Looking at Boston Celtics' options if Evan Fournier leaves in free agency 

Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier

The Boston Celtics find themselves in a precarious position entering this year's free agency period, in large part due to the contract situation of Evan Fournier. The 28-year-old sharpshooter became an unrestricted free agent following the conclusion of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Currently playing in the Tokyo Olympics for the French national team, Evan Fournier is set to field offers from multiple NBA franchises as he chooses his next destination. Despite the Boston Celtics only trading for the 6-foot-6 wing at last season's trade deadline, some rumors suggest that Fournier's contract demands could scupper his return to the C's on a long-term deal.

According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, Evan Fournier is looking to sign a contract in the region of $80 million over four years.

"According to a league source, negotiations between the Celtics and Evan Fournier are close to stalling, with the team unwilling to meet the valuable wing player’s asking price of $80 million over four years."

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The Boston Celtics do hold Evan Fournier's Bird Rights, which would allow them to go over the salary cap and retain the nine-year veteran should they wish to keep him around at all costs. However, with Brad Stevens prioritizing cap flexibility and the recent addition of Josh Richardson, over-spending on Fournier seems to be out of the question.

Richardson gives the Boston Celtics additional length, solid perimeter defense, a modicum of playmaking and league average scoring across all three levels. Yet in terms of scoring gravity, secondary playmaking and offensive versatility, the Celtics will need to find an additional bench piece to plug the offensive load that Evan Fournier carried at the tail end of last season.

Who could help the Boston Celtics fill Evan Fournier's offensive role?

It's no secret that shooting is at a premium in the NBA, but if this year's NBA Finals tells us one thing, it's that single-skilled players provide limited impact as teams get deeper into the playoffs. Thus, there should be some reasonable prospects available around the taxpayer's MLE mark.

According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, the Boston Celtics could have some interest in acquiring the New York Knicks' Reggie Bullock. Berman reported:

"According to an NBA source, two Atlantic Division squads, the Celtics and 76ers, have interest in Knicks swingman Reggie Bullock, who started all season at either shooting guard or small forward. The source said the Lakers, whom Bullock played for in 2018-19 alongside LeBron James, also have Bullock on their list.”

As a bench scorer, Bullock ticks all the boxes for the Boston Celtics, he shot 41% from three on six attempts per game last season, while also hitting 44.2% from two-point range. Bullock, who was one of New York's stand-out role players last season, will likely welcome the move to a contending team. But, as Berman points out, there will be other interested parties from around the NBA.

So what if Bullock remains in New York, or opts to take his game to Hollywood? Who should the Boston Celtics target then?

Bryn Forbes could be another possible target for a short-term low-cost replacement for Evan Fournier. Forbes declined his player option with the Milwaukee Bucks and is set to test free agency. He's a career 41.2% three-point shooter, and like Bullock, would offer the Celtics additional scoring off the bench.

The issue with Forbes is that his defense is porous and his lack of size can lead to teams targeting him on defense. Having said that, the Boston Celtics have a plethora of exceptional help defenders who can cover for Forbes' defensive misgivings.

Both options mentioned thus far involve signing a replacement in free agency, but what if I told you that when coupled with Josh Richardson, Evan Fournier's replacement is likely already on the roster?

Aaron Nesmith came into the league last season billed as the best shooter in the 2020 NBA Draft, and despite his topsy-turvy rookie year, the Vanderbilt product displayed elite-level potential as a movement shooter.

Nesmith is only one year into his rookie-scale contract with the Boston Celtics, has two-way potential, and is already on a similar level to Evan Fournier defensively - thanks to his tenacity and never-say-die attitude.

The Celtics have other roster holes to fill and cap space is something of an endangered species. Nesmith could be the team's savior should Fournier take his basketball skills elsewhere later this month.

Aaron Nesmith attempts a dunk
Aaron Nesmith attempts a dunk

Couple Nesmith with slashing third-year wing Romeo Langford, who should also be set for increased minutes, and replacing Evan Fournier doesn't seem to be something the Celtics should look to do externally.

The Boston Celtics have two wings drafted in the lottery. It now makes sense for them to spend their limited finances on other areas of the roster, especially now that they have brought Josh Richardson into the fold.


Also read: 3 Players the Boston Celtics should trade for in the 2021 NBA offseason

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Edited by Raunak J
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