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Celtics trade deadline plans must include more than roster-first mindset

Boston’s league-best record goes beyond the hardwood, and their trade decisions need to as well.

Boston Celtics All Access Practice Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

By all accounts, the Boston Celtics do not plan on altering their core ahead of the impending February 8 trade deadline. However, recent reporting has indicated that a small move can be expected, most likely in hopes of bolstering the end of their bench.

The league-leading Celtics sit at 38-12 on the season with a star-studded top six and a bench unit that has exceeded expectations that were set for them prior to the beginning of the season.

Brad Stevens will do his due diligence, but in the meantime, Boston is focused on the guys they already have on board.

“We talk, obviously. We talk every day,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said at Tuesday’s practice of his conversations with Stevens. “But [I’m] really just kind of listening. Understanding. I think, like I said before, the most important thing for me is never being a coach that always feels like we have to have something.

“[I’m] very comfortable with our roster, very confident with one through 17, and everybody on our roster has done something to impact winning, and that’s the most important thing. And so, that’s kind of my focus.”

Los Angeles Clippers (115) Vs. Boston Celtics (96) At TD Garden Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe recently noted that “one league source said it would be a surprise if the Celtics do not complete a minor move,” while HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported that Boston has been “looking to package some of their minimum contract players at the end of the rotation and draft pick compensation to bolster their bench heading into the playoffs.”

Rumblings of the Celtics’ activity have been constant, even amplifying in the days leading up to the deadline. And while a trade may end up coming to fruition, Mazzulla remains focused “on what we want to make better,” a concept more relevant than ever as, prior to their blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Celtics had been playing some of their worst basketball of the season.

Outside of Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet, non-members of the top six but crucial rotation pieces, Boston has four tradable minimum contracts: Oshae Brissett, Lamar Stevens, Dalano Banton, and Svi Mykhailiuk, as well as Jordan Walsh (though it seems highly unlikely the Maine standout gets moved).

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Brissett has crept up the depth chart throughout the course of the season, but stacking those four contracts would get Boston to just over $8 million in matching salary — a number that exceeds the Celtics’ $6.2 million TPE from the Grant Williams trade this past summer.

But while none of the four play regular minutes, building a winning culture goes beyond the on-court tactics.

“I think one of the keys for a roster and for a locker room is for role guys to kind of find their niche within and within a system,” Mazzulla said. “And really, the relationship between your stars and the role players and the trust that they build amongst each other is super important. And I think both parties really facilitate that trust and that relationship.

“And so having a change will kind of start that process over. And then obviously just the language offensively and defensively. The culture aspect of it. So, there’s just a lot that goes into it.”

Any trade Stevens decides to take on needs to do more than simply improve the Celtics’ roster. He must also ensure that it doesn’t disrupt the team’s chemistry.

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