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A thorough review of every trade deadline deal relevant to the Boston Celtics

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The Celtics weren’t a particularly active participant in this week’s wild trade deadline, but plenty happened that will impact the team’s present and future.

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The dust from a busy NBA trade deadline has finally settled. A multitude of players switched teams in more than 20 transactions, leaving the landscape of the league substantially altered. The Boston Celtics were hardly a participant, but the many moves executed, or in some notable instances not, in the past few weeks have wide-ranging implications for both the present and future of the team. We’ve laid out every single trade worth knowing about from a Celtics perspective, from most important to least.

Pelicans don’t trade Anthony Davis to Lakers

Perhaps it’s a bit antithetical to begin this exercise with a non-deal, but the New Orleans Pelicans holding onto Anthony Davis is important enough to embrace the unconventional. The Lakers, LeBron James, and Rich Paul tried everything they could to pry Davis away from the Pellies and ultimately failed. The spectacle around Davis’ trade request, the public negotiations, Dell Demps’ alleged disdain for the Lakers, and the absurd amount of rumors leaked to the media was nothing short of a mess, but its ultimate outcome is undeniably a boon for Boston. The Celtics, who due to CBA minutae couldn’t trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving’s current contract is complete, will enter the summer with the best collection of assets to trade for the superstar big.

Being in the driver’s seat to land a generational talent is a win, but it’s not one that comes devoid of risk. Davis never included Boston on any of his leaked lists of destinations he’d sign a long-term deal with, and his father made it quite clear he would advise his son not to play for the Celtics because of their treatment of Isaiah Thomsa. How much stock you put into such realities comes down to where you prefer Davis to end up. If you’re a Lakers fan, they’re fundamental truth. To a Celtics supporter, they’re lies fabricated by Paul to increase leverage.

Regardless of the validity of rumors about Davis’ interest in being in Boston, the Celtics can take solace in the fact that he’s not presently in L.A. Had the Pelicans and Lakers consummated a deal, there’d be essentially no hope of landing him via trade or free agency a year later.

Sixers trade Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, 2 first-round picks, and 2 second-round picks to Clippers for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott

The Philadelphia 76ers took a massive swing in trading for soon to be free agent star Tobias Harris and paying full price to do so (and then some considering his expiring contract). Nabbing Harris is a talent play, and clearly makes Philly a more intimidating match up. The Sixers desperately needed shooting. They got some, and can now explore some fascinating and massive lineup combinations.

However, things could go awry this summer if Harris and Jimmy Butler decide not to stick around. Philly emptied the majority of its war chest of assets to compete in the present, and won’t have much to refill its coffers with in the event both sign elsewhere in free agency. That’s hugely meaningful to a Boston team that projects to consistently run into the Sixers in the postseason for the foreseeable future.

And the implications for the franchise don’t stop there. Our own Keith Smith wrote up a full breakdown of the shock waves of this individual transaction you can read here. The cliff notes are thus:

  • After moving Harris, the Clippers are now less likely to make the playoffs. They owe a lottery-protected first-round pick to Boston in the upcoming draft. That selection turns into two second-rounders should L.A. miss out on the postseason this year and in 2020.
  • With the Clippers looking less competitive, the Sacramento Kings take a step forward in the Western Conference hierarchy (more to come on this shortly). Boston owns the rights to their top-one protected first-round pick, which decreases in value accordingly.
  • The Clippers have effectively acquired more assets to make a trade for a star and opened up more space to sign one in free agency. Their increase in flexibility ups the likelihood that they can compete for Anthony Davis and/or make a pitch to Celtics’ star Kyrie Irving this summer.

Mavericks trade Harrison Barnes to Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph

The Kings didn’t just increase their standing in the conference via the decreasing competitive context in which they operate. Sacramento added a legitimate wing/forward in Harrison Barnes.

Harry B is overpaid, but he’s a good player, and most certainly an upgrade over those he’s replacing. The Kings are substantially better with him in their rotation, a sad reality for Celtics fans hoping their pick (owed to Boston if its anything than first overall, as noted above) would fall in the 2-5 range this June.

