BOSTON -- As much as the rumor mill churns out smoke signals that a deal involving the Celtics is forthcoming, multiple league sources have indicated that Boston’s eagerness to pull the trigger on a trade has done little to get teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and the Sacramento Kings to budge in their resistance to moving players targeted by the C's.
And the reason I’m told is quite simple.
“You win with players, not picks,” one assistant GM told CSNNE.com. “Boston has lots of picks and some good players. But there’s not a great player on that roster. And the players you (media) guys keep writing and talking about that they’re interested in, are great players. [Celtics president Danny Ainge] will tell you, it’s not easy making trades. And when it comes to great players, it’s even harder to acquire them no matter how many picks you offer up.”
The consensus among league executives spoken to by CSNNE.com is that the most likely trade for Boston will be one in which they wind up with Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.
“From the moment Philly drafted Ben [Simmons], everyone around the league knew that they would have to trade a big, either Okafor or Nerlens [Noels],” an NBA scout told CSNNE.com. “Okafor is the better scorer; it’s not even close really. But Nerlens has that ability to run the floor and can protect the rim. Those two qualities . . . you can’t have enough guys in the frontcourt who call those two skills, strengths. That’s why Okafor is the more expendable player.”
The two teams were reportedly close to getting a deal done on draft night, and league sources claim both have kept the door ajar to getting a deal done between now and the start of training camp.
“[Okafor] would help Boston, obviously,” said a league official. “But it’s clear that Boston isn’t looking to just add a player who can make them better. They’re looking for a guy who can come in and make an immediate impact in a really, really big way. Okafor’s good, but I don’t think he’s that kind of guy for that team.”
And then there's the off-the-court concerns with Okafor, who was involved in a fighting incident in Boston following a Sixers loss to the Celtics last season.
Ainge has never been one averse to taking a chance on a player. But he’s never been one to gamble just for the sake of gambling, either.
It has to be the right player, at the right time who provides the right fit that makes rolling the dice on them a chance worth taking.
There is no doubt Ainge and company are eager to get a blockbuster-type trade done, the kind that will immediately transform the Celtics into one of the better teams in the NBA.
But, as we’ve seen, those deals are few and far between.
A third league official said Ainge is doing what he always does this time of year -- biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to snare the biggest fish that “no one sees coming.”
“I have no idea who that big fish is,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “But Danny knows there have to be certain circumstances in play that make guys available who wouldn’t be if you just went by talent. That’s how they got Ray Allen. That’s how they got KG (Kevin Garnett). Even Isaiah Thomas a couple years ago was about circumstance more than anything else. He’s looking for something like that now.”
And as we’ve seen with Ainge, he doesn’t mind waiting around for that opportunity to present itself.
When it does, he’ll be ready.
And based on the caliber of players Boston is trying to haul in now, it’ll be the kind of addition that will make those much-talked about fireworks we’ve been waiting to see finally come to fruition.