Who the Celtics could acquire with taxpayer exception


The Celtics will likely have a $6.4 million exception available to add some help.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum could be a potential target except for the midfielder. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

With the free hand somehow (impossible) already with us, the Celtics have a chance to add talent to the roster with the help of the Mid-Level Exception (MLE).

As a refresher course, the mid-level exception allows teams to sign players for a deal above the minimum, even if they’re above the cap. There are two iterations – the MLE for taxpayers and non-taxpayers. This season, the former is worth $6.4 million while the latter is worth $10.3 million. The Celtics will likely only have access to the minor exception given the non-taxpaying MLE hardcaps using a team. The Celtics prioritize flexibility for mid-season transfers. So expect to see a player in that range of $6.4 million.

So who could the Celtics be targeting? Theoretically, any free agent can sign the MLE – there were rumors Kyrie Irving could sign one with the Lakers, although he eventually settled on the only logical option and presumably returned for his final season with the Nets. The Celtics could use another viable center, some extra shot/goal depth and maybe a different ball handler to strengthen the bench. Here are some names that might make sense.

Patty Mills — Mills retired in the last year of his contract with the Nets and he could be the dream pick – essentially an improved version of Payton Pritchard with extensive playoff experience, ball-handling chops and some 3-point shots. He also has a great relationship with Ime Udoka. Can the Celtics bring him on as a frequently used substitute for Marcus Smart?

Nicholas Batum Batum has been overpaid at Charlotte for so long that a solid season at the Clippers has been largely overshadowed. But for a Celtics team looking for cheap help off the bench on the wing, his 40-percent 3-point shooting with great size and versatility would be a welcome addition. Batum will turn 34 in December and missed some time last season, but he did play in 27 of the Clippers’ last 30 regular-season games.

Bruce Brown — Would the nets really let Brown escape? Probably not, but if they did, the Celtics would be thrilled to take on his tough, versatile defense. Brown quietly shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range last season and feasted from the corner on defenses that snapped at the stars of the nets. He also displayed an odd but effective pick and roll game as a role man despite being only 6ft 4 tall.

Otto Porter Jr — The Warriors must navigate some choppy financial waters that could free a useful player. Porter isn’t the best defender in the league, but he’s a good size and can clear the floor off the bench offensively. If the Warriors want to continue, the Celtics could step in and steal a player who helped beat them in the Finals earlier this month.

Isaiah Hartenstein — Hartenstein reportedly wants to stay with the Clippers, but a lot of people seem to want to stay with the Clippers (it’s LA, after all). Looking elsewhere, Hartenstein would fit in well behind Al Horford and Robert Williams and could easily chip in for starter minutes if needed to rest as the season progresses.

Delon Wright — Wright wouldn’t be the most exciting name, but he wouldn’t be the most expensive either, and he shot 37.9 percent of three last year in Atlanta while playing hard on defense. The Celtics wouldn’t get a true knockdown shooter, but they wouldn’t take on a defensive goal either.

Robin Lopez – A big man who knows exactly who he is and what he brings (and doesn’t bring) to a team. To be honest, there’s a lot to be said for it. Lopez probably won’t command the full MLE, but he might be worth a look.

Victor Oladipo – According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Oladipo has gotten interest for taxpayer MLE. Oladipo shot 41.7 percent from 3 last season and was one of Miami’s top defensemen against the Celtics in the postseason. Would he be interested in joining the team that eliminated him from the postseason?

TJ Warren — Warren’s name is often mentioned in these conversations, although it’s a gamble. Is the MLE enough? If so, what has he got after just four games in the last two seasons?

If he’s healthy and can return to something close to his former self, Warren would be an ideal fit and would be a steal for MLE money, but that’s no guarantee.

Free agency begins Thursday at 6 p.m.

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