The Boston Celtics are one of the teams to keep a close eye on as the March 25 NBA trade deadline approaches.
The C's own a 17-17 record with the All-Star break coming up at the end of the week. Just a few days ago, the C's were under .500 after 32 games for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
The Celtics need to make some sort of move before the trade deadline, and one area that must be improved is bench scoring. The Celtics rank 27th in points from reserve players at 31.8 per game.
Boston holds its own when the starters on the court. The C's rank 12th at 79.1 points per game scored among starting players, led by the team's two All-Stars Jayson Tatum (25.2 points per game) and Jaylen Brown (25 points per game).
Surrounding these two stars with the right amount of depth has been a challenge for the C's in 2021.
Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would like to make a move to improve the roster for the second half of the season and the playoffs, but it doesn't sound like he's interested in making a deal just to do one.
"If there's players we can get that can put us over the top and keep us under the hard cap, we'll do a deal that falls into that category," Ainge told ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "But we're not going to do it for a band-aid, or somebody that maybe, maybe, will help us a game or two."
What kind of assets does Ainge have to trade?
The Celtics have a $28.5 trade exception created from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets last offseason. They also own all their current and future draft picks, in addition to a roster full of players drafted in the first round over the last couple years -- such as Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith.
The C's don't have to use their trade exception during the season. It can be used in the offseason, too, and it might be worth waiting if there are better players available in the summer than there are now.
But that doesn't change the fact that the Celtics need to add someone before the trade deadline. This team does not have the required amount of shooting, scoring and depth to win a championship.
The Eastern Conference is mostly wide open -- only the Brooklyn Nets look like a truly elite team. A meaningful upgrade could push the Celtics back into the top tier of the East and help the team make another deep run in the playoffs.