With Thursday’s trade deadline fast approaching, there is almost an assumption around the league that the Celtics will eventually get involved. Not necessarily because there are obvious deals to make, but because these are the Celtics.
“They’ve been one of the most active teams in their dealings in the last year or two,” one NBA general manager said. “It’s been intense.”
In separate telephone interviews with the Globe Tuesday afternoon, three NBA general managers indicated that Marcus Thornton and Brandon Bass, two veterans with expiring contracts, could be attractive options on the Celtics’ roster. But there are varying opinions about what it would be worth giving up to get them.
“They’re skilled players that can help teams in the playoffs, veteran players that know what it takes,” said one of the general managers, “so I think there’s value there.”
Said another GM, “In the right situation, maybe, but I don’t think they have that much value, to be honest. But there are some dumb teams out there, or some teams that don’t think long-term, so [the Celtics] might get what they want from a desperate team.
“I think if you’re a smart team, you’re not going to give up a good asset for a guy you know is going to be there for just 30 games.”
The Celtics have amassed an impressive collection of draft picks, and Thornton, Bass, or even Tayshaun Prince could command another one. All three could also be candidates for buyouts if they are not dealt.
“I can’t blame [the Celtics] for asking for too much if they can get it,” one GM said. “But there are some teams around the league where you know when you talk to them you’re not going to get very far, because they ask for too much. And if you ask them for the same thing, they’re like, ‘No.’ ”
Thornton is averaging 8.9 points in just 16.4 minutes per game, and he entered the All-Star break on a hot streak. He has an $8.575 million expiring contract.
“I think he can obviously help a team,” one general manager said. “But I just don’t know if a team is going to give the Celtics assets for him. I don’t think they’re going to give them a first-round or second-round pick. I think it’s going to be hard. But [Thornton and Bass] are good players, don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of teams would love to have them.”
The Celtics are in position to act. They have an open roster spot after declining to renew guard Andre Dawkins’s second 10-day contract, and they are currently about $12 million under the luxury tax line.
One of the GMs believes it would be a mistake for Boston to make an acquisition in hopes of chasing a playoff berth this season. The Celtics sit just 1½ games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but a sustained postseason run would be quite improbable.
“Teams in that situation, you have to do something based on the future, and not necessarily the present,” the GM said.
Given their flexible setup, the Celtics could also become a facilitator in a three-team trade, absorbing a salary that is an albatross for another franchise. But one general manager said that is sometimes easier said than done.
“They can take in a player that maybe another team doesn’t want in a three-team deal,” he said. “But it depends what they want for taking on a salary. It’s not attractive whatsoever if they want something like a first-round pick out of it.”
In the end, one general manager said, it is sometimes best to take the wait-and-see approach with the Celtics.
“They do have players that other teams are interested in, but they’ve always done a really good job of not showing their cards,” the GM said. “Or, just showing the cards they want to show.”
As the deadline creeps closer, it has been mostly quiet around the league. One of the general managers said that is partly because so many teams — like the Celtics, for example — have already completed deals this year.
The GMs said they expect activity to ramp up a bit Wednesday, and they made it clear that a calm period can become frenetic quite quickly.
“I think it’s a lot of everybody just seeing what’s out there, and if you really want to make a deal or not,” one general manager said. “There might be something that’s just OK, and you see if you can get something better. And if not, you go back.”