The NBA Trade Deadline scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. ET is quickly approaching, and many eyes are on the Celtics.
Boston, like many other teams, reportedly has been active in their search over the last few weeks, and we’re expecting much of the same these next few days.
Here are some random thoughts pertaining to the Celtics ahead of the deadline:
The Celtics are not real title contenders.
Let’s start with the most important element, right? It would take a miracle for the Celtics, who just snapped a three-game losing skid after losses to the 16-26 Cleveland Cavaliers and 17-25 Sacramento Kings, to turn into contenders this week. One acquisition does not guarantee Boston is fighting for its 18th NBA title, and we’re not confident in Danny Ainge going all Bill “Free Agency” Belichick and making deals left and right. The C’s, as they’ve shown, are an inconsistent team that struggles to beat bad teams and almost always loses to good ones. Nothing they do at the trade deadline will get them over the hump for 2021.
The obvious reference to Boston’s traded player exception (TPE):
The Celtics, as you have probably heard time and time again, possess a $28.5 million TPE as a result of Gordon Hayward leaving Boston for the Charlotte Hornets. It’s the biggest TPE in NBA history, and the Celtics are able to use it either at the trade deadline or, as Ainge has hinted at, in the offseason.
The Celtics won’t be real sellers.
Sellers at the NBA Trade Deadline aren’t teams who part with veteran role players or draft assets. Real sellers are those who will ship out NBA All-Stars because they have no other choice but to do so. The Orlando Magic, for example, could be sellers in trading big man Nikola Vucevic.
Boston, meanwhile, is not trading Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. Hell, even calls inquiring on Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and Robert Williams probably will get hung up on quickly by Ainge. Could Boston deal a veteran like Tristan Thompson, young players like Grant Williams, Tremont Waters or draft assets? Sure. But that’s not really selling.
Kemba Walker is not going anywhere.
Celtics fans quickly point to the guard when talking about that idea of selling. Walker, they’ll say, is making $34 million this year and not even playing in back-to-back games. Yes, that’s true. And it’s exactly why no team in the NBA is going to trade for him. After all, who would want a 30-year-old guard with knee problems, who just so happens to be putting together a down year?
These are players who probably will be untouchable:
Which player are Celtics most likely to trade?
Tristan Thompson seems like the likely guess here. Thompson signed a two-year contract this offseason, which was thought to be a solid move for Boston’s front court. But given the development of Robert Williams, the 30-year-old veteran could be expendable. Especially given the fact the C’s probably could get something decent for Thompson, who can help a contender much more than the Celtics this season.
Are there any young players the Celtics should not trade?
Both Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard have had extremely impressive 2021 campaigns, but the buck stops there. Williams continues to develop his versatility on the defensive end while already possessing gravity-defying athleticism. First-rounder Pritchard has been good while averaging 7.3 points in 20-plus minutes in 35 games played. He looks like he could be the point guard of the future in Boston, and his defensive intensity has surely earned the approval of head coach Brad Stevens and his teammates.
Underrated reason to make a move:
You may ask, if the Celtics aren’t contenders this season, why should they make a move right now? The obvious answer is to better their team for both the short and long term.
But there’s more to it than that. The NBA, perhaps more so than every other professional sports league, is one in which you need to keep your stars happy. The Celtics making a move right now proves to Brown and Tatum that they are willing to pay to better the team around them. After all, Brown and Tatum have already watched Ainge hoard his treasure chest of NBA Draft picks, and for what? For Tremont Waters to spend his nights in the G League and for Grant Williams to average five points in 18-plus minutes this season? Obviously, both Brown and Tatum have recently signed long-term contracts to remain in Boston so it wouldn’t happen in the short term, but if it becomes a habit it could be something that weighs on their minds down the line.
Who are three players we could see Boston making a move for?
John Collins: The Atlanta Hawks fourth-year forward would be a great fit as the Celtics build their young core. Collins, 23, is averaging 18 points per game this season and shots 37% from beyond the arc. This would take a decent trade package with one (or even two first-rounders) and maybe a young player. Of course, doing so would mean the Celtics are willing to give Collins a payday as he’s a restricted free agent after this season.
Harrison Barnes: The Sacramento Kings forward is averaging 16 points per game this season on 50% from the field and 37% from long range. Barnes, 28, remains in the prime of his career and is under contract for modest numbers through the next 2 1/2 seasons. Could two first-rounders make it work?
Aaron Gordon: The Orlando Magic forward fits Boston’s “shooting with size” mindset at the deadline. He’s averaging 15 points per game on 45% from the floor and 41% from 3-point range. Gordon, 25, is under contract for just one season upon the conclusion of 2021, but that also means Boston’s package for him wouldn’t need to be nearly as steep.