BOSTON (CBS) — Danny Ainge has his sights set on building a talented young core that can develop into a perennial contender, and his attempted dealings at the trade deadline are one more example of him trying to achieve that goal.
Ainge told the Sports Hub on Friday that the Celtics had a proposed blockbuster deal on the table with a mystery team before that squad pulled out of discussions ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald revealed the target of that reported offer late Friday: Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor was the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke in the 2015 NBA Draft for Philadelphia, despite a crowded Philly frontcourt that includes young players such as Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.
Despite some ugly off-court issues, Okafor has shown himself to be an offensive stud at age 20, averaging a team-high 17.1 ppg for Sixers in 43 games.
It remains to be seen whether that trio will be a long-term fit together, which explains the willingness by Sam Hinkie to consider said deal.
With Embiid sidelined for the last two seasons though, the team’s brass hasn’t had a chance yet to properly evaluate whether the big men compliment each other well on the floor.
Ainge acknowledged that the Celtics’ 2016 first-round pick from Brooklyn was included as part of the trade package with the mystery team, showing the Celtics were willing to bet on an unproven piece in Okafor with plenty of promise for the future.
While the Sixers weren’t willing to pull the trigger on a potential move now, it sounds like discussions could be revisited sometime in the offseason.
“Before we got Kevin Garnett it was something that we talked about for two years, so you just never know what might happen later,” Ainge said on 98.5. “So we’ll keep at it. I feel good that we still have a lot of good young players — a lot of good, young players on good contracts, a team that’s playing really well, a great coach, and we have a lot of assets.
“So we’ll just see how it goes the next time around this summer.”
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.