The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. With the awful All Star Game a thing of the past, the rumors are starting to heat up.

Who are the Celtics in on?

The Boston Herald’s longtime basketball writer Steve Bulpett spoke with Danny Ainge about what he hopes to accomplish.

“When I’m looking at players out there, I’m looking at players that can make a big difference,” Ainge told the Herald, “not players that can win us two games or anything like that. That’s not my objective.

“Our objective is not to keep us in the No. 3 seed in the East and maybe move up a bit, other than that’s our players’ objective and that’s our coaches’ objective. I think those are amazing goals, and it’s been fun watching this team compete and beating some of the good teams along the way. But our objective is to put together a team that can compete for championships.”

So who could that player be?

Bulpett wrote that the Celtics are one of many teams to inquire about Clippers forward Blake Griffin. It would take quite a haul for the Clippers to part with Griffin. And it makes more sense for the Clippers to trade him after the season. Doc Rivers hopes to compete for a championship this year and LA’s chances are much better with Griffin than without him but this could be a trade the Celtics can pursue after the season.

What about Kevin Love?

Danny Ainge loves his game and would like nothing better to see Love wearing Green. Love never seems like he fits in with Cleveland as he is always their third option no matter how hard the team tries to get him involved in their offense.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports that the Cavs are looking for a “star-studded” package for Love. The Celtics best trading chips are their draft picks. Cleveland is in a win-now mode so it doesn’t seem like the Celtics and Cavs are a match at the trade deadline. If Cleveland does not win it all this year, the Love-to-Boston deal could be revisited this summer.

Rudy Gay is another name to keep an eye on. The Sacramento Kings are dysfunctional and Ainge could pick their pockets. Gay is a scorer at the small forward position. He is averaging 18 points per game and has two more years left on his contract at reasonable dollars. He is one of those players who can make a difference in both the short and long-term for the Celtics.

Al Horford is another player who helps both in the short and long term. The key with Horford, who can be a free agent at the end of this season, is to sign him to a long-term deal. But is he a max level player? No. And I’m not sure the Celtics will want to commit that type of money to a good — but not great — player.

Another center the Celtics could have interest in is Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. The volatile Whiteside is a free agent at the end of the season and the Heat may want to clear their salary cap decks to pursue Kevin Durant. Whiteside presents the same dilemma for the Celtics as Horford. You need to be able to sign him long term to justify giving up a package for him at the trade deadline.

The Celtics enter the final stretch of the season with the third best record in the East and playing some very good basketball. This gives Ainge the right to be patient. If a great deal is not there by Thursday, he can wait for the end of the season, and this summer, when he may get more value for his assets.