Celtics acquire Josh Richardson from Mavericks after wing opts into final year of his deal

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Dallas Mavericks wing Josh Richardson is opting in to the final year of his contract and will be traded to the Boston Celtics for Moses Brown, the team announced Saturday. Richardson will now play for his fourth team in four seasons after starting his career with the Miami Heat and then spending single seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and Mavericks. 

The trade is a brilliant bit of salary cap maneuvering by the Celtics. Boston had roughly $11 million left on the trade exception it generated when it dealt Gordon Hayward to Charlotte last offseason. Richardson’s $11.6 million salary for next season would not have fit into that exception. However, as the league year has not yet flipped, Boston can trade for him at his $10.8 million 2020-21 salary and therefore fit him into the exception. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, that is how the Celtics are completing this trade.

The Celtics made another trade earlier Friday to clear room underneath the tax line for this one. They swapped Tristan Thompson for Kris Dunn, and in acquiring Richardson, they’ve essentially jumped back up to the tax line while replacing free agent Evan Fournier. That might seem insignificant now, but it has enormous ramifications for next offseason. Richardson’s contract is expiring. Fournier will surely command a multi-year deal this offseason. Now Boston has a number of veterans on expiring deals, and with Richardson seemingly filling Fournier’s spot in the rotation, they are in position to create a significant amount of cap space. 

In basketball terms, Richardson should also help fill the ball-handling void left by Kemba Walker. The Celtics did not have a starting-caliber point guard prior to this deal, and while Richardson has played more shooting guard, he can handle the ball well enough to play that position in an offense in which Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown use a lot of possessions. Defensively, he fits the switchable wing archetype that Boston loves. With Marcus Smart and Al Horford also in place, Boston has one of the more versatile lineups in basketball. 

As for Dallas, the motivation here is simple. The Mavericks are trying to create as much cap space as possible. Richardson’s player option was eating into that space. With him gone, the Mavericks project at roughly $33 million in space. They have several avenues to create more in smaller chunks. That should be enough to get them in the running for Kyle Lowry or one of the other top guards in the class.

This is a win-win trade. Dallas managed to get off of Richardson without giving up any significant assets. Boston filled a major hole for this year without making a long-term commitment. Both the Celtics and Mavericks have new top basketball executives in Brad Stevens and Nico Harrison, respectively, and both did quite well in completing this deal. 

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