The Atlanta Hawks’ frontcourt got better on Friday, as they agreed to terms on a trade to acquire Boston Celtics big man Tristan Thompson in exchange for guard Kris Dunn, forward Bruno Fernando a 2023 second-round pick.
Not so fast.
It was later revealed by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that the initial Celtics-Hawks trade centered around Thompson would actually expand into a three-teamer in which Thompson would go to the Sacramento Kings:
The Celtics are trading Tristan Thompson to Atlanta for Kris Dunn, and a 2023 second-round pick, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 30, 2021
BRUNO FERNANDO is on his way to the Celtics, per sources.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 30, 2021
The Kings will send guard Delon Wright to Atlanta in the three-team trade, source tells ESPN . https://t.co/cNYL77jJ63— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 30, 2021
After making a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals, it was clear the Hawks needed a little more size and experience in the frontcourt after they were eliminated by the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. That’s why Thompson made sense in the initial deal.
But there was more than met the eye here, obviously.
Thompson is on an expiring contract, and the Celtics cleared him out to make way for Al Horford and Robert Williams in their rotation. Plus, Boston trading Thompson now meant getting some compensation for him in exchange, rather than seeing him walk for nothing next summer in free agency.
Although Dunn has disappointed since being picked fifth overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, he’s always been regarded for his ability to defend. Marcus Smart is an elite stopper for the Celtics, yet he’s also entering a contract year, so Dunn’s arrival could be a sign that Smart is on his way out.
To circle back to the Hawks, John Collins is a restricted free agent, and has previously struggled to come to terms on a long-term contract extension. It’s very possible Collins gets a massive offer sheet Atlanta declines to match.
Whether or not they commit to Collins, Thompson would’ve been a decent insurance option. Instead, they get Delon Wright for some solid guard depth behind Trae Young.
Wright has bounced around the NBA, but should provide a scoring spark off the bench in Atlanta. He averaged 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists this past season, which he split with the Kings and Detroit Pistons.
Whatever happens with Collins going forward, too, second-year lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu is someone Atlanta should be excited about, and Clint Capela is still there to offer elite play from the center position.
This trade should make all sides happy, and it gives at least some insight into how Celtics coach-turned-executive Brad Stevens is planning to build Boston’s roster. Stevens hasn’t shied away from making bold moves, beginning his front-office tenure with the huge Kemba Walker trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.