BOSTON -- We are nearing the 11th hour of the trade deadline, and it’s pretty clear that the Celtics have honed in on Indiana’s Paul George.
CELTICS AT THE TRADE DEADLINE
- Woj: Celtics agree to send Nets' 2017 pick to Indiana if deal for Paul George can be completed
- CSN PHILLY: 76ers trade Noel to Mavs in package that includes Andrew Bogut
- Woj: Sixers may send Bogut to Celtics
While some may wonder why in the world would Celtics great Larry Bird would consider trading a four-time All-Star who is just 26 years old, flash back to All-Star weekend in New Orleans.
That’s when George, who can become a free agent after the 2017-18 season, made it clear he wanted to play for a team that’s positioned to contend and would not commit to signing an extension with the Pacers this summer.
We call that a red flag warning. He's at the very least open to the idea of potentially moving on if the Pacers don’t pick up the pace and start winning more games.
And Bird, to his credit, has scoured the NBA landscape looking for deals to bolster the Pacers and elevate them beyond their current sixth-place standing in the East.
Because as they are constructed now, it’s hard to imagine them finding a way to leapfrog Cleveland, Boston, Washington or Toronto.
And the prospect of jumping ahead of Atlanta seems a bit far-fetched as well.
If they can’t satisfy George’s desire to be on a more competitive, upper-echelon team, they might as well get some value for him before he leaves for nothing.
And unlike the Chicago Bulls, the Pacers actually have a player they can build around -- Myles Turner -- going forward if they decide to move on.
But moving on can be a painful process.
However, armed with an established centerpiece (Turner) going forward, Indiana’s suffering can be lessened significantly with one of the top picks in the draft . . . like the pick Boston will get the right to swap with Brooklyn this year. The Nets will likely finish with the worst record in the NBA, giving whoever owns their pick a legit shot at one of the top-two picks.
Even if it falls all the way to No. 4 overall, Indiana would still be able to add a difference-maker to its roster along with what will likely be a couple of solid Celtics players.
As for Boston, George gives them the megawatt superstar that all those assets -- draft picks, developed players -- were supposed to deliver at some point.
Of course, Boston runs the risk of losing him after the 2017-18 season.
But the Celtics are banking on winning George over with the franchise’s on-the-rise culture that’s only getting stronger with time; a chance to play with another elite scorer in Isaiah Thomas, and a chance to play for coach Brad Stevens, who made a very strong impression on many of the top players during All-Star weekend.
Of course this is all assuming that the C's can put together a package to Indiana’s liking, and that will still leave them with a roster that’s capable of competing at the highest levels.
Regardless of how this all plays out, the fact that the Celtics once again find themselves in the running for one of the game’s top players (Al Horford and Kevin Durant last summer, now Paul George and Jimmy Butler to a lesser degree) speaks to how this franchise is definitely headed in the right direction.
And the addition of a player like George would do more than just make them a more talented team in the present. It gives them a bona fide, unquestioned star for the future, a future that’s looking brighter with each passing day.