As the NBA Trade Deadline approaches, the Boston Celtics figure to be one of the most active buyers, looking to assert themselves as a legitimate contender to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have been collecting assets since the trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce out of town, and it seems that they are ready to cash in these assets when an opportunity arises. Let’s break down all the assets the Celtics have.
First Tier: Centerpieces of a Blockbuster
PG Isaiah Thomas
PG Marcus Smart
SG Avery Bradley
SF Jae Crowder
Unprotected Brooklyn First Round Picks (2016, 2018)
Opportunity to Swap First Round Picks with Brooklyn (2017)
These are the Celtic’s greatest trade chips. Ever since Isaiah Thomas has gotten here, he has proven that he is the type of player that the Celtics would like to build around for the long term. Though every player has his price, you can expect Thomas to be a part of this team for a long time. Smart has the most value of the three players because of his youth and his ceiling. Bradley and Crowder get their value from being outstanding defenders and their extremely team friendly contracts.
The Celtics are finally beginning to reap the benefits of the Garnett-Pierce trade to the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are in absolute chaos after firing their head coach and general manager earlier this season. They are among the worst three teams in the NBA, only ahead of the Lakers and 76ers in the standings. Without control of their own draft picks, there is little hope of returning to contention in the near future. These picks may prove to produce the star player the Celtics desperately need.
These assets would only be moved if the Celtics have an opportunity to acquire the next face of the franchise. Unless one of those players becomes available, expect these assets to stay in Boston, at least until the offseason.
Second Tier: Decent Potential, Definitely Available
C Kelly Olynyk Own First Round Pick(2016, 2018 and on)
PF Jared Sullinger Dallas Protected First Round Pick (2016,Top 7)
SF James Young Minnesota Protected First Round Pick (2016,Top 12)
PF Jordan Mickey Memphis Protected First Round Pick (2018)
PG Terry Rozier All Second Round Picks (At least four in 2016)
SG R.J. Hunter
C Tyler Zeller
Olynyk, Sullinger, and Zeller have all played well this season in their given rolls, and hold appeal as young players that can contribute immediately. Young, Mickey, Hunter, and Rozier are all considered raw prospects, but they hold potential as long term experiments. Expect to hear these names heavily leading up to the trade deadline.
More likely than not, the Minnesota pick will become two second rounders (one in 2016, one in 2017) since the Timberwolves will finish near the top of the lottery. This will give the Celtics a total of eight draft picks in this upcoming draft (three in the first round, five in the second). The Memphis pick is highly protected and will most likely take a few years before it is received.
The Celtics will have plenty of ammo to make a deal that will improve their team without dealing core assets. Expect a few of these names to be gone by the time the deadline arrives, along with some of these draft picks.
Third Tier: Expendable Veterans
PF David Lee
PF Amir Johnson
SF Evan Turner
PF Jonas Jerebko
David Lee has been known to be upset with his lack of playing time. It is a foregone conclusion that he will be traded or bought out by the deadline. Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko have value to the Celtics, but their non-guaranteed salaries make them valuable to a team looking to clear cap space. Evan Turner has had a good season, but could be moved to free up playing time for younger players. These players could also be used in a larger trade to make salaries match.
Now that we have dissected all the assets at the Celtics disposal, let’s look at who the Celtics will be targeting as possible additions.
We will be begin with the least likely first.
First Tier: Superstars
C Demarcus Cousins, Kings
PF Blake Griffin, Clippers
PF Kevin Love, Cavaliers
Cousins has long been connected to the Celtics in trade rumors. However, the Kings are in so much turmoil that it is highly unlikely that they would consider a trade at the time. Griffin has been subject to trade rumors since he broke his hand in an altercation with his equipment manager. The Clippers do not seem to be listening to offers for Griffin at this time, but a failed run in this year’s playoffs that could make them reconsider. The same goes for Love, who has not lived up to expectations since joining the Cavaliers, but is unlikely to be moved in the middle of a playoff race.
The cost to acquire a player from this group would certainly be steep, costing multiple pieces from tier one, as well as pieces from tiers two and three. Do not expect to see any of these players in Celtic green this week, but could be very possible this offseason.
Second Tier: Rising Stars
SF Jabari Parker, Bucks
PF Nerlens Noel, 76ers
C Jahlil Okafor, 76ers
The Bucks have said that they are open for business and are looking to trade off pieces. Although they are not looking to trade Parker, they are said to be open to a “crazy” offer for him. Remember that Danny Ainge was enamored with Parker when he was a top prospect in the 2014 NBA draft. The 76ers have an abundance of big men, and Noel and Okafor have not played well together so far. It seems at one point they will have to choose between one or the other. This is extremely unlikely to happen before the deadline, but expect Danny Ainge to at least start a conversation.
Third Tier: Short Term Pieces
C Al Horford, Hawks
C Dwight Howard, Rockets
C Hassan Whiteside, Heat
PF Greg Monroe, Bucks
PF Ryan Anderson, Pelicans
SF Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets
SF Rudy Gay, Kings
SF Gordon Hayward, Jazz
The Hawks are at a franchise crossroad, and with Horford eligible for free agency after this season, the Hawks may look to get something for him before he leaves for nothing. The Rockets have been labeled “a broken team” by their head coach and it looks that they are attempting to shake up the roster, with Howard as the first domino to fall. Hassan Whiteside has been one of the greatest bargains in basketball over the last two years because of his salary being at the veteran minimum. However, he is scheduled to hit free agency this summer and it doesn’t look like the Heat plan to retain him. The Bucks are looking to unload contacts at the deadline, and according to reports, the Bucks have made Monroe available. The Celtics had interest in Monroe last offseason, so it makes sense that they will at least make a phone call.
The Pelicans do not seem to have much hope for this season, and with Anderson’s contract expiring, they will most likely look to move him in fear of losing him for nothing this summer. Gallinari has been of the Celtics interest for some time now, but it doesn’t seem that the Nuggets want to move him. It may take an over pay of some sort to make the Nuggets listen. Gay has shown that he can put points on the board, and with the Kings looking to rebuild, he will definitely be available at the trade deadline. Hayward is an interesting fit, because of his relationship with Brad Stevens from their time together at Butler. There is not much known about his availability, but the Celtics will most likely make a phone call out of due diligence.
To acquire one of these players, the Celtics will be required to part with a combination of assets from the second and third tiers listed above. These players will come up in rumors heavily as the deadline approaches, and the Celtics are sure to be involved with all of them.