With the trade deadline coming up, there has been a lot of discussion about who the C's should trade for. Griffin, Horford, Howard, Love, and Teague have all been mentioned at one point or another. There seems to be much less conversation about the other side of that coin. Right now, the Celtics sit at #3 in the East and have won 10 of their last 12 games heading in to the All-Star break. They have great chemistry and get after it on the court, owning one of the NBA's best defensive units. My question is this: who should we make a point of not trading? Obviously, no one is untouchable; that's very clearly been Danny's MO. Perhaps a better question would be: which players' absences would fundamentally change the entertaining and effective way that the Celtics have been playing?
Tim MacLean: The two that stand out to me the most are Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart.
Crowder's versatility defensively as well as his ability to guard the opposing team's best player make him extremely valuable to the Celtics' cause. He's also coming along nicely on the offensive end, and at 25 he still has a lot more room to grow on a steal of a contract.
I would make the same arguments for Smart. But what's been most impressive to me is his improved ability to read the floor as a playmaker. He's making passes he wouldn't have even thought of last year, and I think he has a chance to be a really solid starting point guard if his three-point shot continues to improve.
Everyone else is sort of a question mark. I'm 80/20 on keeping Isaiah Thomas, but I think if the deal is right then he could be moved. Before I get bashed, yes I understand he's what essentially keeps our offense humming, and he's single-handedly kept us in games at times. But I don't see him as being entirely untouchable.
To me, Crowder and Smart are the only two worthy of that distinction.
Jeff Clark: I agree that Smart and Crowder are in the upper echelons of "not untouchable but really, really high value."
Bradley is very valuable, and I think he might be a quietly underrated part of the team culture. The presence of Smart and Thomas means that we don't necessarily need him for the starting lineup, but having a strong 3 guard rotation is important to competing for 48 minutes with this team's style of play.
I think an interesting debate could be had over Olynyk or Sullinger. Personally I put Olynyk ahead of Sully for a couple of reasons. First, Kelly is a legit stretch option, which this team needs more of in order to reach its potential. Next, Sully is a free agent and will need to get market value this summer to keep around (and the market is going to be nuts). I fully understand that Sully brings rebounding that nobody else really provides, and that would be missed if he wasn't replaced with another rebounding big. But if there's a value guy that I'm a little more willing to give up in a deal, it would be Sullinger. (Now watch him become the best of the lot - proving me to be an idiot of epic proportions.)
Bobby Manning: When it comes to the current Celtics identity ("The Celtics Hustle" as I've coined it), Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas are essential. Could they be valuable pieces in a deal? Sure. Definitely, actually, when you consider their contracts. But more crucial for Boston is the unique brand of basketball they lead whenever they're on the floor. I remember when they both first arrived, you could see the chemistry they had in the pick and roll, but beyond that they helped craft the brand of basketball everybody knows the C's for now. Are they going to lead the team to the Finals? Maybe not. But if you relinquished either of them, you'd be asking the Celtics to stat over identity-wise even if you're adding a great talent.
That's why I love the idea of adding Al Horford somehow, even if you have to wait until the summer to do it the right way. He'd push the C's to a new level by fitting in the system with the guys already here and filling a highly touted need inside. He's also a small guy for his position who was doubted by some early on, and he brings the right kind of mindset.
That brings me to Marcus Smart. He hasn't been essential to what the team has done over the last two seasons. Injuries and ball-handlers standing in front of him (Evan Turner specifically) haven't allowed that to happen. But one thing is for sure: when his time comes to step up and take a bigger role with the team, he's going to be crucial in carrying the Celtics Hustle forward into the future. He's sitting in the shadows taking it all in right now, growing as a player, and plays the type of style that radiates amongst teammates like Thomas/Crowder. When it comes to this deadline, those are your three untouchables for all the reasons I mentioned above.
Bill Sy: Those identity guys are important, but I think Jeff's on to something. As much as I love Bradley and Crowder and Smart, Olynyk is just as much a part of what the Celtics will be in the coming years. He's not untouchable in a trade, but I think all around skill guys will be a premium moving forward.
Wes Howard: I think it's certainly something that's interesting to consider, particularly because there are two sets of answers. There are certain players who are integral to our defensive identity - Crowder, Smart, and Bradley come to mind immediately (probably in descending order). These players seem to more closely align with Bobby's mention of "Celtics Hustle", and could certainly be seen as the backbone of the defense, which has become the pillar of our identity as a team.
On the other hand, there are the players who define our offensive identity. Isaiah Thomas is certainly the cornerstone, but his ability to be successful is predicated upon the stretch shooting ability of his running mates (highlighted by Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Jonas Jerebko).
For me, the question isn't just about which players define the success and style of the team, but also about which of these players can't be replaced by other individuals who would fill the same roles, and do the same things for Boston. To that end, I would say that Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, and Marcus Smart would be the most difficult to replace without compromising the team's identity.
With only two days to go before the deadline, we're all holding our breath to see whether or not Danny Ainge will try to bring someone new to the Celtics. Let's keep in mind who we want to still be wearing green when the dust clears.