BOSTON (CBS) — For a variety or reasons, the Celtics have been a mixed bag to start the 2020-21 season. Boston currently sits at 11-9 on the campaign, which isn’t horrible, but it is far from great.

Kemba Walker’s bad knee, Jayson Tatum missing games with COVID, and injuries to Payton Pritchard and Marcus Smart certainly haven’t helped Boston’s cause. It also doesn’t help that they are not a very good defensive team at the moment, which has been one of the the Celtics’ best attributes over the last few seasons.

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The Celtics have, at times, shown that they could be a contender if they put it all together, but they currently don’t feel like a complete team. At least Danny Ainge has an ace up his sleeve in the monster Traded Player Exception that Boston received when Gordon Hayward left town to sign with the Charlotte Hornets over the offseason. Ainge has an extra $28 million or so to work with in terms of adding to the roster.

“We are doing research on it and have been all year ,and we’ll continue all the way up to the trade deadline at the end of March,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “That’s the sweet spot, most likely, is latter March.

“We’d do it right now if we had a really good deal. But the challenge is that deals you could do to incrementally change your team could be done shortly, in the next week or two, but are you passing up a chance that would be better down the road?” added Ainge. “That’s what we have to identify.”

That response will certainly lead to some Celtics fans letting out a big groan, given Ainge’s reluctance to swing trades at the deadline in recent years. But rest assured, he plans on using the TPE to improve this year’s club.

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Injuries have not altered Ainge’s plan to wait for the best deal, since Payton Pritchard will be back soon and Marcus Smart is expected to be return from his calf injury in a few weeks. He also has an ideal type of player in mind for the TPE. Finding that player will be the toughest part.

“I would say maybe shooting, with size,” Ainge said of his priorities. “There are a lot of different ways you can win in this league. We could use shooting, we could use passing. But you always need defense and our team is built on defense. We’ve been winning with defense the last few years. I know we haven’t won a championship, but we need defense.

“It’s hard to find a shooter that can’t guard anybody and expect that person to come in and make a major change on our team,” he said. “We’re looking for complete players. But I think that shooting at the big position is something we haven’t had.”

So it does not sound like Ainge will look to add Pelicans sharpshooter JJ Redick, who wants to be dealt to a team in the northeast. While he fills the shooting part of Ainge’s wish list, Redick leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end.

One intriguing name that has been circling the rumor mill is Kings small forward Harrison Barnes, who scored 24 points off 6-for-16 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in Sacramento’s win over Boston on Wednesday night. Barnes is signed for two more years at descending money, and while he’s certainly an option, he wouldn’t really help in the size and defense department.

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As is usually the case with Ainge, using the TPE will likely come down to the buzzer, and probably result in a deal that no one expects.

CBSBoston.com Staff