While the Boston Celtics Eastern Conference rivals were busy making moves to improve their rosters for the stretch run at the Thursday trade deadline, the Celtics sat idly by not doing much of anything. The only move Boston made was trading embattled wing Jabari Bird for a second-round draft pick to open up a roster spot in order to pursue someone in the buyout market.
Otherwise, the C’s were strangely quiet.
But, when you really think about, the Celtics’ lack of activity was not “strange” at all. As a matter of fact, it was entirely calculated.
We know the big fish Danny Ainge is after: New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. However, because of the “Rose rule” pertaining to Kyrie Irving, Boston was not permitted to make a trade for Davis before the deadline.
The C’s were forced to sit and watch the Los Angeles Lakers aggressively pursue the big man, hoping that the Pelicans would turn down the Lakers’ offer and opt to wait until the summer before moving their prized power forward.
Los Angeles offered the farm for Davis. The offer reportedly included Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, plus draft picks. So, basically, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka offered their entire team outside of LeBron James.
Still, New Orleans basically told them to get lost.
It’s obvious what is going on here: the Pelicans favor what the Celtics can offer, which is a package built around young star Jayson Tatum, a 20-year-old who is certainly a better prospect than anything the Lakers have.
Not only that, but Boston has a wealth of draft picks with which it can entice the Pels, plus other young players such as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and rookie center Robert Williams.
No other team in the league has the combination of assets the C’s have in a potential Davis trade, so it seemed only natural that the best course of action for the Pelicans was to wait for the summer, and that is exactly what Dell Demps decided to do.
So, while the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers were adding names like Marc Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Tobias Harris, the Celtics were focused on a name far bigger than any of those.
Ainge understands what Boston needs to do.
Right now, even without making any moves, the C’s are still in a solid position to come out of the East this season, and by not moving guys like Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris, they maintained their depth and flexiblity throughout the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign, something that should pay dividends in the playoffs.
On top of that, the Celtics did not trade any assets that they could potentially use in a Davis trade a few months from now, which was the primary reason why Ainge opted to sit on his hands.
Plus, Boston still has the buyout market to peruse, and guys like Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez and Enes Kanter could represent names the C’s could examine to bolster their bench (which is already really deep to begin with).
Ainge is always thinking big.
Remember: way back in the day, he was piling up assets to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Garnett, and not only was he able to do that during the summer of 2007, but he also added Ray Allen, which ultimately led to a title that ensuing season.
This time, Davis is the apple of Ainge’s eye, and it is clear as day that he has had the Pelicans cornerstone in mind for a couple of years now.
Fans and media pundits have frequently criticized Ainge for being too stingy with his assets, but then he went and traded for Kyrie Irving during the summer of 2017.
“Ohhh. So that’s why he kept those pieces for so long.”
Now, Ainge is positioning himself for another summer blockbuster, and this blockbuster will be even bigger.
Sure, there have been reports that Davis does not want to go to Boston, but Ainge doesn’t care. Garnett didn’t want Beantown either back in 2007. He wanted the Lakers. Sound familiar? But once the C’s traded for Garnett, he was perfectly fine with staying.
Davis’ first choice probably is Los Angeles, but it seems hard to imagine the 25-year-old leaving the Celtics in 2020 after possibly winning a championship with Irving. Think about it: why would he leave at that point? Would he really pass up the opportunity to win multiple titles?
Ainge is thinking the same thing. He knows that if he can just get his hands on Davis, he will be able to convince him to stay long term.
It doesn’t look like the Pelicans want anything to do with the Lakers, so that leaves the Celtics as the frontrunners to land the All-Star. Perhaps the New York Knicks jump into the fray if they land the No. 1 overall pick, but logically, Boston is the top potential destination.
Ainge may not have made any moves at the deadline, but he won the deadline.
As for what the Raptors, Bucks and 76ers did? All of that immaterial.
What matters is Davis, and the Celtics appear to be closing in.