October 3, 2022

As the Celtics jointly pursue the wing playmaking and scoring additions that top their list of needs this summer, a fresh round of rumors ahead of Thursday’s free agency moratorium period show the multiple avenues in which they have to meet those needs.

Jake Fischer has reported that Boston is interested in Pacers free agent TJ Warren and Hawks veteran Danilo Gallinari. Both players would provide immediate improvements on the role Aaron Nesmith was struggling to fill, spelling out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while providing a consistent presence off the bench through shot creation. Both players also maintain squad size and versatility all around the perimeter, with a particular focus on shooting.

Warren enters free agency less certain than expected to return to Indiana given their pivot to rebuilding following the Domantas Sabonis trade. The Pacers still have a significant margin below the luxury tax line and can offer Warren the most money, but he has appeared in four games since the NBA Bubble that concluded the 2019-20 season.

There’s a chance he’ll seek a proof deal on a mid-level exception ($6.3 million) before reentering free agency with enhanced value. If he’s looking for a long-term deal, the Celtics could offer him that too, likely below the value Indiana or teams with full MLEs could provide. Kevin O’Connor reported that Indiana could sign and trade Warren, which isn’t a viable path for the Celtics, already hovering around the hard cap. The Heat have also been linked to Warren. In a thin class of free agents, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Warren’s price rise.

Warren, 6’8” and 29 next season, averaged 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 53.6% shooting in his final full season, a scorer who became the surprise star in Orlando that summer – All-Bubble First Team at that. His six-game regular season featured a streak of 31.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 BPG, and 1.3 SPG on 57.8% shooting that now feels like an eternity. After a strong showing in a first round against Miami, he broke his foot to start the 2020-21 season and hasn’t played since. He would have fully recovered at the end of last season, but with the Pacers already out of action, he decided to rest.

While Warren’s worth may be hard to gauge given his lack of consistent league history and recent ailments, Gallinari gives you exactly what you’d expect at the start of his 34-year-old season. Scoring as a teenager, 40s efficiency on the pitch and solid shooting. His numbers dropped slightly to 11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 1.5 APG on 43.4% FG and 38.1% 3PT. You wouldn’t buy it to play or to defend, it would be about putting the ball in the basket. Given the Hawks’ need to drop some salary and roster space, he would make sense as a low-cost acquisition.

The problem is that it doesn’t match the commercial exception Evan Fournier. Gallinari’s final season is worth $21.5 million and Boston should match that with Derrick White or piling the lowest salaries on the roster. That salary becomes guaranteed today, after being partially guaranteed at $5 million previously. The Hawks could waive him today and make him an MLE target like Warren. The Celtics could also have acquired him at that lower number previously, or whatever figure in between needed to match contracts, albeit with a significant luxury levy once his full salary was secured. . Keep an eye on Gallinari this afternoon.

Grant Williams is a better overall player today. Gallinari, although better than Nesmith today, is pointed in the wrong direction. There’s no easy path to acquiring him after today, although Kevin Huerter presents another opportunity for the Hawks to lose wages outright and for Boston to acquire shooting and defense. Fischer also noted that the Celtics were among four teams that inquired about Atlanta star John Collins at the trade deadline, although no team other than the Spurs advanced far.

NBA free agency begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.