I was listening to the ESPN basketball guys (Stein, Windhorst, Elhassan) talk about the trade deadline and the market conditions that surround it on their podcast and I was very interested in what they had to say about the Celtics. Some bullet points.
- Windhorst and Elhassan discuss the general consensus that the top names aren't available at the deadline (Cousins, Love, Griffin) and that there are too many teams that are still contending for playoff spots for there to be many sellers at the deadline.
- Stein counters that there's a supply and demand dynamic that could produce a surprise seller at the deadline. The thinking is that there are lots of teams with assets looking to "buy" (with the Celtics at the front of the line with the most assets and by all accounts the most eager to make a "splashy" move).
- If a team doesn't think they can win now or has any question about keeping a star player, they could make a move early and beat the other teams to the treasure trove of assets a team like Boston has to offer. Example, when the Utah Jazz surprised everyone by moving Deron Williams before anyone thought he'd be available.
- Fair or not, there's a perception around the league that the Celtics are willing to overpay to make a big move. Look no further than the rumored trade that didn't go down on draft night where the Celtics were offering up 4 picks just to move up 7 spots in the draft.
So let's step back and take all this in. On one hand, there's at least some hope that an impact guy could become available. On the other hand, there's a good chance that the Celtics would likely have to overpay to get him. The Celtics have the assets to overpay and it is a lot harder to go from good to great than it is to go from bad to good. So maybe in the context of the bigger picture it would be fine to overpay - especially when we've gotten bargains and steals in the past few years (Thomas, Crowder, etc.).
All of that is great in theory but when you start putting names and assets on the table, things change significantly.
It starts with the Nets pick. Every team in the NBA wants their hands on that pick, which a good enough argument alone to hold onto it unless a superstar becomes available. It only represents a small percentage chance at getting the top pick, but it is a near guarantee to land a top 5 pick and that could have some great impact for years to come.
Likewise, many teams would love to get their hands on Jae Crowder because he excels in a role that most teams are desperate to fill. Wing defense and 3 point shooting are at a premium in this NBA and the Celtics are one of those teams that needs a guy like that.
A year ago I was ready to package Olynyk in a deal to get marginally better but since he's found his rhythm and started hitting 3's at a such a high rate, I'm thinking that hanging on to a legitimate stretch 4 with playmaking skills is a pretty good idea.
Go down the list and you'll find that the assets that other teams want are guys that we'd really love to hold onto for ourselves. Some of that is simply a matter of a fan falling in love with OUR guys, and I admit that fully. But if we're going to hand over guys or picks with legitimate value around the league, we had better be getting a home run upgrade for now and for the future.
I still believe that the Celtics require a next level talent (or two) to lead them to contender status. However, I'm not sure what the best way of getting that guy is. Perhaps something will shake out at the deadline. You know that Danny Ainge will be "quietly aggressive" and knock on every door. But if the right deal doesn't present itself, I'm hoping that Ainge will have the patience to punt till the offseason. Then we'll have another chance to weigh our options, have more clarity on where our picks will land, and we'll have another stretch run and (hopefully) more exposure in the playoffs to see what we've really got here and what we really need next.
Who knows, maybe Marcus Smart will show enough to convince us that he's that next level guy (or will be before too long). Maybe one of our young guys develops exponentially (like Jimmy Butler or Isaiah Thomas have) into that next level guy. Or perhaps we'll just get lucky in the lottery and find a premiere guy for the future. There's also the free agent route, and I truly believe that at some point Brad Stevens and his culture is going to lure a guy or two to be part of that for the future.
I guess the point is this: I'm as eager as anyone to make a big move and kick this rebuild into overdrive. I'm just not too eager to cash in all our chips unless it is exactly what we need going forward.