You’ve heard “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Introducing “Gordon ain’t a Celtic ‘til he’s a Celtic.” Per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, “whatever the Celtics end up doing over the next several hours, regardless of whether Aaron Gordon has regrets about his trade request, there is one thing for certain: Gordon remains eager to be traded to Boston.”
That may not matter: Gordon would also welcome a deal to either Portland or Denver, giving Boston some very “real” competition to get a deal done by the 3 p.m. ET deadline on Thursday.
Weiss writes that the Celtics are “reciprocating interest,” and that they’ve been looking to move forward on pulling Gordon-to-Boston as Atlanta and Sacramento have both become more hesitant to move John Collins and Harrison Barnes, respectively. Despite their tone from the past few weeks, Atlanta is holding firmer to Collins, and Collins is eager to stay home (“I want to stay. I want my flowers here in Atlanta,” Collins said Tuesday, via The Athletic Hawks writer Chris Kirschner. “I want to be true to Atlanta for my entire career, as corny or as cheesy as it may sound to whoever.”) A deal with Atlanta would be on the pricier side for Boston anyway. As for Barnes, who had been reported a Boston target in the last few weeks, Sacramento is eager to keep Barnes as a part of their effort to make the playoffs next season.
But back to Gordon: reports had recently surfaced that Minnesota may be among the teams interested in pulling him from Orlando. Per Weiss, they’ve been drifting out of the race, while Denver has the possibility of putting together an enticing package involving Gary Harris. Boston could be a beneficiary of Minnesota’s drift; it’s just a matter of what their competition can offer.
As the Minnesota Timberwolves drift out of the race, according to league sources, the path toward completing a deal seems to be materializing for Boston. Denver remains neck and neck with the Celtics and Gordon would be happy to end up in Dallas alongside Luka Doncic, but all indications from sources across the league are that this will run to Thursday’s buzzer. The Nuggets can build a package around Gary Harris, rookie RJ Hampton and a first-round pick, which is a substantial enough package to make Boston’s desired package of rookie Aaron Nesmith, a first-round pick and a $17 million traded player exception (TPE) the Magic would create sending Gordon into Boston’s Hayward TPE seem untenable. Boston doesn’t seem to have other options, so they may be willing to outbid Denver.
Nevertheless, Boston has long been the frontrunner to land the Orlando swingman, and things still seem to be trending that way; with less than four hours to go before the clock strikes 3 pm EST, making this a signed, sealed, and delivered deal may just be a matter of finalizing who the Celtics will ship off to Disney World. Weiss writes that “A deal could take several shapes, whether it be the Celtics’ proposal of a package built around first-round pick and Nesmith or some combination of picks and Marcus Smart for both Gordon and Evan Fournier, who hit the game-winner Wednesday night in what could be his final game in Orlando.”
The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy countered the Smart point yesterday, reporting that “talks with Orlando re: Aaron Gordon [were] ‘still alive, but everyone does everything at last minute.’ Celtics offering first round pick and a young player - not Marcus Smart - and are trying not to include second pick in the deal.”
If the deal involves both Gordon and Fournier, and Orlando won’t budge on getting Smart in return, Danny Ainge may be enticed to pull the trigger, moving on from a fan-favorite in a dire effort to revamp a stifling roster. A pairing of Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford — two young but unproven Celtics, one of which has spent the season on the injury report — might not entice Orlando to move on from two franchise staples, despite their cost/displeasure with the franchise’s current direction. The same goes for a deal involving one or both of Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye; they haven’t been included in any packages that have advanced to serious stages, per Weiss, regardless of the fact that they most accurately fit the same mold Aaron Gordon will be leaving behind (if moved).
And what about Tristan Thompson? Weiss writes, “ideally, the team could build a package around Tristan Thompson’s $9.2 million and Nesmith’s $3.4 million, likely with a protected 2021 first and another pick of some sort. This at least keeps the Hayward TPE intact and allows for numerous possibilities, even if they never come to fruition.”
In the end, the Celtics and Ainge may be itching for change, no matter the cost. Fans always want their teams to make season-altering moves at the deadline, but perhaps that’s just not in the cards this year.
At the very least, Aaron Gordon — and maybe Fournier — can be new, enticing flavors to try out for a few years before shipping off in exchange for young players like the ones the Celtics will be forced to depart with in this deal. The best-case scenario? Gordon and Fournier supercharge a team that seems to have short-fused. The worst case? Nothing happens, and the deadline passes with nary a whisper.
Time for Danny Ainge to make some Magic happen, one way or another.