BOSTON -- When Danny Ainge decided to bring back the core group from a year ago, he did so with the intent on keeping the band together all season to compete for a title now.
And while the Celtics haven’t had the kind of regular season success many anticipated, that intent still seems to be the strong sentiment when it comes potentially breaking up the core.
But even though Anthony Davis appears to officially be on the block -- according to comments made by Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski -- the Celtics are probably less inclined to strike a deal at the trade deadline.
Any potential deal at next month's deadline might weaken their chances at landing Davis, something they're well aware of. Because of that, they're hesitant to shake up this roster in any way.
In what has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA this season, the Celtics are very interested in Davis and have quietly been gathering the kind of assets on the two levels that matter most -- talented players and high draft picks-- a team like the Pelicans would want if they have to trade Davis, which appears to be the case now.
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However, the (Derrick) Rose rule prevents the Celtics from trading for Davis while Kyrie Irving is under his current contract.
The Rose rule allows a player coming off his rookie deal to sign a new max contract for 30 percent of the salary cap, with one caveat: You can’t have two players signed via the Rose rule on the roster at the same time, which means the Celtics would have to trade Irving in order to add Davis. That's something Boston has has shown no interest in doing.
Once Irving signs a new contract with Boston this summer, a spot would be opened for Davis. So that leaves the Celtics hoping that their multi-faceted war chest of assets -- young, talented players, proven veterans and multiple draft picks -- will be enough to keep New Orleans from swinging a deal sooner.
That’s going to be extremely difficult for the Pelicans to do, especially with everyone now knowing that Davis wants out and teams across the NBA landscape looking to put forth strong, competitive trade packages that they hope will entice them to swing a deal.
However, there’s one X-factor in all this that Davis’ agent alluded to in his comments to ESPN.
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“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” he said.
If that is in fact what he’s looking for and the Pelicans are willing to wait for the absolute best offer possible, that bodes well for Boston’s chances of landing what many believe would be the missing piece to securing Banner 18.
His size, length, versatility and impact are exactly what the Celtics need going forward, not just to get out of the East but also to provide the stiffest challenge to two-time defending NBA champion Golden State, which is looking very much like it will three-peat this season.
The C's have a unique roster with the kind of depth and flexibility that would allow them to trade a couple of high impact performers and be even stronger with the addition of Davis.
While there has been much talk about Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as being central to any trade involving the Celtics and the Pelicans, understand that New Orleans is also in the market for a veteran leader to help shepherd what will be an even younger, less experienced group toward what has to be their goal at this point, which is to get to the playoffs.
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And that’s where Al Horford has to be given some consideration as to be included in such a deal.
Boston loves what he brings to the floor in terms of leadership and the ability to stretch the floor from the center position. But in Davis, you get those same skills at a higher, more consistent level in a younger, more athletic body.
And for New Orleans, Horford is an 11-year veteran who has been a central figure in helping his team get to the playoffs every year.
Adding a player with that kind of cache is huge.
Boston also has as many as four, first-round picks in this year’s draft with at least one -- Sacramento’s first-round pick -- likely to be a lottery (top-14) pick. And the Celtics have plenty of talented young players to include in a deal as well.
So the issue isn’t whether Boston can come up with the kind of trade package to get New Orleans to the table. The issue is whether the Pelicans are willing to wait until this summer, or will Davis’ camp announcing he wants out make New Orleans feel as though they have to get a deal done now.
Regardless of how the Davis situation unfolds, the Celtics have set themselves up to be one of the better teams in the East for years to come.
It’s just a matter of whether Davis will be part of that future or not.
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