Most everyone, myself included, assumes that Danny Ainge is looking to dump salaries and pick up draft picks at the trade deadline. Call it tanking or call it positioning for the future or call it whatever you want. The general idea is to get future assets and in the process, take a step or two back this year to ensure a high draft pick.
The problem is that there are quite a few teams out there with roughly the same plan. The Sixers, Bucks, and Magic come to mind. Then there are not a lot of "buyers" on the market. So there might be a situation where there just aren't enough dance cards to go around for everyone.
As a result, it is a good idea to keep all your options open. If too many people are selling, why not look into buying? Danny's latest quotes indicate that he'd be open to doing a deal that actually makes the team significantly better right now.
"We would do a deal to make our team better and use assets to get better right away," Ainge, who is remaining back home to work the phones this weekend, said yesterday. "And we would also move veteran players to create flexibility and get draft picks. So we could go either way right now. But right now I think it’s a feeling-out process."
He stressed that it wouldn't be a deal to simply make the team "three wins" better. It would have to be a deal for a player that makes us a lot better for next year. Which is basically the idea this coming summer anyway. It doesn't do us much good to get worse this year and then not add talent beyond the draft this offseason.
Sometimes Danny hints at his intentions days before something happens, so maybe he's got something specific in mind. Or maybe he's just trying to pump the breaks on the "Celtics are clearly selling" talk in order to help his negotiating position slightly.
Interestingly, Sean Grande (who sometimes seems to know more than he lets on) wouldn't be surprised to see Ainge shift to buying mode either.
Ainge has stockpiled a large collection of draft picks, which puts him in a position to do just about anything at the deadline. Grande says that could even include something unthinkable at the beginning of the season. "It’s not going to surprise me if the Celtics suddenly became surprise buyers at the deadline instead of sellers."
So who would Ainge go after if he could land a big fish? (Watch me make you cringe) Carmelo Anthony? Josh Smith? Or maybe someone like Greg Monroe or Gordon Haywood. Fill in your own favorite trade target and start dreaming. Just don't hold your breath because deals of that magnitude don't often happen at the deadline.
We are mere days away from the deadline and Ainge said that teams are mostly getting a feel for what other teams want to do and seeing if there are teams available to do 3 or 4 team deals if such a need materialized. Personally I still think that that has a high probability of happening for the Celtics. They have movable pieces that they can use to facilitate another team's deal and pick up a draft pick or other assets in return.
I think we've seen the rumor mill dry up a bit because teams are positioning and gathering data right now. I expect things to heat up one or two days prior to the deadline and most of the actual deals to happen on the deadline itself. Should be entertaining (and somewhat stressful).