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Should the Celtics trade Isaiah Thomas?

IT4 put together one of the greatest Celtic seasons ever, but it didn’t end in Banner 18.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Kungu: In short, no. Isaiah Thomas was the best player on arguably the second-best team on the Eastern Conference, and he led them to the conference finals despite the well-documented circumstances he faced. Every year since he's joined Boston he's gotten better, and his ability to score the basketball is among the NBA's elite.

On the flip side, he's turning 29, and his contract is projected to be in the $30 mil/year range. Because of his height and play style, his game doesn't seem to be something that would translate well the more he ages, and he has already missed chunks of the year every season he's been with the Celtics due to injuries. This latest one may be the worst if he ends up having to get surgery and missing some time next season. All that is to say—even if Boston wanted to trade him, the upside is minimal.

To trade him you'd most likely have to do it this summer to get max value, and in that case you'd be looking at diminished value due to injury, age, and upcoming max contract. You may even end up sending iffy messages to free agents who could take the move as a sign the Celtics are no longer trying to win now. If you wait till the deadline because you want to see what you have in Fultz and give Thomas a chance to show he's recovered, then he's basically in straight up rental mode, and teams would be reluctant to give you just about anything of value knowing you're leaning towards not re-signing him. There's always chance that things change and a young team who thinks his services would make them a dangerous team gives up a little too much for his services in fear they couldn't lure him in free agency, but that's far from certain.

As of now, all we know for sure is that Isaiah Thomas is the heart of the Celtics offense, and no other player on the team has proven to do what he can do. We can talk when that fact changes.

Keith Smith: No. First, it is rare to see an All-NBA player traded that doesn't have an issue with the team he is playing for. The Celtics love Isaiah Thomas and, more importantly, he loves the Celtics. This is where he wants to be. Beyond that, there are other factors that make trading him complicated:

1. He's injured. Without indication on how serious the injury is (reports vary from very to not very), that depresses his value a bit.

2. He's only got one year left. The idea of not trading for a rental is overblown, but it is somewhat real. Thomas needs a new contract after next year. And he's going to get a rather hefty raise.

3. There are questions of how he would fit outside of the Celtics scheme. Brad Stevens has created ways for Thomas to be one of the league's best offensive weapons. Would he succeed as well elsewhere?

4. Most important one: He's really, really good! Smart teams don't give up guys as good as Thomas without something huge coming in return.

People worry about the contract. Nothing needs to happen this summer. The Celtics can keep IT and let it play out and deal with it in the summer of 2018. They'll have his Bird rights and can pay him more than anyone else. And if the team’s younger guards (Markelle Fultz) prove ready during the 2018 season, they could always trade Thomas at the trade deadline. To move him this summer would take a massive offer that isn't likely to come.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sy: Yes, but the timing is tricky. For free agents like Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin, the lure of coming to Boston is joining a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals and has been competitive with the Warriors for the last two seasons. Adding a max guy would assemble a new Big Three, elite defenders on the wings, and a budding bench of potential stars in Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Markelle Fultz, and the 2018 Nets’ pick. This summer could be the culmination of a four-year rebuild, and much of that is because of Isaiah Thomas.

There’s no doubt that IT put together one of the greatest Celtic seasons ever (before one of the most important Celtics off-seasons ever), but with his impending free agency arriving simultaneously with the younger Smart and Avery Bradley, Danny Ainge has to seriously consider trading the 5’9” 28 year old that could command a $30M/year max contract. He doesn’t have to do it next month or even before next season’s trade deadline or maybe not even at all, but if there’s a deal out there that can even bring back fifty cents on the dollar, I’d do it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Thomas. I love the narrative of him starting his career as Mr. Irrelevant, putting everything together in 2017, battling injury and personal tragedy in the playoffs, and becoming a legit MVP candidate in green. However, I don’t see his game aging well (ahem, he might have hip surgery this summer) and I don’t see him even coming close to the value of $180M. Ownership could decide to open up their check books and just pay him anyway if they think they’re real contenders in a year, but every day they wait, his value goes down.

Sean Penney: No, the Celtics should not trade IT this summer. I say this despite skepticism that they will give him the max deal he's seeking next summer when he'll be on the verge of turning 30. The only way they deal Thomas is if it's in a package for another All-Star who is locked up under a longer contract. Otherwise trading away their best player is a step back when the goal is to keep taking steps forward. Hold off on the max contract decision for another year to retain as many options as possible. If Fultz proves to be the real deal as a rookie, then the Celtics may feel more comfortable letting Thomas go, but let's see that happen first before anointing a player we haven't even drafted yet as the future of the franchise.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Greg Cassoli: No. Technically the answer to this question is probably it depends on what the Celtics can get, but I am doubtful anyone would offer up enough to make moving Thomas a good idea. He's an offensive ecosystem all on his own. You don't walk away from that kind of player without good reason. I understand the argument that Boston should move on from Thomas before they have to pay major money to re-sign him next year, but losing Thomas would be a major step back, and it's hard to know how palatable that will be without a number of moving pieces coming to rest.

Lachlan Marr: Nope. For all the reasons others have said and more, it just doesn’t make sense to trade Thomas. Isaiah’s emergence as an All-Star player is a big reason why the Celtics have the luxury of investigating multiple paths to Banner 18. Isaiah accelerated the Celtics rebuild so drastically that what was clearly supposed to be a long-term path to a championship quickly turned into Boston becoming dark horse contenders replete with pocketfuls of picks and bucketloads of options. If Boston were to trade Isaiah it would have to be for an outright irrefutable deal, and even then I’m not sure Danny would do it. Isaiah has simply been too important to the Celtics’ success and remains too key a part of their offense for a trade to make much sense.

Jeff Clark: No, of course not. Obviously Danny Ainge would trade anyone for good value, but I'm pretty convinced that Isaiah Thomas is worth more to the Celtics at this moment than he is to any other team out there. Said another way, the Celtics would be very unlikely to get equal value in exchange for Isaiah, so Danny will look for different ways to maximize his assets and bargaining position. Furthermore, if Ainge felt like he could make a deal that will put the Celtics over the top by trading Thomas (or anyone or any pick), I'm sure he would. Failing that, a really good backup plan is to remain competitive and entertaining while the young core grows in a winning situation. Isaiah Thomas makes that happen so he stays. For now.

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