For years, the Celtics have possessed a nearly unrivaled collection of future assets, a good stable of young players, a team that is on the verge of title contention, and a president of basketball operations who is known to aggressively pursue trades of all shapes and sizes.
Despite all of this, however, the NBA’s trade deadline has mostly been a non-event in Boston recently. Aside from a money-saving move in which Jabari Bird, who was facing domestic violence charges, was sent to the Hawks last February before being waived, the Celtics have not made a deadline deal since acquiring Isaiah Thomas from the Suns in the final hour before the deadline five years ago.
And according to multiple league sources, all signs are pointing toward another quiet week in Boston before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
“It feels like it’s kind of dead right now,” one league source said.
ESPN reported on Monday that the Rockets and Celtics had engaged in talks about Houston center Clint Capela, who is averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds and could fortify Boston’s frontcourt. League sources confirmed that there were some cursory discussions, but that they were initiated by the Rockets, who are actively shopping Capela to numerous teams around the NBA.
As of Tuesday night, sources said, there were no substantive negotiations between Boston and Houston. The Rockets’ initial asking price, according to one source, was too high to entertain.
Regardless, the Celtics have been pleased with the production from the center position and do not appear to be urgently looking to upgrade it. League sources said the Pistons reached out to the Celtics last month to gauge their potential interest in Andre Drummond, too. But Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have combined to average 17.6 points, 14.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.3 blocks in 41.1 minutes per game, and no assets need to be relinquished to keep them.
League sources said that if Boston makes a deal, it will likely be a minor move to fortify its bench. The team entered Tuesday tied for the fifth-best record in the NBA and it has the second-best point differential, despite the fact that its core five players — Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart — have combined to miss 45 games. Ainge likes the team’s roster when it is whole.
Also, the belief within the organization is that Robert Williams, who has been sidelined since Dec. 7 because of a hip bone edema, will return during the regular season, giving Boston’s reserve corps a boost.
Ainge said during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston on Monday night that the Celtics’ backups might be a bit too young as a whole. But the Celtics have been encouraged by the rapid development of rookie forward Grant Williams and the strong play of Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye.
Boston is in a bit of a unique position because its roster hierarchy is so obvious. The Celtics are certainly not title favorites at this moment and would look to strike if they saw a player who could vault them into that position, but players of that magnitude — such as Wizards star Bradley Beal or Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns — simply are not available, so it is unlikely that there will be an offer that tempts the Celtics to part with a member of their core five.
There are lesser-impact players who could intrigue the Celtics, such as Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans, but one league source said Washington has given no indication that he will be available.
Also, young Celtics Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, and Vincent Poirier have had such quiet rookie seasons that other squads will not be swooning over them.
Of course, trade deadline week can change suddenly. In 2015, the Celtics thought their attempts to acquire Thomas had fizzled, but then the sides came to terms in the final minutes and Thomas went on to become a two-time All-Star who reshaped the franchise. That Celtics team had bigger glaring holes, however. This one has already shown that it can compete with the best teams in the NBA, particularly when at full strength.
The Celtics are in line to have three first-round picks in this June’s draft, and they do not intend to add three more rookies to the roster. But that does not mean they need to part with any of those selections now. There will be other ways to maneuver with those choices after the season concludes.
Boston will be watching the rest of the conference’s upper tier closely this week. One league source said that the 76ers, who have fallen to sixth place and are now just 9-18 on the road, have been the most aggressive of the top six. The Bucks, seeing that their championship window is now open, have also been looking to add a piece for the postseason, but at 42-7, it’s unclear if they will need it.