The Boston Celtics find themselves in terrific position at the moment, as they are 27-11 and sit in second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
But in spite of the Celtics’ strong play over the first few months, it seems fairly obvious that they are a piece or two away from being legitimate championship contenders.
They still need another big man to supplement Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, and it would be nice for Boston to land a veteran scorer off the bench.
The C’s have a few weeks left to fill those needs before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, but the chances of the Celtics actually making a significant move to get it done are slim.
Not because Boston doesn’t want to, but because it doesn’t really have the financial wherewithal to do so.
People tend to forget that in order to make trades in the NBA, you need to match salary. You can’t just trade for a guy making $20 million by sending out a couple of players earning $3 million a piece in return.
And that’s where the C’s will fall into some trouble in trade discussions.
The Celtics have assets, whether they are in the form of young players or draft picks. That isn’t the issue. The problem is that Boston doesn’t have any salaries it can send back in most deals for impact players.
So we should probably cool it with the Andre Drummond talk. Actually, that’s something that would be silly to discuss even if the C’s had salaries to match his massive $27.1 million price tag.
But really, the Celtics have three guys making big money this season. They are Kemba Walker ($32.7 million), Gordon Hayward ($32.7 million) and Marcus Smart ($12.6 million), and none of them are getting moved.
Walker was Boston’s Kyrie Irving replacement and has done a masterful job leading the team, Hayward is a stud now that he’s healthy and Smart is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Moving any of those three would be counterproductive.
Otherwise, you have Jayson Tatum earning $7.8 million and Jaylen Brown making $6.5 million, and the C’s obviously aren’t trading either of them barring some out-of-nowhere deal for a star player.
This isn’t to say that Danny Ainge won’t be working the phones. He will, and there may be some options available. For example, Washington Wizards big man Davis Bertans is a trade candidate and is making just $7 million this season, but the Wizards seem to want to keep him for the future.
But more than likely, the Celtics will just end up standing pat, which is generally what they do at the trade deadline, anyway. Outside of swinging a deal for Isaiah Thomas in February 2015, Boston does most of its work in the summer and rarely makes significant moves in-season.
It may actually be a better option for the C’s to explore the buyout market when that becomes a thing, because once in a while, some gems become available for the stretch run.
But as far as the Celtics making any trades between now and Feb. 6? It just doesn’t seem that likely, as Boston simply does not have the capability to make it happen.