BOSTON — When Danny Ainge decided to stand pat at the trade deadline, there were notable grumblings from within Celtics Nation who were hoping he would strike a deal.
That’s OK, some thought. The buyout market is right around the corner. He'll do something then.
Well, the buyout deadline to add a player who would be eligible for the postseason has come and gone and like the trade deadline, the Celtics once again stood pat.
While there are those who will see it as an indictment of Ainge failing to make a move or two that makes the Celtics better, there’s a couple things you have to understand about today's Celtics and the rest of the NBA landscape.
As constructed, Boston has a roster that has flexibility to compete against teams with size as well as squads whose strength lies in their versatility.
Any move made by the Celtics at the trade deadline or at the buyout deadline would have tilted that flexibility in one direction or the other and thereby made them even more vulnerable to getting a “bad draw” in the playoffs.
If Boston added size but it meant losing a rotation wing in the process, would that added size be enough to compensate for the loss on the perimeter if, let’s say, the Celtics faced the Miami Heat?
Or if Boston went out and added another perimeter scorer, but it cost them at least one big body up front, would that come back and bite them if they had to play, say, a healthy Joel Embiid and Philadelphia in the first round?
We’re not even going to talk about Milwaukee, which continues to play at a level everyone else is trying to catch up to as they steadily move closer towards that 70-win plateau.
Because of Boston’s insistence on not trading away anyone at the trade deadline, that put a much greater emphasis on them finding someone on the buyout market.
When you saw players like Marcus and Markieff Morris take their talents to Los Angeles (Marcus with the Clippers, Markieff with the Lakers), and Marvin Williams of Charlotte latch on with the Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics fans had every reason to be disappointed.
Adding any of those guys via the buyout market would have been a huge plus for Boston.
But here’s the thing.
When a player is bought out and then clears waivers, they become a free agent and because of that they have the option of signing with any team they want.
The opportunity to play and their role on the team are more times than not why players choose certain teams over others.
Any of those aforementioned players weren’t going to play the kind of minutes they would want to in Boston.
Throw in the chemistry issues that last year’s team had, and there’s no way Boston was going to roll the dice on bringing someone in who, while talented, may not be ready to embrace a limited role or one that fluctuates as much as those roles tend to in Boston.
The one player that the Celtics really would have wanted to add via the buyout market, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, never became available.
As much as preserving the current group has factored in Ainge and the Celtics standing pat at the last two deadlines, the overriding reason for them to make no deals was them simply not believing a deal would have made the team better in the short or long term.
One of the keys to any successful postseason run is to have elements of a team that have room to grow.
For the Celtics, their bench doesn’t have to necessarily score more than they are now, but they do have to be more impactful.
Having Marcus Smart with the reserve unit more consistently should help in that regard.
With him being the fill-in whenever a starter can’t go, Smart’s presence bodes well for the first group but it consistently delivers a blow to the reserve unit and what the bench can do from a production standpoint.
And the team’s most talented five — Smart, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward — have played together sparingly this season.
Getting a closer look at them working in concert with one another in the next few weeks should give the Celtics a better sense of what they have to work with going into the playoffs.
This team was built to build upon last season’s squad, to grow into being better than they were last season.
And while part of that growth involves change, you can’t discount the value of standing pat — something Ainge and company believe is the best thing for this squad both in the short and long term of its development.
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