The NBA trade deadline has passed and the Celtics have kept the same team they had before the All-Star break.
With a great crop of young talent, as well as a stack of draft picks up their sleeve, the Celtics had the opportunity to make a blockbuster trade that would make them a serious threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
However, general manager Danny Ainge decided to stand pat and not make a move at the deadline. In my opinion, this was a great move by Ainge.
The Celtics are currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference with a record of 37-20, just 3.5 games behind the Cavs and on pace to record 53 wins, their most wins in six years. They’ve accomplished this with a roster with an average age of 26 years, with just one player in the rotation over the age of 29 (Al Horford). The team is anchored by MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas and Horford and have shown that they don’t need a third superstar to compete in the East. Yet. The roster has their best years ahead of them and keeping this core together may actually give them a better shot at a championship than just wasting their high-end rotation players for a superstar.
If Boston was in a win-now mode, they would’ve pulled the trigger on trading for a superstar. But with Cleveland and Golden State still at the top of the NBA mountain, the Celtics have refrained. Players such as Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin were some of the names rumored to be linked to Boston. However, talks stalled with George once it was revealed that he wouldn’t be a long-term commitment and would likely head to Los Angeles in 2018. Meanwhile, the Jimmy Butler talks lost traction when Jae Crowder was brought up.
Danny Ainge has put his faith in young guys such as Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Kelly Olynyk, as demonstrated when Ainge refused to deal Rozier in a potential Serge Ibaka trade. Avery Bradley, Crowder and Marcus Smart were the Celtics heavily rumored to be moved at the deadline and teams asked for two out of the three players in return for a superstar, which would’ve given Boston a depleted bench. But the main piece of bait the Celtics have are their draft picks, most notably the pick they received from the Nets. The Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA, meaning that because of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade a few years ago, the C’s have a 46% chance at getting one of the top two picks in the draft. Two of the best prospects in the 2017 draft class are point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, both franchise cornerstones. As if that pick wasn’t enough, Boston has another draft pick from Brooklyn, as well as picks from the Grizzlies and Clippers. This is rebuilding at it’s finest.
And why ruin such a great rebuilding effort? There’s no confirmation that George or Butler would help the Celtics win a championship, especially with the Big 3 in Cleveland and the Big 4 out on the west coast.
Ainge wants to see if this squad who are currently 2nd in the East are as good as they really are and can go deep in the playoffs. If not, then he’ll use his assets and make the moves necessary to increase Boston’s chances over the next few years.
Fans may be angry that Ainge didn’t make a huge move with all the assets he has, but when you look back at it, you’ll understand that this may be the best move the front office could’ve made. Why hate a team with a great young roster with not a bad contract in sight and a ton of draft picks? Danny Ainge knows what he’s doing. It just takes time. And time is what the Celtics have.