While the rest of the NBA is busy putting together huge moves, the Celtics were predictably content laying low ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. That’s the luxury they’re afforded as the best team in the league as the C’s have a deep roster with a proven core that went to the NBA Finals last season.
But a smaller, insurance-focused move was expected Thursday. That’s exactly what Boston president Brad Stevens and the front office put together by acquiring Thunder big man Mike Muscala in a trade for Justin Jackson and two second-round picks. It’s not an earth-shattering deal, but the Celtics can breathe a little easier knowing that they shored up their depth ahead of what they hope is a long playoff run.
The big man now joins a C’s rotation of Robert Williams III, Al Horford, Luke Kornet and Blake Griffin. Both Williams and Horford haven’t been available consistently for the Celtics, so having Muscala as an insurance option is big for the Celtics. The 6-foot-11 big man can also shoot as he’s knocked down 39.4% of his 3-pointers on 3.3 attempts per game this season.
Muscala, 31, only makes $3.5 million this season, and his $3.5 million salary next season is a club option. So the Celtics do have some flexibility from a cap perspective going forward. Of course, they also didn’t need to give up a lot of assets to land Muscala. While Jackson seemed to be well-liked in the locker room, he mostly only played garbage time minutes. Muscala could actually see the floor for the C’s in a meaningful capacity.
Realistically, Muscala won’t see consistent playoff minutes for the Celtics (unless injuries are a huge issue). But having another playable big is important, though Kornet has shown good play this season for Boston. Muscala being able to knock down 3s also helps as he can play a Horford role in the sense of spacing the floor.
Overall, the Muscala trade won’t move the needle a ton for the Celtics. But the trade wasn’t supposed to as the Celtics already have a talented roster. There are nights where the C’s didn’t play Kornet many minutes because of matchups and how the game went at the time. There’s a good chance Muscala sees the same fate, though the C’s will look to incorporate their new big man with the team.
The Celtics were reportedly interested in other bigs, namely guys like former Spurs center Jakob Poeltl. But the Raptors ended up getting Poeltl as the price tag was too high for the Celtics. Considering Boston has Williams and Horford locked up for multiple seasons going forward, it didn’t make much sense for the C’s to overpay for a half-season rental option.
Boston now has one open roster spot after dealing Jackson on Thursday, along with Noah Vonleh earlier this season. That means the C’s will likely look for a wing somewhere in the buyout market. Much like the trade deadline, the Celtics are working from a position of strength where they’ll be an attractive free agent option. There aren’t any home runs being hit by Boston’s front office, but it hasn’t needed to because of its roster construction.
Story by Souichi Terada, masslive.com