BOSTON – Danny Ainge has never been afraid of making a big move. However, as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Thursday afternoon, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations is in a unique spot. Unlike most teams searching the trade market, the Celtics have the assets to make a run at big names on the trade block. However, Boston also has a collection of veterans that could be best served playing for contenders, rather than sub .500 rebuilding team in Beantown.
As Ainge goes through his options in the next 24 hours, he could take a wide variety of paths. Here’s a breakdown of the possibilities.READ MORE: NH Police Searching For Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Elijah Lewis
Celtics become buyers
By this point, we’ve heard all the names. Goran Dragic wants out of Phoenix. Reggie Jackson wants out of Oklahoma City. Ty Lawson can’t get along with his head coach Brian Shaw in Denver. All of these players have to hold appeal for the Celtics, after trading away their own star point guard Rajon Rondo back in December. Ainge also has the assets to make a run at any of them.
Marcus Smart is a big part of this team’s future, but he’s not beholden to the point guard spot. His defensive versatility and developing outside shot make it realistic to think he’ll eventually become just as comfortable at the two spot instead of the point, if necessary.
With that said, any moves for Dragic, Jackson or Lawson create serious risk for Boston. Dragic and Jackson are due to command serious raises upon hitting free agency this summer, and it’s dangerous for Ainge to commit to trading a first-round pick or two to acquire either player if the Celtics aren’t sold on paying each guy top dollar in their next contract.
Lawson is a more affordable option, since he’s signed for next season already, but he’s shown plenty of character issues (including a DUI earlier this season) in Denver that would make acquiring him a roll of the dice.READ MORE: Case Of Rat-Borne Bacterial Disease Identified In Boston
There is also the issue of team performance. Getting significantly better now also will damage Boston’s draft prospects for the 2015 Draft, and that may be reason enough for Ainge to hold off on acquiring a serious roster upgrade until this summer. Will the Celtics have a better opportunity then? That’s what Boston’s front office must figure out on Thursday.
Celtics become sellers
This is the path we expected for Ainge all along, but the trade market appears to be soft for Boston in this department. Players like Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton and Tayshaun Prince are all on expiring contracts and could boost the bench of a playoff team, but each of them also makes a relatively high salary (all over $6.5 million). With plenty of other veterans on the block around the league, it’s hard to find any teams that may be willing to hand over anything of value for Boston’s collection.
As Ainge showed last year by hanging onto Kris Humphries for the duration of the season, he’s not going to give away any of these guys. Bass and Thornton are young enough where it’s not beyond consideration that they would be re-signed next season. Prince likely will ask to be bought out due to his age (34), if he is not dealt, and that appears to be the situation expected.
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Despite plenty of speculation, the smart bet is that the Celtics stand pat on Thursday, or just make a minor facilitating move or two. Ainge likes his flexibility and his draft picks, and holding onto both right now may be the best move for this team as they continue to rebuilding process.