A few things to keep in mind on the slow crawl to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline:
Danny Ainge typically operates in the shadows.
When was the last time Danny Ainge telegraphed his trade activity, especially at the in-season trade deadline? How many reports were out there about Kendrick Perkins getting dealt to Oklahoma City in 2011? Who predicted Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, and Gigi Datome to Boston in 2015?
Because of Boston’s glaring need for shooting and size, it’s been easy to suggest that Harrison Barnes or Aaron Gordon make sense as desired trade targets. But we can’t shake this notion that, if Ainge makes a move, it could just as easily be for someone we didn’t spend nearly as much time pondering.
You can cross Harrison Barnes off the list.
Any hopes of landing Barnes seemed to dry up early Thursday morning when the Kings acquired Delon Wright from the Pistons.
Sacramento added an intriguing piece who could potentially aid a late-season push for a final playoff spot and, in the process, confirmed speculation that they had little interest in being sellers (though someone like Nemanja Bjelica is likely still available at a low-cost price).
Tip of the cap to old friend Kyle Draper, who has been adamant that the Kings wouldn’t sell low on Barnes and would prioritize a playoff push.
Supply and demand is going to inflate prices.
Here’s one reason we’re not particularly bullish on Boston’s chances of landing Gordon: With Barnes likely off the market, and if the Atlanta Hawks elect to hold onto John Collins given their inspired recent play, then Gordon becomes one of the few impact bodies available in a market thin on sellers and overflowing with buyers hoping to beef up their playoff rosters.
Ainge has resisted overpaying for complementary talent in the past and, even if he’s more apt to splurge this season, the price might simply be too rich for Boston’s blood.
Can Celtics take advantage of sellers' market?
Being a seller at the trade deadline typically has a negative connotation. But if the Celtics don’t have a path to infusing surefire upgrades on this roster then Ainge and Co. have to consider trying to move pieces that are contributing to the clutter at the end of a young bench.
If nothing else, it could define the rotation and force coach Brad Stevens to more heavily invest in player development, which ought to be a priority if the Celtics are going to continue to stumble their way through the 2020-21 season.
Could the Celtics thin out some of their center depth by moving Daniel Theis or Tristan Thompson for assets, ensuring consistent time for Robert Williams? Boston should be willing to move any of their free-agents-to-be — Jeff Teague, Javonte Green, and Semi Ojeleye (depending on his injury status) — should any team be interested.
Thinning the roster puts the onus on Stevens to play guys like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford.
The key to salvaging the season is on their roster now.
The Celtics need to examine all possible ways to infuse talent on this roster, if for no other reason than to take some of the stress off the core of this team amid a brutal second-half schedule. But we’ll continue to say it: The trajectory of Boston’s 2020-21 season is unlikely to change much by Thursday’s deadline.
Whatever Boston accomplishes this year hinges more on whether the core of this team is willing to put in the effort necessary to change their inconsistent ways.
Ainge should be aggressive in pursuit of talent but if his ultimate goal is to preserve the Gordon Hayward traded player exception and not splurge on draft assets then the trade deadline could pass with a whimper.
But until the core of this team is willing to play with a more consistent energy and effort, even a player like Gordon is unlikely to improve their chances of postseason success.