The 2019 NBA trade deadline was as busy as ever. Nearly a dozen deals went down on Thursday alone, on top of the numerous deals that were sprinkled in earlier in the week.
Anthony Davis stayed put with the Pelicans, but plenty of other big names were moved: Tobias Harris is now on the Sixers, Marc Gasol went to the Grizzlies and Markelle Fultz got traded to the Magic. Plus, all sorts of minor deals went down, such as the Clippers acquiring Ivica Zubac and the Kings and Trail Blazers swapping Skal Labissiere and Caleb Swanigan. There was one deal, however, that stood out among the rest as the most meaningless trade of deadline day.
Shortly before the 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Celtics traded Jabari Bird and cash considerations to the Hawks for a heavily protected second-round pick. As Yahoo Sports’ Keith Smith notes, however, the pick will be so heavily protected that it will likely never convey, and is essentially a fake pick. The Hawks, meanwhile, will immediately waive Bird.
It’s certainly fair to wonder, then, what was even the point of this move? Yes, it opens up a roster spot for the Celtics as buyout season approaches, but why did the Celtics basically pay the Hawks to waive Bird for them?
First off, it’s important to note that Bird has not played all season due to a pending NBA.. He was originally arraigned back in September, and recently, two new charges were brought against Bird. According to court documents, Bird allegedly choked and threatened to kill his girlfriend. Those are very serious charges, and Bird is unlikely to ever play another game in the
Again, though, why didn’t the Celtics just waive him themselves? In short, trading him to another team helps them save a tiny amount of money from their luxury tax bill.
Bird’s deal for this season was guaranteed for just over $1.3M, and if the Celtics waived him, they would still have to pay him that money — pending the result of his trial. Under the league’s new domestic violence policy, the Celtics could have petitioned to the league to void Bird’s contract. However, it’s not clear when a verdict will be reached in the case, and the timeline may not have lined up with the league’s schedule.
By trading him to the Hawks, the Celtics clear his money from their payroll, which will lessen their luxury tax bill. Even in sending the Hawks some cash for their trouble, the Celtics still save money while opening up a roster spot.
Now, you can certainly argue the ethics of keeping a player who is facing those type of charges on your roster for a few months in order to save a couple million bucks. But that was the Celtics’ reasoning for holding on to Bird and then making this trade.
Expect them to sign a veteran to fill out their roster during buyout season at some point in the next few weeks.