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According to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, the Celtics are exploring a trade of Al Horford. 

"As the Celtics look to retool and get below the luxury tax, they have been unsurprisingly open to moving Horford and Josh Richardson, two core rotation players signed beyond this season." 

That also has them searching for another center. Boston recently was linked to Jalen Smith of the Phoenix Suns.

As detailed by Inside The Celtics, Boston took a step towards dipping below the tax when Brad Stevens made his first in-season trade late Tuesday night. That move sent Juancho Hernangomez and his $7-million salary to the Spurs in a three-team deal while acquiring Bol Bol and PJ Dozier.

Bol is about to undergo foot surgery and be out for two to three months, and Dozier tore the ACL in his left knee in late November and is out for the season. The latter played for the Celtics on a two-way contract during the 2018-19 season, but this time around, it's possible neither he nor Bol suits up for the C's.

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The move likely indicates Boston's intent between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline, which would be to get under the tax while preparing to push for a significant acquisition such as Bradley Beal this offseason. That's not to say Beal will decide to leave the nation's capital, but the Celtics aren't waiting until the summer to get organized.

Furthermore, creating greater flexibility increases their options this offseason. Getting out of the tax now while fighting for a spot in the play-in tournament can benefit Boston when it's better equipped to compete for the Larry O'Brien trophy.

However, the idea of trading Horford now is risky. Next season, his contract is on the books for $26.5 million, but until Jan. 10, 2023, the league-wide guarantee date, only $14.5 million of that's guaranteed. At that point, if Horford's current contract is still intact, it becomes fully guaranteed.

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That arrangement could help them acquire Beal via a sign-and-trade. There also might be players with years left on sizeable contracts teams are more willing to part with during the offseason. After all, the standings in both conferences are congested, and 10/15 teams on both sides will reach the postseason.

Regarding Richardson, he seems like a player it's better to keep. The Celtics aren't embarking on a rebuild. The plan is to retool the roster so that the supporting cast better complements Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Richardson checks that box.

This season, the 28-year-old wing's averaging 10.1 points on 7.9 shots while making 45 percent of his field goals, including 41.1 percent of the 3.4 three's he's hoisting. He's also effective at creating shots off the dribble, offers a bit of facilitating, and he's a versatile perimeter defender. Furthermore, he's under contract for, relative to NBA deals, a modest $12.2 million next season.

Further Reading

Celtics Trade Juancho Hernangomez, Acquire PJ Dozier and Bol Bol in Three-Team Deal; is it a Precursor to a Larger Deal?

Report Links Celtics to Jerami Grant

What Stood Out in Celtics' Win vs. Pelicans: A Tale of Two Halves

Film Room: Celtics' Ball Movement at Its Best in Win vs. Bulls

Should Jaylen Brown be the Celtics' Closer?

Trade Options for a Celtics Team in Need of Shooters

Celtics' Trade Options Part II: Facilitators