As the NBA’s free agency frenzy swirled at warp speed Thursday, Malcolm Brogdon’s name remained just below the radar. But behind closed doors, Brogdon was starting to get the feeling he could be traded to the Boston Celtics.
Then Friday morning, he finally got the word: The Indiana Pacers are sending Brogdon to the Celtics for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, and Boston’s 2023 first-round pick, league sources confirmed to The Athletic.
“I’m excited, man,” Brogdon told The Athletic in a phone interview Friday. “We have a chance to win the championship, so I’m excited to join the family.”
When the Pacers traded Domantas Sabonis for promising guard Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline last season, Brogdon knew there was a chance he could be moved in the offseason. He signed a two-year extension last October, so he was not eligible to be moved until after the 2021-2022 season concluded. But once free agency began to take off, he started to sense the move could be happening.
“I had heard that Boston was interested over the past few days, but as a player, you don’t know everything that’s going on,” Brogdon said. “You just have to sit tight, let your agent work, let your team work and then let the team that wants you, work as well. The Pacers were really good at facilitating a deal and sending me somewhere I could win. I am very much appreciative of how the Pacers have handled everything.”
Brogdon has been waiting for his chance to be a part of a competitive franchise and brings the playmaking depth Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said he was prioritizing after his team lost the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors last month.
The 29-year-old Brogdon is slated to make $67.6 million over the next three seasons, so he already has secured his money. Though he’s averaged 21.2 and 19.1 points per game over the last two seasons, respectively, he has struggled with injuries. He only played 36 games last season as he dealt with a right Achilles injury and hasn’t played more than 70 games since his rookie season.
But at this point, he’s already been a featured player on an NBA team and he’s already gotten the contract. Now his priority is just to be healthy and get a ring.
“I’m looking to win a championship, that’s actually it,” Brogdon said. “In the past, I’ve worried about stats and numbers and all that. I’m going to Boston and not worrying about that.”
That mindset is music to Stevens’ ears, who came into the offseason looking to bolster the roster without disrupting the chemistry that propelled the Celtics within two wins of a championship. When it came to adding key pieces to the rotation, he said the Celtics, “Have to walk a fine line a little bit. I think teams are fragile.”
It’s why Brogdon’s reputation as a steady leader and two-way player makes him a good candidate to fit into the dynamic that worked so well last season.
“With our group in particular, it’s not as much about blindly acquiring talent as it is fitting a team together,” Stevens said. “We’ve got some very, very talented guys, and they are young. So it’s about how do we fit together, bring our strengths together to accentuate each other.”
When Brogdon was watching the Celtics’ offense struggle against the Warriors’ defense, he knew exactly where he could help. He saw those moments when Boston couldn’t get into a play or even get the ball to its stars with a chance to make something happen. Those are the exact moments where he feels he’s at his best.
“If I came in there, I could give them a steady presence and a calm as a ballhandler and facilitator, getting guys like (Jaylen) Brown and (Jayson) Tatum easy shots,” Brogdon said. “Just slowing the game down in those moments when we need to get a good shot.”
Though Brogdon brings his experience running the Pacers and has his way of leading an organization, he says he just wants to fit into what makes the Celtics successful.
“These guys are proven winners at a championship level,” Brogdon said. “I’m hoping to be one of the pieces that can help them get over that hump and win a championship.”
(Photo of Brogdon: Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)