A quiet, albeit stressful, trade deadline came and went for the Celtics last week. Given Boston’s plethora of assets to offer at this week’s trade deadline, anxiety was high among Boston fans as the deadline approached. Despite the almost shocking media cry for Danny Ainge to make a move, he wisely passed on mortgaging the Celtics’ very promising future. There are times when you go for it and others when you sit back and wait. Here’s why patience was a no-brainer for the Celtics.
Ainge had little reason to make a deal at this point in time. Why give up anything at all when you have a top pick coming and at least $30 million in cap space this summer? Make the pick, hopefully for a guy who can take some of the playmaking load off Thomas, and try to sign a free agent (Gordon Hayward?). Regardless if the pick is No. 1 or No. 4, impact players will be available. Don’t discount the second round pick they own from Minnesota either when a guy named Draymond Green was drafted right around where that pick is likely to land. They own two other second rounders this year. Strike out in free agency this summer, fine, you can always circle back to trade talks. Ainge would be in a better position to bargain at that point anyway, especially with Indiana and Paul George given he will be a half season closer to free agency and entering his walk year.
One name that seemed to come a lot this week was Jae Crowder. For people wondering why the Celtics are so reluctant to deal him, consider this: He’s on the books for three years after this for a grand total of approximately $22 million. For comparison, Allen Crabbe, a clearly inferior player to Crowder, will make $19.3 million for the Portland Trailblazers in 2018 ALONE! It’s one of the league’s best contracts and one that will come in handy once the Celtics have obtained the stars they need. Same thing for guys like Jaylen Brown and future top picks.
There seems to be this opinion that Isiah Thomas and Al Horford should have been given help now because they are not getting any younger. However, Thomas is entering his prime and Horford should age well with his cerebral game. He’s never really relied on his athleticism. You could argue that the Celtics have yet to see what this current roster is capable of given basically all of their starters (Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Isiah Thomas and Avery Bradley) have missed multiple weeks this season due to injury. Yet, they still sit 17 games over .500 two games out of the All Star break. They could still add a buyout player without giving up anything, with Terrence Jones appearing to be the most attainable option.
Given the Celtics’ five first round picks in ’18 and ’19, doesn’t next year seem like the time for a megadeal? The best GMs know when to collect assets and when they have to decide on who to retain. Ainge knows, despite the Celtics’ success the past two seasons, that he is still in the asset collection stage. There is not a core player on the roster who he has to make a decision on this summer. If Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko do not resign, the Celtics will be looking at roughly $30 million in cap space this summer. The second year of Tyler Zeller’s deal is non-guaranteed if he is waived before July 1, a move that would create $8 million more in cap space. Continue to add pieces and when the time comes to decide who to keep, they will have plenty of first round picks to sweeten any deal. This is a house money year for the Celtics, and Ainge acted accordingly at the deadline. Don’t get used to the inactivity, Celtics fans.