The Boston Celtics are currently sitting on the second seed of the Eastern Conference. The C’s are just three games behind pack leader Cleveland Cavaliers and have pretty much booked their ticket for the playoffs come April.
With just 25 regular season games left on their calendar, the Celtics have set their sights on the postseason as they look to reinforce their already impressive lineup. The trade deadline is literally just hours away and the Celtics front office seems to be one of the busiest in the league at the moment.
Three of the biggest names floating around the trade rumor mill have all been linked with the Celtics and according to reports, Boston is still actively pursuing these deals simultaneously. Jhalil Okafor, Jimmy Butler, or Paul George could end up being a Celtic within the next 24 hours.
Although it has lost a bit of steam, the deal to bring Philadelphia 76ers center Okafor to the Celtics is still very much alive. The 21-year-old Duke product has been in the center of endless trade rumors and the C’s have emerged as one of the serious suitors for Okafor’s signature.
The 6-foot-11 Okafor brings some value to the table and would instantly add a legitimate low post threat for the Celtics. Outside Al Horford, the C’s are pretty shorthanded in this department and Okafor could be the missing piece. However, the lack of defensive potency and below-average rebounding – two key characteristics for a reliable big – might ultimately sway Brad Stevens to looking towards a different direction.
Snagging Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls, on the other hand would have a much bigger impact for the Celtics. Adding a three-time all star averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assist per game to the roster is a prospect that any GM would get behind.
Nonetheless, there seems to be a couple of huge stumbling blocks getting in the way of this deal. For one, there is some fear that bringing in Jimmy Buckets could overshadow the emergence of Isaiah Thomas. Thomas’ contract will be up after next season and the addition of a proven franchise player might have an adverse effect on IT’s decision to renew his deal with the Celtics.
Another factor that comes into play is if the Celtics are willing to meet the asking price of the Bulls for Butler. Chicago is currently seventh in the East and letting Jimmy Butler go would be tantamount to giving up the season and officially entering rebuilding mode. Given this, Chicago will likely want to trade for Boston’s potential top-3 pick in next year’s draft. According to Adrian Wojnarowski:
“The fact that the Celtics swap with Brooklyn this year, they have their pick which could be potentially a Top-3 pick and they have the Brooklyn’s pick outright next year. Either one of those picks, I don’t think Chicago can get both of them, that’s the beginning point of a deal for the Bulls for Jimmy Butler.”
Is this really something the Celtics are willing to give up?
At the end of the day, it seems that the Paul George trade from the Indiana Pacers has the most potential of following through. It’s true that the arguments posted against the Butler deal can also be said about the potential George trade, but Paul George just seems to be the better fit. George is reportedly frustrated at how Indiana’s season is going so far and this might serve as motivation for him for a change of scenery. Although Boston will still end up giving up valuable assets to land George, PG is arguably the best available addition for the Celtics right here and right now. The Celtics have a legitimate chance of upsetting the Cavs for the Eastern Conference Championship and Paul George could very easily be the key.
At the end of the day, Danny Ainge and the Celtics are in a win-win situation. They are in a position to make franchise-altering deals that will boost their chances to reach the NBA finals. However, should they remain at the status quo, they still have a very formidable group that can give any other team in the Playoffs a run for their money.