The NBA trade deadline is just a week away on Thursday, February 6th at 3:00 PM EST. Some deals have already started to go down and the rumor mill is ramping up. To get you ready for the deadline, CelticsBlog is setting up exactly where Boston stands.
· Center/Forward – The general consensus is that the Celtics need to add another big alongside Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, or even in place of either current Boston big man. The bet here is that Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens don’t see that as quite as much of a need as some others do. Robert Williams is on the mend and should return eventually to allow Stevens to replicate the three-headed monster of centers that was working quite well to start the season. Boston also tends to play small on a regular basis and both Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye are fine as small-ball big man options.
· Bench scoring/shooting – This is the real need for the Celtics. When healthy, they’ve got a solid eight to nine-man rotation with Marcus Smart joining Kanter and Brad Wanamaker, along with either Williams or Ojeleye most nights. What that group is lacking is someone who can put points on the board. And no one in that group, or of the guys behind them, is scaring teams as a shooter.
· Veteran presence – This one is a bit more vague, but Boston’s roster is pretty young. The thought is that the Celtics could use another veteran, ideally one with extensive playoff experience, to help guide the way during the postseason. This could also be accomplished while filling either of the previous needs listed above.
Available Trade Assets
· Players – Let’s assume that a few guys are off the table. Boston isn’t moving Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. They probably aren’t trading Gordon Hayward (probably!) or Marcus Smart (even more probably!) either. It would take an upgrade at center to move Daniel Theis or Enes Kanter. That’s half the roster more or less out of trade talks. What does that leave? Lots and lots of kids on cost-controlled contracts and NBA teams like to trade young players on good contracts as much as the average person likes to get a root canal.
· Draft Picks – After years of the draft pick treasure chest overflowing, it’s starting to look a lot less full these days. The Celtics still have two extra first round picks coming their way this year or next. Boston gets the Memphis Grizzlies pick if it is 7-30 (an increasing likelihood) and the Milwaukee Bucks pick if it is 8-30 (a virtual certainty). Should either pick roll over, the Celtics get them completely unprotected in 2021. Boston also owns all of their own first round picks.
Beyond the first rounders, the Celtics have an extra second round pick in 2020 from the Brooklyn Nets. That pick is actually the worse of Nets and New York Knicks, but we all know how that is going to finish. Boston could have an additional second round pick from the Atlanta Hawks, but it’s top-55 protected and the Hawks aren’t winning enough games for that to matter. And, like first round picks, the Celtics own all of their own second rounders, too.
That’s it. An extra mid-round first and likely the 30th pick and then a mid-round second this summer. Not that those picks, along with future Boston picks, don’t have value, but none are bringing back any sort of amazing return.
· Trade Exceptions – This one is easy. Boston doesn’t have any this year.
Potential Trade Targets
· Andre Drummond – Covered this one in depth here. The basic gist is that it would cost Gordon Hayward or a ton of Boston’s depth. Read above why neither is happening.
· Tristan Thompson – He’s on an expiring contract, but has expressed no desire to leave the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers. At $18.5M, it’s not really hard to match salary for Thompson. It would cost Boston some of their depth though. Most likely path is that the Celtics, and several other teams, wait it out and see if Thompson springs free on the buyout market.
· Clint Capela – This one keeps coming back up like a bad penny. Capela is a fine player. His salary is easy to find the matching for in a deal. But it’s still going to cost Boston a rotation player and other stuff. That’s tough considering the Celtics are already getting similar production from Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter (one of whom would almost definitely have to be included in a deal for Capela) for a fraction of the cost.
· The B Guys, including Davis Bertans, Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic – Bertans is, and has been, at the tops of Celtics fans’ wish list for a trade for months now. He’s cheap, big, and can shoot. Unfortunately, Washington has said they have no intention of moving on from him. It could be posturing, but the Wizards have turned down deals for Bertans already.
