Boston Celtics NBA Trade Deadline: Your move, Danny Ainge

Boston Celtics Danny Ainge (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics Danny Ainge (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /

The trade deadline arrives at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, February 7. The decisions Danny Ainge makes in the next few hours may determine the Boston Celtics’ future for many years to come.

While Sam Hinke and the Philadelphia 76ers will always be associated with “The Process,” the Boston Celtics, and their ever patient Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, have spent the last few years following a process of their own.

Ainge’s process resembled that of the “one red paperclip,” where a single, likely used paperclip ultimately begat a house. As Marcus Thornton and Dwight Powell begat Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, who then begat Kyrie Irving, the timeline of the process shifted, but the endgame remains the same: to hang banner No.18 in the rafters.

At times, Ainge has also seemed almost as single-minded in his patient pursuit of the New Orleans Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis as the centerpiece of the next championship team. But now that Davis is available, will Ainge be able to cash in his chips and bring the Brow to Boston? Or should he?

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The Brow Comes to Boston?

That depends on two primary factors. The first is whether or not the Pelicans are willing to wait until the summer to move Davis. Because teams are prohibited from having more than one player signed to a “Rose Rule” extension, the Celtics cannot acquire Davis without also trading away Irving. That means teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and others are free to make their best offers while Ainge waits on the sidelines.

Well, that is, if the Celtics don’t also decide to trade Irving now. Just a few short weeks ago, that idea was laughable. But with Irving’s ambiguous response to whether or not he’s still committed to resigning with Boston looming over a challenging season, it’s no longer unthinkable that Ainge might want to quietly shop his surly star. Given Irving’s friendship with Davis, however, shipping Irving out of town would seem a peculiar way to convince Davis to stay.

The second factor is whether or not Ainge is willing to include Jayson Tatum in their offer for Davis. It’s been an uneven sophomore campaign for Tatum, but, aside from landing the 1st overall pick (and Zion Williamson) in next year’s draft, he represents the Pelicans’ best shot at replacing a current all-star with a future one. As such, he’s also Ainge’s trump card to ensure his offer is the one accepted.

However, with the Gordon Hayward formerly known as an all-star making only occasional appearances and Al Horford not getting any younger, Tatum also represents the Celtics’ best chance at a new Big Three. Combining Tatum with Irving and Davis is likely Ainge’s most promising path to toppling the Golden State Warriors (or anyone else) in the Finals.

Here and Now

Meanwhile the Celtics have finally caught fire, winning 12 of their last 13 games to ascend to third in the Eastern Conference. While the Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers are all very good teams, this Celtics squad is absolutely capable of beating any and all of them. So even as Ainge plans for 2020 and beyond, he might also consider an upgrade or two to improve their chances of reaching their first NBA Finals since 2010. If nothing else, with Aron Baynes sidelined again, the Celtics could use another big.

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So the next few hours could well set the Boston Celtics course for next few years. Danny Ainge has his hands full and some very tough decisions to make. Indeed, it was way back in 2014 that Wyc Grousbeck first speculated about the potential for fireworks. Five years later, it seems there may yet be more fireworks to come.