Excuse me as I make a quick Kanye West analogy with the trade deadline nearing Thursday and the craze of his release of the album The Life of Pablo a few days behind us. On track 12, "Wolves," he speaks about how he feels "surrounded by the (bleeping) wolves."
That must be how Danny Ainge is feeling this week.
There may not be a single trade asset available in the NBA more valuable than the Brooklyn Nets pick which every Celtics fan has spent at least one portion of every week talking about since the season began. There are Twitter accounts devoted to tracking every single Nets loss, and not one breath has been spoken by any C's fan about a Celtics tanking effort, unlike a season ago. These major 2016 storylines are all because of the 2013 mega-deal, centered around Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, that sent an unprecedented three unprotected first round picks Boston's way.
Here on February 16, thanks to Billy King, who has since stepped down mostly thanks to that deal, the Nets sit at 14-40. If the lottery happened today, the Celtics would have the third best shot (13.8%) at the number one pick in the NBA.
It's a situation that has made the Nets the punchline of the league and has propelled the C's into arguably the most enviable position possible. As they build a young team full of character, hustle, and determination that has surprisingly rocketed up to the third seed in the East at 32-23, they can watch as Brooklyn sinks deeper into the lottery.
In a win-win unlike any other rebuilding team has seen in recent basketball history, the Celtics can focus on winning and growing while another team puts them in position to draft a top tier difference-maker in June.
But temptations are everywhere. From Kevin Love to Al Horford to Blake Griffin to Dwight Howard, Danilo Gallinari, and on and on. A fantastic addition could be Boston's for the taking should they relinquish that ultra-valuable pick by 3 PM on Thursday. The calls have poured in on Ainge's phone, the wolves are lurking, and Boston has some very difficult decisions to make.
Although the ping pong balls give Boston a very good chance at positioning to possibly pick a game-changing rookie, there's still plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Nets pick. There are known commodities out there, and plenty of teams are scrapping at the chance to get in Brooklyn's drafting position.
Ainge isn't dumb, which doesn't even need to be stated. He won't leave any deals off the table, but he made it clear days ago that it would take a special kind of deal to be able to pull that valuable pick from his grasp. It took an incredibly bold, shrewd move to get it in the first place, and it won't slide unless something equally wild occurs. Even with reports that the calls, or wolves, are beginning to swarm.
So what does the NBA wizard himself think of the situation? We all know The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski has the full inside scoop on the situation the Celtics are facing, and it sounds just as you'd expect: unclear at the moment.
The Brooklyn pick has tremendous value...I can't imagine a scenario where the Celtics trade that. If they do trade that it's got to be for a really elite, star-level player. I don't think that player is out there available for them.
In other words, he just doesn't seem to see the elite upside out there in any potential trade that would put the Celtics in a position to contend for a championship now. That's a very important point: Boston is already in a position where they can compete with any team on any given night as a unit, so why send out such a valuable asset to get a player that won't push them very far beyond where they already are?
They don't want to overreach and give away these assets. They're looking for that Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen deal that they did to put the previous champion together. Those deals probably aren't out there for them.
The situation that allowed Ray Allen and Garnett to become Celtics may be once in a lifetime, but it's no mistake that it's what keeps getting brought up whenever Ainge and trades are discussed. For him to break up the trove of assets he has compiled, he wants something special coming to his team. Is Horford, Gallinari, or someone of the sorts that kind of special player? Not quite.
When it comes to Blake Griffin or DeMarcus Cousins, that may be a different story, but no one has given any indication that their teams are actively shopping them.
Then there's the other factor that must be taken into consideration. This Celtics team is dynamite right now. It has taken two years to compile a roster so special and close-knit that on pure hustle, determination, confidence, and brilliant coaching, they can win games at a high rate. It's a chemistry dynamic unlike what many of us have seen in our lifetimes, and that's no small thing to consider when making roster moves.
That's something Woj commented on as well. The fact is that this team doesn't need to make a deal now. They need a piece to push them beyond their current level, but the Brooklyn pick might just have a better chance of doing that by itself rather than trying to force something that isn't there:
This group has exceeded expectations. Can they find A. a major impact player to cash in these assets and B. how does that player fit into the chemistry...there's a lot of hard decisions for Boston to make here.
Woj hit the nail on the head with that comment. Whoever Boston makes a deal for, with the current situation the team is in, the Celtics need to carefully consider the impact such a player will have on the system and chemistry that is currently helping the team soar to such unexpected heights.
Will a player fit in with this "Celtics hustle" culture, and, more importantly, can such a player push the C's past where they are now to championship contenders? Those are the important questions to ask when considering giving up the Brooklyn pick.
For now, it doesn't look like anybody fits those bills, and for that neither Woj nor I can see them trading the 2016 Nets pick by Thursday. Does using that pick carry some uncertainty in itself? Absolutely. Just look at Boston's lottery history. But there's no coincidence that so many legends were taken by their teams early in the lottery. As young players, they can grow within their team, get adjusted to the NBA in their city, and fit within the culture that is being developed.
It may not pay immediate dividends (or any at all), but the Celtics are better built to try their luck with a college star this summer rather than tie their future to a deadline deal by Thursday.