After weeks of trade rumors swirling regarding the likes of Jimmy Butler and Paul George, another NBA Trade Deadline came and passed with the Boston Celtics making no moves.
It’s been almost three years since Celtics owner, Wyc Grousbeck said that there could be some, “fireworks,” and in that time the Celtics biggest moves have been the acquisition of PG Isaiah Thomas and F Al Horford. Many Celtics fans, like myself, get caught up in the word, “fireworks,” and fully expected it to translate into a star player. While no disrespect to Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford (the latter being more of a sparkler rather than a firework), they are not the caliber of players that are going to win a championship-they can be very important pieces, but not THE pieces. With what is likely going to turn into two Top-5 picks over the next two years (thank you, Brooklyn), and a myriad of other assets, the Celtics were in prime position to bring in either the missing piece or a key player that can help deliver the missing piece.
Let’s take a look at the deals that the Celtics had in front of them:
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls:
This seemed like the mostly scenario. While the Bulls are technically a playoff team, they are in the midst of a rebuilding stage. With an aging roster, they still had the ability to get a great return on guys like Butler, Dwayne Wade, Taj Gibson (who was dealt to the Thunder), which could have accelerated the rebuilding process. By keeping Butler, the Bulls could be telling him that they are going to build around the young forward. However, Chicago has never been a major free agent destination, so if they are hoping to lure stars to the Windy City, they may have a difficult time (assuming he re-signs after the 2019 season-he will most certaintly opt-out of his current deal). Had they traded away Butler, they could have had at least one of the Celtics top picks, as well as a two or three player combination of Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.
There is nothing worse than being a middling team in the NBA, so if you have the opportunity to fast-forward a rebuilding process, you have to take a shot. While Jimmy Butler is a very good player, and will continue to get better, he is not the generational talent that you build around. The Bulls could be making a very costly mistake by not pulling the trigger on a deal that could have brought them quite the haul.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers:
As the clock ticked down to the 3pm deadline, this deal seemed more likely to happen. There were plenty of rumors that this was the deal that was going to come down to the final minute. However, with about an hour to go before the deadline ended, a report came out from USA Today’s Sam Amick, that Paul George is, “hell-bent on heading for Laker-land.” If this is true, I cannot blame the Celtics for not making this deal. If you’re Boston, the last thing you can afford to do is lose your prize acquisition to your arch-nemesis. This deal was likely going to cost at least one of the Nets picks, if not both, as well as a three-player combination of Avery Bradley, Crowder, Smart, and Brown. While it is true that you have to give up something to get something (apparently unless you’re trading for DeMarcus Cousins), that would be a hefty price to pay for a guy that you would be losing after only a year-and-a-half.
Other names that the Celtics were linked to were Andre Drummond (Detroit), PJ Tucker (Phoenix, traded to Toronto), Andrew Bogut/ (Dallas, traded to Philadelphia-likely to be bought-out), Nerlens Noel (Philadelphia, included in the deal for Bogut)
While it’s unlikely that any of these deals would have put them over the Lebron-sized hump, any of these players could have made an impact in the playoffs. Instead, the Celtics will continue to hitch their season onto 5’9 Isaiah Thomas. So now, in a best-case scenario, the Celtics make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, and can prove to free agents that THEY are the one missing piece to beat the Cavs. Worst-case scenario, the Celtics first round opponent find a way to shut down Thomas, like the Hawks did last year, and they are out in the first round again.
But hey, then we get to talk about, “fireworks,” all over again until Draft Night.