If the Celtics are ever going to be big buyers at a trade deadline, they’re going to have to part with some high-upside pieces to buy in. We’re never going to escape the Demarcus Cousins or Nerlens Noel rumors, and that’s fine, but it’s time to get real about where the Celtics stand. They have no leverage.
It was reported last summer that the Bulls and Celtics were in talks that could send Jimmy Butler to Boston. Supposedly, the Bulls were asking for the 3rd, 16th, and 23rd picks in the draft in addition to Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, AND Jae Crowder. Other rumors stated that the Bulls might have been willing to settle for the 3rd pick and two starting caliber players. Either way, it would have been a massive over-pay for Boston, but that’s another conversation for another day.
Adrian Wojnarowski has recently been quoted on how he thinks that other GMs don’t want to deal with Ainge because he overvalues his players, namely Marcus Smart.
“Just as interesting as the discussion about whom Ainge might target was a point made by Wojnarowski about how Ainge deals with the rest of the league. Wojnarowski seemed to have the sense that teams feel the Celtics overvalue their own players, including Marcus Smart,”
This gives us an interesting two-part story.
Part one: Danny Ainge aggressively tests the market on Draft Day, ultimately turns down a horrible offer from Chicago.
Part two: Wojnarowski alludes to the idea that other GMs think Danny Ainge over values his players.
It would be unfair to assume that Chicago’s management alone planted this idea if Woj’s ear, but, we can flesh out this story a bit more. The Celtics were also reportedly discussing trades with the 76ers, who we can assume has been looking to move Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, or both since last summer. Philly offered some combination of Noel/Okafor, Robert Covington, and 1st round picks for the Celtics third pick, which Boston ultimately declined. With the advantage of hindsight, I would take Jaylen Brown over that package, but the main takeaway is that it leaves the impression that Ainge may have valued the third pick too highly if he turned that deal down.
If I had to take a wild stab at guessing why Adrian Wojnarowski thinks that GMs are unable to find common ground with Danny Ainge, I would have to think it starts with stories like these, and in both scenarios, the Celtics could have easily come out as clear losers in the exchange. Yet, the prevailing narrative is that Ainge is too stingy to make a deal. It doesn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t have to.
Here’s a thing that makes sense: Demarcus Cousins being traded to the Celtics. At the bare minimum, I think the Celtics would have to give up their Brooklyn picks, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Amir Johnson’s contract to swing a deal. Even then, the Kings might want someone like Kelly Olynyk so they could have a core of role players to develop while they build through the draft. That would make sense to me. The Kings, however, to not make sense to me. Trading Tyreke Evans to start Greivis Vasquez over Isaiah Thomas does not, and will not make sense to me. Firing a slew of coaches, including Mike Malone and his mid-December 11-13 record, did not make sense.
I’m not writing this just to trash the Kings, but to illustrate the personalities that Ainge would be dealing with were he to attempt to acquire their best player. Trade season is the wild west in the NBA, and it’s exciting because you don’t know who is going to shoot first.
Honestly, I’m done obsessing over Cousins and Noel. Well, I was until Philadelphia benched Nerlens Noel. This could help push Ainge over his biggest obstacle – leverage. When negotiating, it’s not just about how much Danny values players, but also how much he values winning. The risk he runs with every potential trade is that he could give up a high-potential player for a player who doesn’t quite push the Celtics over the hump. Philadelphia doesn’t currently have that problem because they’re a few years away at best. Sure, Ainge has assets, but I don’t think that gives him leverage. For that reason, I’m not going to expect much in the way of big trades.