The NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline came and went Thursday without the Celtics making a big splash, but it was a successful afternoon for them anyway, because Anthony Davis did not go anywhere.
The Pelicans declined to trade their superstar forward, which instantly vaults the Celtics to the top of the next round of the Davis sweepstakes, which will unfold this summer. Boston was unable to trade for Davis now because teams can acquire only one player who has signed a designated player rookie extension, and Kyrie Irving already falls into that category.
In July, Irving can opt out of the final year of his contract, and Boston at that point would be free to acquire Davis and also re-sign Irving. There would still be hurdles to overcome, of course.
The Celtics’ treasure chest of assets has lost some of its luster recently, and the coming months will be important in determining their value. And teams such as the Knicks will have a chance to strike gold in the draft lottery.
Also, the Celtics and Pelicans still have plenty to negotiate. Boston is prepared to offer a massive package, but there is no telling whether the Pelicans will view it as adequate compensation for one of the game’s transcendent stars. Nevertheless, the Celtics will have a seat at the table, and that’s something they would not have had were Davis traded prior to the deadline.
League sources said the Pelicans reached out to the Celtics this week seeking specific promises about trade packages, but the Celtics were reluctant to make any, considering their window is months away. Still, the Celtics made it clear that their cupboard would be opened up when the time comes.
In the short term, though, the Celtics have watched some other Eastern Conference contenders load up this week. The 76ers added star forward Tobias Harris Wednesday, giving them the most talented starting lineup in the conference. Philadelphia then fortified its defense a bit Thursday by agreeing to trade for Rockets wing James Ennis, according to reports.
The Bucks, who currently sit in first place in the East, acquired Nikola Mirotic from the Pelicans. The 6-foot-10-inch forward is averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds this season and gives Milwaukee another outside shooting threat, although he is a bit of a liability on defense.
And the Raptors traded for Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, a skilled big man who is averaging 15.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Boston, meanwhile, appears determined to count on the continued improvement of players such as Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward as the playoffs inch closer.
The Celtics face LeBron James and the Lakers at TD Garden on Thursday.