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The NBA trade deadline is Thursday. Will the Celtics make a move? Here’s the latest

A pair of Grizzlies put a bear hug on Celtics center Robert Williams Monday night, and in the end, Memphis squeezed out an overtime win.Brandon Dill

The Celtics slipped back below .500 with their overtime loss to the Grizzlies Monday, further highlighting their need for reinforcements. But it remains unclear whether any will be acquired prior to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, or whether the Celtics will simply hope that when their injury-ravaged group is whole again, it begins an ascension.

According to league sources, the Celtics continue to focus on adding a defensively versatile and 3-point-shooting power forward, and may look to pick up some shooting in a smaller deal if their primary targets prove to be overpriced or unattainable. They have been engaged with the Magic in trade conversations regarding forward Aaron Gordon, but as of Tuesday afternoon the sides were not close to a deal, sources said.


The Celtics have inquired about Gordon for several years. The 25-year-old has one year remaining on a four-year, $80 million contract. This season, he is averaging 14.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while shooting a career-best 40.2 percent from beyond the 3-point line. According to reports, Orlando is seeking multiple first-round picks in a deal for Gordon.

To acquire Gordon, the Celtics could use the $28.5 million trade exception that was created in the sign-and-trade that sent Gordon Hayward to Charlotte. Or they could simply include their own players and stash the Hayward exception for the offseason, when there could be better ways to use it.

Is Aaron Gordon headed for Boston?Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

There have been reports that the Magic and Celtics were engaged in conversations involving Marcus Smart, but a league source indicated that, up to this point, Smart has not been a part of talks. In their discussions with various teams around the league, the Magic appear to be focused on draft capital. And Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has made it quite clear in the past how reluctant he would be to part with Smart, who is the heart and soul of this team.


Center Tristan Thompson, who is in the first year of a two-year, $19 million deal, could be a candidate in a trade that requires salary matching. The emergence of Robert Williams would help the Celtics withstand the loss of Thompson, although they have gone just 1-4 since the veteran big man was sidelined under COVID-19 protocols. And on Monday, the Grizzlies gobbled up 17 offensive rebounds and scored 80 points in the paint with Thompson out.

Within the Celtics organization, the recent skid that has dropped the team into a tie for seventh in the East has created a sense of urgency to do something, even if it is just a minor deal. There is a sense that a mild roster shakeup or some new blood could provide a jolt.

If the Celtics are unable to acquire a forward who could move into the starting lineup and push Jayson Tatum to small forward and Jaylen Brown to shooting guard — positions both players might be more comfortable in — they would likely pursue a smaller deal that would add some shooting to the bench. But Ainge has stated his uneasiness about acquiring a player on an expiring contract who would essentially take opportunity from one of Boston’s young players who needs to develop.

What's the next move for Danny Ainge?John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

There is also hope that this team could coalesce without a move. Romeo Langford, who has yet to play this season, is in the final stretch of his COVID-19 protocol and is expected to make his debut next week. He remains an Ainge favorite, and the team believes the second-year wing’s defense and playmaking could be a real asset with the second unit.


Also, the Celtics have rarely had their best players available together. But Smart is now back and his minutes restriction has been lifted, Williams’s playing time continues to ramp up, and Kemba Walker’s knee is holding up. So it is certainly possible that the Celtics could move forward with this group as currently constructed.

That would leave the $28.5 million trade exception for the summer, when the Celtics would no longer be restricted by the hard cap and would thus be able to use the entire exception on a deal. Also, there is incentive for the Celtics to stay out of the tax this year because it would push back the clock on the considerably more costly repeater tax, which is active when a team is in the tax in three of four years.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.