What about Bjelica? He’s like Bertans-lite. He’s cheap, big and can shoot, but just not as well as Bertans. There is the added benefit of dealing with the Sacramento Kings, who don’t exactly have a history of making great trades for themselves.
Bogdanovic is a guy to watch. He’s a pending restricted free agent and he’s going to get paid this summer by someone, given the paucity of quality free agents. Sacramento should just keep him and pay him themselves, but you never know. If they get a big offer, they could move on from Bogdanovic.
· Robert Covington – Covington is maybe the most-talked about player on the market. Minnesota could get a bidding war going for Covington. That makes him an unlikely candidate for Boston, because Danny Ainge never overpays in a trade. But keep an eye on him, as the Celtics could jump in to keep him from a team they might have to go through to get to the playoffs.
· Derrick Rose – Let’s just say there are some optics that make this one unlikely.
· Marcus Morris – His recent idiotic comments may have sealed his fate about a return to Boston. Plus, he didn’t seem real happy with the Celtics this summer.
· Jae Crowder – Bringing back Crowder sounds good. Boston never really wanted to trade him in the first place. The challenge is that Memphis is pretty good. They’d probably want their pick back. That, plus the matching salary, is too steep of an ask for the Celtics to consider.
· Alec Burks - Burks would be a low-cost addition. He’s on a minimum contract and only signed for this season. The Warriors could take a young player back from Boston, as well as maybe a pick (the 2020 Brooklyn second?) for Burks. He’d provide some scoring and playmaking off the bench, as well as having a little more size than the Celtics other backup guards.
· Isaiah Thomas – The Wizards will move Thomas if they get the right offer. He’s on a minimum contract, so there is no issue with matching salary. For Boston, would IT come back for a bench role? Remember, he came off the bench for the entirety of his initial half-season with the Celtics after they acquired him from the Phoenix Suns, but before he was an MVP candidate as a starter. Thomas would fill the bench scoring role, as he’s still putting up 12 points per game in Washington. And it would be a feel-good story as well.
· Surprise Candidates – Someone will emerge in the next few days as a target for the Celtics. Keep an eye on guys who will accept a bench role and have an expiring or value contract.
Trade Deadline Predictions
As it has been for years now, it’ll probably be all sound and fury signifying nothing for Boston at the trade deadline. There might not even be that much fireworks at all. It could be a quiet deadline all around, so the Celtics would get swept up in that, too. In addition, it just hasn’t been Danny Ainge’s MO to mess with what he’s put together in the middle of the season all that often. We all remember that revolving door of players in and out a few years back, but that was the anomaly. Most years, he sticks with what he’s got.
As for what Boston should do, that’s a matter of opinion. The opinion here is that they should combine a couple of the younger players and a pick or two to go get that upgrade for the bench. As it stands now, only Brad Wanamaker and the team’s two-way players, Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters, are locks to reach free agency this summer. Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter both have player options that it looks like they’ll pick up. Boston holds a team option for Semi Ojeleye that should get picked up. And Daniel Theis and Javonte Green are on fully non-guaranteed contracts, but both have shown that they are worthy of having those deals guaranteed.
That’s likely 14 of 17 players under contract next year. That leaves Boston with only one open standard roster spot, and both two-way spots. The Celtics project to have three first round picks and two second round picks. Somehow, Boston has to fit 19 into 17, and that’s assuming they won’t want to keep Wanamaker, Fall, or Waters. Starting to see how that math doesn’t really work?
Because of all of that, Boston should start looking to consolidate some of those deeper bench players into one more useful player. When you’ve got an expensive, and trending even more expensive, roster and not enough roster spots for everyone anyway, it doesn’t make sense to hold on to all your chips. The Celtics need to start cashing some of them in. Not every move needs to be a blockbuster. A small upgrade here and there in a wide-open NBA with no overwhelming title favorite is too logical. Will Danny Ainge see it that way, too? We’ll find out over the next week.