but that doesn’t mean trade season has stopped.

Following Thursday’s draft night, which saw Russell Westbrook traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of another, more minor trade on Friday afternoon.

According to Woj, the Boston Celtics are dumping big man Tristan Thompson in a three-team deal. His initial report indicated Thompson would be heading to join the Atlanta Hawks, but the trade then expanded to three teams, with Thompson joining the Sacramento Kings instead.

The Hawks will receive guard Delon Wright from Sacramento, while the Celtics are getting Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando and a 2023 second-round draft pick from Atlanta. But this was just a precursor to an even bigger move for Boston.

Celtics dump Tristan Thompson to land Josh Richardson

For the Celtics, dumping Thompson was all about freeing up some additional cap space to either re-sign Evan Fournier or make another move. It didn’t take long for us to figure out which scenario they were aiming for, since The Athletic’s Shams Charania soon reported Boston was making another move for Dallas Mavericks wing Josh Richardson:

Charania later reported Moses Brown would be heading to Dallas as part of the trade:

With Richardson exercising his $11.6 million player option for next season, moving Thompson’s $9.7 million expiring contract made a ton of sense to carve out the requisite space. Fournier, an unrestricted free agent, could very well be on the move again soon.

Kris Dunn is also a tenacious perimeter defender, and with Al Horford back in town, the Celtics didn’t have any further need for Thompson.

For the Hawks, they’re getting one of the better players involved in the initial trade. Delon Wright is an effective combo guard who does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and now that he’ll no longer be wasting away in Sacramento, Wright can prove himself as a steady backup for a playoff-caliber team behind Trae Young. Last season, split between the Kings and Detroit Pistons, Wright averaged 10.2 points, 4.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game, shooting a tidy 46.3 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from 3-point range.

This is a baffling move for the Kings, who are jettisoning an effective player for what amounts to Richaun Holmes insurance. Holmes has played his way into a new contract as an unrestricted free agent after putting up a career-best 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on 63.7 percent shooting this season, and he could very well be gone. But even after crowding the backcourt further by drafting Davion Mitchell alongside De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, trading a younger combo guard like Wright for an aging backup big like Thompson — especially without getting any sort of draft compensation — is an odd move.

From the Dallas Mavericks’ perspective, trading Richardson is all about freeing additional cap space to make a run at a major free agent. The Mavs could use a veteran point guard like Kyle Lowry, and dumping Richardson’s $11.6 million salary helps get them closer to that dream scenario.

The Mavs are also taking a flier on Moses Brown, a promising young big who averaged 8.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was recently traded to Boston as part of the Kemba Walker-Al Horford swap, and while he’s offensively limited, he’s a pure finisher and lob threat at the rim, which could make him a nice complementary piece to Luka Doncic. He’s also only 21 years old with plenty of room to grow, so getting any youngster with upside out of a salary cap maneuver like this is a good thing.

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