(Photo by Brian Babineau via Getty Images)
The Boston Celtics are the hot topic around the NBA trading deadline and for good reason. They have a lot of young talented assets and a looming #1 pick in the upcoming 2017 draft (having the rights to swap their first round pick with Brooklyn’s who entered the All-Star break 9-47 with the worst record in all of the NBA). Furthermore, the Celtics look to have a top pick in the 2018 draft (again, thanks to Brooklyn and the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade - and others to the Nets in 2013). The Big Three are still paying dividends, four years after their departure. Moreover, Boston is currently the #1 seed in the Atlantic Division, only 3-games behind the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers, making them an attractive destination. Oh, and they will have money available in the upcoming season.
Celtics fans have been a patient bunch the last couple of years while Danny Ainge has quietly and methodically built the current team from the ground up starting with the hiring of Coach Brad Stevens in 2013. The following year, he acquired Isaiah Thomas in a trade from the Phoenix Suns, for Marcus Thornton and Cleveland’s 2016 first round pick. They have made the playoffs the past two seasons since the acquisition of Thomas and this year, Thomas has become a dynamic offensive threat, posting career highs in points-per-game, 2-pt, 3-pt Field Goal and Free-Throw percentages. What’s more, is he has been doing it in crunch time, creating a buzz that has people pointing to their watch when the 4th-quarter comes around, exclaiming, “You know what time it is?” His team has bought in and so have the fans.
Would you look at the time ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/Jg31tECMwr
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 16, 2021
Isaiah Thomas + 4th quarter = stop what you’re doing and watch that man pic.twitter.com/s0owBF268a
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) 19 януари 2017 г.
Back-to-back seasons, Trader Danny seems to have come out on top in the end. Despite his success, fans have grown impatient, wanting Ainge to land a big man to solve their rebounding and rim protecting deficiencies. Or at least get another consistent scorer to put alongside Thomas. Ainge has been seen as reluctant, but could it be the asking price set from these teams are higher than normal because the do not want to be the next team to be fleeced? No one wants to be the next Brooklyn Nets, who essentially sacrificed their future for one run at a championship. No one wants to be the Phoenix Suns who gave away arguably one of the top 20-players this year for a journeyman coming of the bench. This is what teams like the Sacramento Kings, Indian Pacers and Chicago Bulls were and are facing with DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Giving up a known top-tier player for the unknown, to a team who has embarrassed others in the trade arena.
Patience is Key
Patience is what the Celtics faithful need to continue to possess.
DeMarcus Cousins had fit the bill and could have provided relief to both of the aforementioned ailments of the Celtics, rebounding and a consistent second scorer, but he went to New Orleans to lace them up alongside Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. For the price that Sacramento Kings let Cousins go, maybe his hot-temper and antics were just too much to endure and are not what the Celtics were looking to entertain. Do you want to give up the future like the Nets for a one-year rental, without any commitment beyond next year and possibly destroy the camaraderie and cohesive locker room the Celtics have created, while climbing the Eastern Conference Playoff ladder. People always scoff at the idea of the locker room piece, claiming winning fixes all. Tell that to your friend who cannot stand to work with their colleague. It’s draining. Do you remember the mercurial Rajon Rondo?
Paul George and Jimmy Butler can both provide the consistent offensive 1-2 punch, while being able to defend multiple positions on the perimeter, which until recently the Celtics have had exceptional difficulty with. Additionally, they are fierce competitors, which the Celtics save for Smart and Thomas, could use more of. However, their respective teams are asking a King’s ransom. In addition, both players have two years left on their contract and then become essentially free agents. George is an unrestricted Free Agent and Butler has a player option come 2019. This is something that weighs on GM Danny Ainge’s mind. Ainge was quoted back in a Chris Forsberg article for ESPN as saying, he wants to acquire pieces without uncertainty.
“We’re also looking to acquire players that are already under contract. We really don’t want to get rid of multiple draft picks for players with uncertainty in the free-agent market — a situation like we were in with [Rajon] Rondo. … We’re looking for more certainty.”
I read into that, unless Ainge can get George or Butler to commit beyond the 2019 season before the NBA trading deadline on the 23rd, Celtics fans might need to to take a deep breath, exhale and trust in the process, because he doesn’t want to compromise the team’s future for one year of possibility.
The Celtics have made steady progress the past two years, and seem to be on the upward trend with the roster intact. Waiting one more year on the ping pong balls and free agency may not be all that bad, just ask the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns.