ORLANDO, Fla. -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said his team explored multiple avenues to utilize its $10.3 million trade exception and emerged pleased with the haul obtained as part of a three-team swap with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets that was formally announced Thursday.
The Celtics acquired center Tyler Zeller, guard Marcus Thornton, and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected) as part of a deal that required Boston to surrender only a conditional future second-round pick.
"I think Tyler was a good get for us," said Ainge. "We are short on centers and we like the way he runs the court. He can make shots, complement our guard play. A 7-footer that knows how to play, is very good.
"Marcus can bring us some scoring -- probably a bench scorer -- and can really get hot in stretches; he had a 42-point game last year. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball from the 3-point line and adds shooting and depth to our team."
Ainge hinted the team had other potential options for the exception, which was set to expire this weekend, but thought the team got a quality haul for jumping into the three-way deal.
"We’ve had other opportunities, and we had other ideas on how we would utilize our trade exception; this wasn’t like No. 1 on the list," said Ainge. "But getting a draft pick and a good young player will always be a good option. There were other options out there as well that we contemplated that we just weren’t able to do."
Ainge stressed the team was patient and would have been OK had the exception expired without use.
"I think if you just look around the league, a lot of trade exceptions go by the wayside," said Ainge. "You can’t force trades; you have to find partners and we found one. It may or may not have worked out, but it did this time. But it was not burning a hole in our pocket. This was a perfect situation where we were, at a time and place, and it worked."
While the Celtics were lauded for bringing back assets for virtually nothing in return, Ainge is, like the rest of the NBA world, interested in how Cleveland utilizes the cap space it generated as part of the swap.
"It’s a good deal for us and who knows what’s going to happen with Cleveland," said Ainge. "It could end up being a good deal for them. We’re all waiting to see what’s going on with their cap space. I wish I was in their position."
Ainge said that the free-agent market should loosen up as star players choose their destinations. But the Celtics will soon have 17 players under contract and will be above the luxury-tax line. One of those moves in the offing is finalizing the four-year, $32 million extension with guard Avery Bradley.
"Avery is a big part of our future," said Ainge. "We have every intention of getting something done with him in the next day or two -- we're just working out the final details. Avery has always been a big part of us since the day we acquired him."
Ainge said the Celtics were still finalizing the signing of rookies Marcus Smart and James Young. He also noted that no decisions have been made on the team's nonguaranteed players, including second-year guard Phil Pressey, whose 2014-15 salary ($816,482) becomes fully guaranteed on July 15.
With increased depth at most positions following the draft and the early portion of the offseason, Ainge was asked about the growing crowd at the guard position.
"We have a competition everywhere," said Ainge. "We have, I don’t know, 17 guys now under contract -- maybe more. So we’ll see how that goes."
Wait, did he say 'more'? Are the Celtics close to adding even more bodies?
"I don’t know," said Ainge. "It’s 17 or 18. I lost track."