The NBA trade deadline is just about two weeks away. The Boston Celtics hit the halfway point at fourth in the Eastern Conference (not a surprise) at 19-17 (a surprise). Because the East is relatively weak, there is little chance the Celtics won’t finish in one of the top-six seeds and lock in the guaranteed playoff berth.
But it’s not really about simply making the playoffs for Boston, is it? The goal, as it almost is, remains to hang Banner 18. To get there, no less a source than Danny Ainge himself has said the team needs help.
Outside of their starting wings of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Boston could upgrade at almost every other position. Ainge’s stated goal is to find some shooting with size. At times, it’s been hinted that Boston is looking to upgrade the wings that share the floor with, and play behind, Brown and Tatum.
With those parameters in mind, and noting that the Celtics view positions as bigs, wings and ballhandlers, we’re going to run through some of the best trade targets for Boston approaching the deadline.
A couple of notes before we dive into players:
· The Celtics best tool for making a trade is the $28.5 million traded player exception (TPE) they have from the Gordon Hayward sign and trade this past offseason. Boston also has smaller TPEs of $4.8 million (Enes Kanter) and $2.5 million (Vincent Poirier). For more on how a TPE can and can’t be used, we covered that here.
· Boston owns all of their own first round picks moving forward. For the first time in years, the Celtics do not have any future first round picks owed to them. Boston is well-stocked in second round picks also, despite owing a couple of their own to Charlotte.
· Boston has a full roster right now, after fully guarantee Javonte Green’s contract. That means any unbalanced trade would see Boston having to waive someone. Not the end of the world, but it’s more likely Boston would look for a balanced trade, or to send out more players than they bring back.
· We’ll likely focus on trade targets, but will also talk about a few players who might be buyout candidates as well.
Current wings: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards
How big of a need: High
The Pipedream Targets: Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, OG Anunoby
· Grant – The Detroit Pistons aren’t trading Jerami Grant. He signed there to have a bigger role and to play for a Black GM and Black head coach. None of those things exist in Boston. Sure, he’d be perfect for the Celtics as an athletic 3/4 who can defend and make shots. But it’s not happening. Just forget it and move on.
· Gordon – A trade for Gordon is more realistic than one is for Grant, but it’s still pretty unlikely. Orlando isn’t selling off pieces. They wouldn’t need blown away like they would have to be in a Nikola Vucevic trade, but it isn’t far off that either. If Gordon is healthy, he’d be a major asset as a 3/4 for Boston. His athletic game and defensive ability fit in well next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Gordon is also a guy who should shine as a team’s fourth or fifth best player vs a top-three option.
· Ross – Wings who can shoot are always in demand at the deadline, so Orlando could get a nice return if they choose to deal Ross. Challenge there, like with Gordon and Vucevic, is that the Magic don’t seem to be headed in that direction. With Evan Fournier likely leaving town by the offseason at the latest, Ross is Orlando’s backup plan at the 2. Given what it would cost to add a player that would definitely be solely a bench shooter, Boston will probably look elsewhere.
· Anunoby – It’s hard to acquire players with pending extensions due to the poison pill provision. Because of the Hayward TPE, Boston can pull this off. That, along with his solid 3&D skillset, make Anunoby an enticing target. Unfortunately, the Raptors see him as a key part of their next iteration, as they move away from veterans to build around Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Not happening for the Celtics.
The Realistic Targets: Harrison Barnes, Evan Fournier, Victor Oladipo, DeMar DeRozan, Wayne Ellington
· Barnes – Barnes to Boston makes so much sense for both the Celtics and Kings that it’s probably never going to happen. Barnes fills all the same holes that Aaron Gordon would, and possibly even more efficiently. Barnes is a more consistent shooter and he brings an element of “been there, done that” from his time with the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics and Kings have been circling around each other on this trade for a while now. The question remains if they can push it over the finish line. A protected first and one of Boston’s younger wings is probably enough to get it done. It’s almost going to be disappointing if this one doesn’t happen.
· Fournier – Finally we get to a player the Magic may actually trade! Fournier is on an expiring deal and is unlikely to be back in Orlando next season. He can shoot. He can make some plays off the dribble. His defense isn’t good, but it’s not awful either. The cost to acquire Fournier would be relatively low, due to his contract status. This is one where you say “If that’s the best we can do…” and hope it all works out.
· Oladipo – A couple of years ago, this would have been in the pipedream section. That’s how far Oladipo has fallen. Like Fournier, he’s on an expiring deal. He also has no future in Houston, after turning down a lucrative extension recently. The challenge for the Celtics is that he doesn’t really have the size to play up at all. He’s a pure shooting guard. That sort of player hasn’t historically fit well in Boston. And given his injury history and inefficient play this season, the Celtics are better off looking elsewhere.
· DeRozan – This one is probably closer to a pipedream. Not because of DeRozan as a player, but because the Spurs never make in-season trades. That could be changing this year, but San Antonio is going to want help to aid in a playoff push now. They are stocked with young guards/wings, so Boston probably can’t find a match there. And DeRozan is a pending free agent, so that’s tough to swing too. He’s had a nice rebirth as a playmaking forward, but DeRozan probably doesn’t fit with the Celtics.
· Ellington – No one is going to get excited about adding a guy like Ellington, but this is the kind of move that could absolutely help Boston. He’s shooting 43% from behind the arc and would excel in the designated shooter role for the Celtics. Sure, Ellington doesn’t do much beyond shoot, but that’s fine. The best part? He wouldn’t cost more than a second rounder or two to acquire. Maybe Boston could toss in Carsen Edwards or something to sweeten the deal. And, because Ellington is on a minimum deal, Boston wouldn’t have to dip into any of their TPEs. This is a small, but smart kind of deal to round out the bench.
Next up: Ballhandlers