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Celtics should still shake out to be among best in the East, even with no new pieces

Danny Ainge didn’t make a move, but his team is still one of the favorites in the East.File/john tlumacki/Globe Staff

So the Celtics stood pat on the trade deadline, content to wait for the buyout market to develop. Their competition, however, made some intriguing moves and may have nudged ahead of them in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Should the Celtics have made a move? Probably not. They don’t have any players on expiring deals or who aren’t part of their current core to deal, and for the Celtics to get value, they would need to trade a similar contract.

So to net Andre Drummond, the Cavaliers had to offer the expiring contracts of Brandon Knight ($15.6 million) and John Henson ($9.7 million) to match the $27 million earned by the Detroit center. The Celtics would have had to offer Gordon Hayward and hope the Pistons were OK with Hayward opting into the final year of his contract at $30 million, as expected.


So with the Celtics essentially handcuffed because they have no real salaries to dump, their competition took advantage of their previous mistakes.

The Miami Heat beat out the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Andre Iguodala by sending Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, and James Johnson (all essentially unwanted contracts) to Memphis. Iguodala, who told Memphis he had no intentions of playing for the team before the season, will be joined in Miami by Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill.

To sweeten the deal, the Heat signed Iguodala to a two-year, $30 million extension, meaning Miami is making a run this season. The Celtics are 2-0 against Miami, including an impressive win at AmericanAirlines Arena last month, but the presence of Iguodala changes the Heat’s approach defensively.

Add to that the presence of former Celtic Crowder and Miami added two tough guys to join Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The Heat believe they have enough to compete with the Bucks, whom they have already beaten this season.


But let’s be honest. Iguodala just turned 36 and there was a reason the Warriors traded him to Memphis after their championship run was over. He hasn’t averaged in double figures in scoring in seven years and he’s a career 33.3 percent 3-point shooter. So the key to whether this was an impactful move for the Heat is whether Iguodala can still defend. Can he contain Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown for stretches? Will Iguodala be that key piece that allows the Heat to beat the Celtics or Bucks in a seven-game series? That’s not certain.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded three second-round picks to the Golden State Warriors for swingmen Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III. These are players the Celtics should have had on their target list because the price was minimal, but it appears the Celtics liked the players on their roster to pass or wait for the buyout market.

It seems the 76ers have more problems than the addition of Burks and Robinson can solve, and they also had to dump James Ennis and Trey Burke to fit those two on the roster. So the hope is that Burks and Robinson can add shooting and defense, but the deal did nothing to address their failing chemistry.

Indiana, Toronto, and Milwaukee each stood pat like the Celtics. The Pacers just brought Victor Oladipo back from a year-long absence because of knee surgery, so that could be considered a trade-deadline addition.


The Raptors have won 12 straight games and have a better record at this point in the season than with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, so there was no pressing need for a trade.

The Celtics have been so banged up over the past few weeks they have yet to fully evaluate their full roster. They hope when Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis return healthy along with center Robert Williams following the All-Star break, they will be able to turn into the team that can challenge the Bucks and claim that second seed.

The return of a healthy Kemba Walker should provide a boost for Boston.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The buyout market will potentially offer players such as Marvin Williams, Markieff Morris, Evan Turner, and Isaiah Thomas (yes, that Isaiah), so the Celtics will have a chance to add to their roster. But considering their roster construction, it was highly unlikely they were going to make any considerable deals by the deadline.

Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge reiterated how much he liked this roster and chasing a desired big man was going to be difficult with no real attractive contracts to offer in return. Do you want to trade Smart for a quality big man?

The Celtics shouldn’t be that daunted by the moves of the Heat and 76ers because in the long run they may not be that impactful. The trade deadline passed without any shocking moves. Former Celtic Marcus Morris got traded to the Clippers. The Minnesota Timberwolves finally moved on from underachieving Andrew Wiggins in exchange for Golden State’s D’Angelo Russell. But overall the deadline came and passed without much fanfare. The NBA favorites on Wednesday are still the favorites on Friday.


And the Celtics are banking that they’ll be healthy enough for a long playoff run because they indeed like their roster.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.