The Celtics are good, but they’re just not Championship Good.

Heading into the All-Star Break with a 32-23 record, the Celtics find themselves ranked No. 3 in the East and No. 8 best team in the NBA. But despite their success, even the man in charge, Danny Ainge, knows his team is not a title contender.

“I don’t think that we’re on the same level as Cleveland, San Antonio, and Golden State,” Ainge told 98.5 The SportsHub’s Toucher and Rich. “I do believe the extraordinary is possible, and we’re trying to find a way to improve our team without mortgaging the future or taking unnecessary risks..”

So with the trade deadline looming on February 18, what should Ainge and the Celtics do?

There is not a deal out there that will make this year’s Celtics a championship contender. The Celtics have a good thing going right now. They have forged an identity as a team that never gives up and plays with a chip on its shoulder.

This is a team that plays hard on most nights, which in the NBA allows you to win more than your fair share of regular season games. Also, Brad Stevens is one of the 3 or 4 best coaches in the league.

Trading one of their core players right now could possibly destroy the chemistry the Celtics have going on though the break. But winning in the playoffs is a different beast. You need to have a great player, not just a bunch of good players. Last year’s Atlanta Hawks are a great example of that. They were good enough to win 60 games during the season but did not have the go-to guy to lead the way in the playoffs.

What can this team presently constituted accomplish this year? Winning a playoff series, maybe two, but when they go against LeBron and the Cavs, I don’t see the results being much different than last year’s sweep. So if Ainge is looking to make a deal, that deal has to look into the future and bring in a player who will be a key part of the next championship Celtics team.

Here is my road map for the Celtics to go from good to Championship Good.

1. Identify the core players. The Celtics have 10 good players on this team. No one is great and some are better than others. Ainge needs to figure out who he wants to keep and who will be a trade chip to get an Al Horford type of player. I see no one as untouchable but you have to blow me away for me to give up Jae Crowder or Isaiah Thomas. I love Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, but if they help me bring in a legitimate No. 1 or 2 player, I would trade them.

2. Keep Brooklyn’s No. 1 pick for this year and 2018. Those two picks are the Celtics’ most valuable commodities. The Nets suck now and will still suck in 2018. Those two picks should net the Celtics two picks in the top five and maybe, just maybe, the ping pong balls will fall the right way and get the Celtics the top pick in one of those drafts.

3. Trade for a great player. The Celtics have plenty of trade chips, players on their roster and draft picks other than the Nets picks to bring in a star. Ainge needs to identify that player whether its Horford or Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward and aggressively go out and get that player.

4. How to handle free agency. This is where it gets tricky. We all know that the Celtics have never been able to sign a top level free agent in their prime. But the NBA is different now. Stars want to win. The do not want to go to a warm weather city to lose. They will come here because players love Brad Stevens and the system he runs. They would come here because Ainge will make that trade for a star that, added to the Celtics core, gives them a great chance to be a championship team. That’s why a trade for a star is so important. Not only do you acquire a great player, but it also sends a message to the other stars in the league that the Celtics are serious about winning.

Horford, Griffin, and Hayward are very good players. They are No. 2’s on a championship calibre team. But having them makes it easier for you to recruit that No. 1 type player in free agency. If Kevin Durant wants to move from Oklahoma City and try to win in another city, why not Boston?

5. Keep Brad Stevens. Not only is he one of the 3 or 4 best coaches in the league but he is someone great players will want to play for. Give him a contract extension that keeps him in Boston for a long long time. Send that message to the league.

So Celtics fans, let’s enjoy the last 27 games of the season and the playoffs. No, the C’s will not win Banner No. ,18 this year but thanks to the strides this team has made on the court, and the moves Ainge can make coming up, that championship is not as far away as it appeared when this season began.

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