Why the Celtics cannot trade for Anthony Davis this season

Why the Celtics cannot trade for Anthony Davis this season

The Celtics make their lone visit to New Orleans tonight and, given Boston’s early season struggles, it will invariably be suggested — or maybe daydreamed, is the better word -- that the Celtics ought to find a way to pry Anthony Davis from the Pelicans.

A friendly public service announcement before you waste your entire day on the Trade Machine: The Celtics cannot trade for Davis this season, at least not without moving Kyrie Irving.

The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has a clause for what’s called “designated players,” which was designed to help elite young talent earn a higher percentage of the salary cap when coming off their rookie-scale deals. Nicknamed the “Rose Rule,” in honor of Derrick Rose, players can earn up to 30 percent of the cap by hitting certain benchmarks. 

Both Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis took advantage of this provision while inking their current deals. Here’s the hitch: Teams can only trade for one player extended via the Rose Rule, meaning that Boston cannot currently trade for Davis, having already acquired Irving via trade.

This hurdle should disappear this summer when Irving is expected to opt out of the final year of his current deal and re-sign a max-contract extension with the Celtics. He’ll no longer be a “Rose Rule” guy at that point and Boston would be able to pursue any such player via trade.

Yes, the Celtics could currently entertain a trade where Irving and Davis were swapped, but that seems highly unlikely.

Davis’ future will remain a hot topic around the NBA, even though he can’t trigger his own early termination option until after the 2019-2020 season. Still, if the Pelicans struggle to contend and Davis eventually expresses public frustration, it could encourage the Pelicans to explore deals in fear of losing him as a free agent further down the road.

Like Boston, New Orleans is a disappointing 10-10, and sits on the fringe of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Still, it’s in the Pelicans’ best interest to try to examine moves to make their team a legitimate contender while they have Davis.

It’s worth remembering, too, that the Celtics’ future-assets treasure chest isn’t quite as glitzy as it once seemed. Boston’s ace card has been the future first-round pick it acquired from the Sixers as part of the Jayson Tatum swap in the summer of 2017. The Kings are set to convey their first-round pick to Boston in the upcoming draft, so long as it’s not the top overall selection.

But Sacramento is one of the surprising teams in the league, sitting above .500 entering Sunday’s action. It would seem likely that the Kings will eventually fall back to Earth and their pick is still projected as a lottery selection. But it simply might not be as high as many anticipated coming into the year.

The Celtics could have as many as four first-round picks in next year’s draft but only because, like the Kings, some of the teams that owe them selections have overachieved thus far. Boston is also set to collect picks from Memphis (if 7+) and the Los Angeles Clippers (if 15+). 

Boston is still in line to have all four of those picks but here’s the sobering part: Their best selection, at that moment, would have been their own at No. 16 (the Kings, Grizzlies, and Clippers picks were all 18+).

The Celtics still have plenty of young talent to work with in any potential trade packages that would also include future picks, but it’s getting harder to see a path to acquiring an elite talent without Boston having to give up some of its best young players in those deals.

All of which only reaffirms: Step away from the Trade Machine. Davis isn’t coming this season. Let’s see how this year plays out for all parties and those daydreams can always start again in the summer.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

For Day 3 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our panel to take a trip to the hardware store and predict which Celtics player might bring home some of the NBA’s hardware by winning a postseason award.

Outside of maybe only Most Valuable Player, there’s an argument to be made that a Celtics player, coach, or executive could muscle their way into the conversation for the league’s other top honors. Alas, you’d have to rewind to the 2007-2008 season to find the last time the Celtics found themselves in that spotlight when Kevin Garnett won Defensive Player of the Year and Danny Ainge was Executive of the Year.

Celtics players haven’t muscled their way into the voting much in recent seasons. Last year, only Marcus Smart charted on an award while finishing eighth in Defensive Player of the Year. Jayson Tatum was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017-18, while Al Horford was fifth in Defensive Player of the Year balloting that season. Isaiah Thomas was fifth in both MVP and Most Improved voting for the 2016-17 campaign.

But if the Celtics are to outkick most prognosticator’s expectations this season, they’ll need someone on their roster to at least vault into the conversation for these awards.

So who is most likely to earn themselves a shiny trophy?

Our vote went to Marcus Smart for Sixth Man of the Year. With the glut of wing depth this season, we believe there’s a strong chance that Smart will initially shuffle back to his familiar bench role, allowing coach Brad Stevens to trot out a versatile starting lineup featuring Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and a big (with Enes Kanter the early favorite to hold that starter job initially).

Stevens has long preferred to deploy Smart in a reserve role, allowing Smart to set the tone for the second unit while also providing another ball-handler for the second group. The Celtics went away from that last season when Smart elevated from a bench role in November and started 60 games overall. Kyrie Irving routinely advocated for Smart, noting how much he enjoyed playing alongside him at the start of games, which only solidified Smart’s spot with the first unit.

A similar script could certainly unfold this season. But it would be the most Marcus Smart thing if he’s the player that embraces shuffling to the second unit and allows Hayward, Tatum, and Brown to play with the first group.

Yes, the Sixth Man award tends to honor a high-scoring player on one of the league’s top teams. But if the Celtics overachieve this season, there will be extra attention on the player(s) that spearheaded the second unit. Smart, with his All-Defense pedigree and improving offensive efficiency, could dive into the conversation for Sixth Man the same way he pounces on a loose ball.

Abby Chin: Gordon Hayward, Sixth Man of the Year

I believe Hayward will be almost — if not fully — back to his Utah self this season. But, with the glut of talent on the wing, and Hayward's ability to facilitate the offense on that second unit, it might make the most sense for him to come off the bench again. I think Hayward will finish games on the court, he just may not start there.


Sherrod Blakely: Brad Stevens, Coach of the Year

The Celtics will finish with a record that exceeds the expectations of many, and will include wins over East favorites Philly and Milwaukee.


Max Lederman: Gordon Hayward, Most Improved

Hayward has been in the lab all summer working on getting back to the player he was before the injury. He had a few flashes last season, but was a shell of his former self. I know this award tends to go to a young breakout player but I think a really strong start to the season could make some folks consider taking a different approach with their votes.

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Isaiah Thomas out 6 to 8 weeks after latest injury for ex-Celtics star

Isaiah Thomas out 6 to 8 weeks after latest injury for ex-Celtics star

Isaiah Thomas just can't seem to stay healthy since leaving the Boston Celtics two years ago.

Thomas underwent left thumb surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks as he recovers, the Washington Wizards announced.

Thomas suffered the injury -- a rupture of the radial collateral ligament in his thumb -- during "routine workouts" Monday, according to the team.

It's another tough break for the 30-year-old point guard, who's appeared in a total of 76 games over the last three seasons due to a nagging hip injury that required surgery last March.

Thomas' hip injury, which he sustained during his career season for the Celtics in 2016-17, essentially derailed his career to date, as he's bounced between the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets since then.

Thomas finally appeared healthy after signing with the Wizards in July, but it appears his Washington debut will have to wait. The Celtics' first matchup with the Wizards isn't until Nov. 13 -- exactly eight weeks from Wednesday -- so there's a chance Thomas can return for a Boston reunion.

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