Grizzlies Trade Marc Gasol to Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a second-round pick*

Count the Raptors among the many teams vying for the top spot in the Eastern Conference that made a move to increase their chances of an NBA Finals appearance. Toronto nabbed Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies in a move that bolsters their front court depth considerably. Gasol is a brilliant player, stout post defender, and offensive hub the likes of which Jonas Valanciunas could only dream of being. The Raptors are undeniably better with Big Spain in the fold. He makes Toronto a more significant threat to Boston in the present.

The long-term impact of the trade has the potential to tilt more substantially in the Celtics’ favor, however. Boston holds the right to a future first-rounder from Memphis. It’s top-8 protected this year, top-6 next year, and unprotected in 2021. Dealing Gasol makes the Grizzlies worse, and by extension increases the value of the pick owed to Boston, a truth made doubly important given the decreasing value of the Kings’ pick (as noted above), and its presumed appeal in any star-chasing deals the Celtics may hope to engage in.

*It should be noted that Memphis also swapped Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green for Avery Bradley and Shelvin Mack for Tyler Dorsey, in separate deals. We’re leaving those transactions off our official list, but suffice is to say, at least from this prognosticator’s perspective, both trades make them worse, which is good for Boston.

Pelicans trade Nikola Mirotic to Bucks for Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson and 4 second-round picks

The Bucks improved their depth by adding Nikola Mirotic. Milwaukee has proven that surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo with shooting is a very sound strategy, and Mirotic only deepens its pool of bombers. He’s more switchable than Brook Lopez and a better option defending in the post than some of the Bucks’ smaller wings.

Mirotic isn’t an undeniable game-changing talent, and this deal doesn’t have nearly as many long-term implications as some of the others discussed herein, but it increases Milwaukee’s strategic flexibility. That matters. The Celtics already would have had their hands full should they come across the Bucks in a seven-game series. Mirotic is one more threat they’ll need to account for.

Knicks trade Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke to Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and 2 first-round picks

The Knicks traded away the best player they’ve had since Patrick Ewing to clear cap space for the summer. That’s objectively crazy if they can’t land two top-tier free agents, and possibly utterly brilliant if they lure the right pair. Reason would suggest they must have some assurance from some soon to be available star, and Irving has been at the center of quite a bit of speculation.

Boston won’t be able to lean into its championship aspirations in one year’s time should its All-Star point guard walk away this summer, and he hasn’t exactly offered a lot of recent reassurance that he’s committed to staying. But let’s all take a deep breath. New York has been an utterly incompetent mess for the better part of two decades.

Living in fear that the Knicks will pull off a perfectly orchestrated free agent strategy is like never leaving the house because you think the ground will turn into lava. There’s just no reason to believe it could happen. We can retroactively shoot this deal up the Celtics’ relevance rankings when New York proves it can leverage all the cap space it freed up effectively and convince Irving that playing for a franchise headed by James Dolan is more appealing than his current situation.

Sixers trade Markelle Fultz to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons, first-round pick, second-round pick

Its somewhat challenging to separate the limited impact this deal is likely to have on the Celtics from the trade between Boston and Philly that ultimately netted the Sixers Markelle Fultz, but we’re going to do our best here. Jonathan Simmons has had an abysmal year shooting the ball from beyond the arc, and that’s important to note given Philly’s already cramped spacing. He still represents an upgrade from Fultz, however, and in that sense this trade is worth noting.

The Sixers swapped a player who was unlikely to play any meaningful minutes for one that could at least potentially find his way on to the court during a high-leverage situation. Any boost to Philly’s depth is a detriment to Boston.

Celtics trade Jabari Bird to Hawks

Boston made just one trade at the deadline, and somehow it is the least relevant to its present and future prospects that we’ll discuss today. The Celtics sent Jabari Bird to Atlanta, trading him into the Hawks’ cap space with a boatload of cash to make it worth their while. He was then promptly cut. Boston reduced its luxury tax bill slightly, and opened up a roster spot to explore the buyout market with.