With the trade deadline fast approaching, the entire NBA world is carefully watching the Boston Celtics, the most intriguing team in the league.
Armed with an abundance of draft picks, a crop of young talent and a few key expiring contracts, the Celtics (32-23; third in the East) have a war chest big enough to potentially land the superstar needed to make a run at the Cavaliers and reach the Finals.
And so, as it stands, the entire landscape of the NBA hangs in their balance.
Let’s take a closer look at the assets the Celtics have, and on whom they might use them.
General manager Danny Ainge has hoarded draft picks like a doomsday prepper would canned food: Between this year’s draft and 2020, the Celtics have multiple first and second round picks every year.
Many of the picks are contingent upon other teams’ records (you can take a look at all the picks over at RealGM) but there are a few especially notable draft picks: The unprotected 2016 first-round pick from Dallas, and the unprotected 2016 and 2017 first-round picks from Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn picks are especially intriguing, given the all-around dysfunction of the Nets. This season Brooklyn is one of the three worst teams in the league, meaning their pick (which belongs to Boston) could result in the first overall pick in the draft. The same could be true next year, too.
Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, James Young, Jarred Sullinger, R.J. Hunter, Terry Rozier … the entire Celtics roster is made up of relatively young, relatively solid role players, many of whom are “3-and-D” guys who would nicely complement a team with more established scorers.
Just about every player is on the table, also.
In terms of the logistics of an actual trade, the expiring contracts are crucial. In order for a team to land a big-name player via a trade, the two teams need to match the salaries. While the draft picks and young players will be the centrepiece to any trade the Celtics make, they will need to include expiring contracts (David Lee, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Jerebko, say) in order to match salaries and make the trade actually work.
The Celtics are reportedly quite high on Kevin Love, but he isn’t the only high profile player that Boston is interested in. The Clippers are reportedly shopping Blake Griffin, and the Celtics have already called Doc Rivers to inquire. The Hawks are reportedly considering blowing up their team, making Al Horford a possible target for the Celtics. There is a permanent question-mark around DeMarcus Cousins.
Ultimately, the question becomes whether any of these aforementioned teams would be willing to part ways with their star player in exchange for draft picks and young players. Teams know exactly what they have with their current stars, whereas draft picks (even lottery picks) always come with some hesitation.
But on the flip side, the Warriors may be so dominant that teams will feel they are better off developing and building around young talent in order to have a real shot at wining later, whenever the window in Golden State closes.
The Celtics have the power to shake up the entire league, and if they realise teams are biting on their ideas, they also have the power to be the third team that is often needed to complete big trades elsewhere. The advantage of doing this would be to stockpile more assets for down the road, like this offseason or next offseason, when a dizzying number of players will hit free agency.
In the end, the Celtics are only half (or even a third) of the equation needed to actually change the NBA landscape as we know it. The question is whether other teams will meet them at the table. The good news is that we’ll know by the end of the week.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.