Anyone waiting for the Boston Celtics to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade better, well, keeping waiting.
General manager Danny Ainge says the team is working the phones, but no deal is imminent, per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) January 5, 2017
This has pretty much been Ainge’s party line for the past couple years. The Celtics, along with the Denver Nuggets, have the most intriguing non-star trade assets in the NBA. Jaylen looks like a legit high-end prospect; Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley are on two of the league’s best contracts; ditto for All-Star Isaiah Thomas; Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko make for good salary filler; and Boston has amassed a huge assortment of picks, including the rights to each of the Brooklyn Nets’ next two choices, by way of a swap in 2017 and outright ownership in 2018.
But just because the Celtics are primed for a blockbuster trade doesn’t mean they’re going to make one. There is no real urgency behind consolidating their assets. After all, why should they roll the dice when there isn’t a foreseeable deal out there that doesn’t bridge the gap between them and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even if Paul George and Jimmy Butler became available, you can argue it’s not worth it to the Celtics to chase after them hard. If they can obtain a star without touching any players of immediate consequence, using only draft picks and some prospects, fine. Otherwise, it’s best for them to stand pat, contend for one of the East’s top-three playoff seeds and wait for the right deal to come along.
Of course, Bradley and Thomas are both slated for free agency in 2018, at which point the Celtics will have to pay big money to retain either of them. Those contracts will eat into their cap flexibility, leaving them more dependent on incumbent, so there is something of a clock on their leverage. Still, even that’s no reason for them to rush into or aggressively seek a blockbuster deal. They need to let it come to them, in time, in hopes they won’t have to fork over as many assets for whomever they’re acquiring.