How Malcolm Brogdon trade provision keeps Celtics flexibility intact to pursue bigger deals this season

The Celtics made a splashy addition to their bench last week with the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers in a six-player deal.

Boston clearly benefited from a weak trading market for Brogdon after the Pacers point guard played just 36 games last season after signing a costly two-year extension. After Indiana decided to rebuild with the acquisition of younger point guard Tyrese Halliburton at the February close, Brogdon became available this offseason. The Celtics were one of the few teams able to match Brogdon’s salary while offering minimal long-term pay commitments (Daniel Theis) and draft assets/young talent (Protected 2023 first-round pick, Aaron Nesmith).

However, there is a catch in the Celtics’ trade package for Brogdon that should help Boston continue to take steps to improve the team’s chances. League sources told MassLive that the first-round election will be in 2023 Top-12 is protected in the deal. That development in itself isn’t remarkable given that Boston’s election will most likely come this year barring a disastrous injury season for the Celtics that forces them out of the playoffs. The biggest part of this component of the deal is the fact that Boston’s 2023 first-round pick will immediately become a second-round pick if not submitted in 2023, according to a league source.

Why does this matter?

Typically, protected first-round picks used in NBA trades carry over their protection to future years. For example, when the Bulls traded DeMar DeRozan from the Spurs in a sign-and-trade last summer, their first-round pick sent to San Antonio was in the top 10 for the first year and the following two Seasons protected in the top 8 before eventually becoming a second-round pick when one of those picks failed to submit.

This is a tactic many teams use to protect themselves in future trade negotiations, but it can be very limiting when it comes to trading future picks in other potential deals. Any team looking to deal a future first-round pick down the line must bypass picks that could be associated with future protections. For example, if the bulls wanted to dump a future unprotected first-round pick in a trade, they could not do so without restrictions for a year from now, when the top 10 protected first-round pick for DeRozan was complete.

By writing this unique provision in the Brogdon trade, the Celtics ensured that they would not have any future first-round picks after 2023, which are limited by the Brogdon swap for trade opportunities in the present.

What does this mean for the Celtics?

Brad Stevens made the Brogdon deal without having to claim any of the team’s trade exceptions. That kept the door open for Boston to make moves with one of the team’s three TPEs, valued at $17.1 million, $6.9 million and $5.9 million.

League sources told MassLive that Boston is unlikely to use Evan Fournier’s TPE ($17.2 million) now in the wake of the Brogdon deal for a notable move before it expires later this month.

However, the Celtics will still have the opportunity to use their smaller TPEs almost until the close of trading this ongoing season. With Boston’s draft pick in the trade package for Brogdon certain to be promoted in 2023, the Celtics now have the opportunity to receive any future draft capital in 2025 and beyond without restriction. The team’s only first-round draft commitment beyond 2023 is a 2028 pick swap option with the Spurs from the Derrick White deal.

“They wanted to be unencumbered for future business,” a league source told MassLive.

If the Boston front office wishes to use a future unprotected first-round pick to trade a player for one of the team’s TPEs this season, that option is now available thanks to this provision. Ditto if the Celtics look to box multiple unprotected first-round picks for a bigger name beyond 2023.

There’s no guarantee the Celtics will go down either of those paths, but it’s always good to have options when you’re a contender. Aside from losing a first-round pick for 2023, this Brogdon trade doesn’t take away any of those opportunities and preserves the team’s future flexibility when it needs it most.

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