Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge swung a deal for All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas at last season’s NBA trade deadline.
Ainge wasn’t able to complete a similar move before Thursday’s trade deadline, but he admitted Friday morning during his weekly radio appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” that the Celtics did make progress toward a deal.
“I can’t tell you the team or the name, but it was very close,” Ainge said. “It was something we had been deliberating on for two days straight. We were wrapping ourselves around a big package to do a deal, and at the very last minute … they did not want to do it, they backed out.”
Boston had been linked to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, Brooklyn Nets forward Thaddeus Young and Atlanta Hawks duo Al Horford and Jeff Teague at various times over the last several weeks.
The best trade chip the Celtics held was Brooklyn’s unprotected 2016 first-round pick. There’s a 14.9 chance that selection will be the No. 1 overall pick, a 44.9 percent chance it will be in the top three and a 91 percent chance it will be in the top five, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.
The C’s still can trade the pick before June’s draft, and its value could increase depending on where it falls in the lottery.
Ainge also had to think about the salary cap when assessing which trades to pursue and not pursue before Thursday’s deadline. Boston will have a ton of salary cap space over the summer — enough to sign a max-contract superstar.
Several of the players Boston was linked to in trade rumors, including Horford and Howard, could be unrestricted free agents in July. Taking on additional salary through trades could have jeopardized Ainge’s ability to sign them or other UFAs.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via New Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, right, shares a laugh with General Manager Danny Ainge during a news conference announcing Stevens new position.