James Piercy, Sport360 Editor, SAYS YES
Boston’s Danny Ainge isn’t one of the best GMs in the business for following the crowd, but Toronto’s acquision of Serge Ibaka last week should be enough to convince him to make a move by Thursday.
Ibaka gives Toronto possibly the second-best starting five in the East without the Raptors having to lose too much of their depth in making the trade.
Cleveland are No1 but this is a Cavsteam with Kevin Love and JR Smith injured, playing LeBron James 37.5 minutes and who still lack depth at guard. The time is right to strike and Toronto, Washington and Boston have legitimate claims to become top dogs in the East, and then who knows what happens in the playoffs. Isaiah Thomas has performed offensive miracles but asking him to sustain that is unfair.
The Celtics need someone who can get buckets at key times, from nowhere. Step forward: Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. All to varying degrees are gettable for a Boston team who can offer packages along the lines of a combination of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart plus high-level draft picks. Butler’s position at Chicago seems uncertain. Yes, he’s the franchise cornerstone but also a divisive locker room presence, frustrated by their decline who, at 27, may be approaching the wrong age to build around long-term.
If the Bulls want to push the reset button, offset by Dwyane Wade’s veteran presence, Boston’s picks are considerable currency.
The Knicks are in stasis on Phil Jackson’s watch and need something to help kick-start the Kristaps Porzingis era. With a top pick and Crowder, they don’t hurt their roster too much, free up cap space and can prepare for an enticing draft.
Something is not right with George, as one of the NBA’s best two-way players has slumped. Perhaps, Indiana will let him go for some of Boston’s jewels to construct around Myles Turner.
Ainge doesn’t have to give the lot, but he certainly has enough. And all those picks start to become superfluous when you consider the calibre of player they can get now, against the potential quality of those they might draft in the future. The time is right.
Jay Asser, SAYS NO
As we approach the NBA’s trade deadline this Thursday, there’s no team to watch more closely than the Boston Celtics.
General manager Danny Ainge can go a myriad of ways with the assets he has at his disposal, which includes what could be two top-three picks over the next two drafts thanks to Brooklyn, as well as young, contract friendly players.
But what makes Boston’s situation so unique is the fact they’ve been the second-best team in the Eastern Conference through the unofficial first half of the season.
They continue to steadily improve under Brad Stevens and Kevin Love’s knee injury and timetable could open the door for them to overtake Cleveland in the standings by season’s end.
That doesn’t mean they’re championship contenders. At least not yet. As long as LeBron James draws breath, he’s unequivocally the favourite to reach the Finals year-in and year-out.
So if the Celtics, as currently constructed, aren’t good enough to get past LeBron and the Cavs, naturally the move would be to cash in on their assets and land a star to put them on close to equal footing with the team standing in their way, right?
Not so fast. As great as it sounds to plug Jimmy Butler into Boston’s roster, you have to take into account what the Celtics will have to surrender to Chicago in return.
A 27-year-old star in his prime like Butler doesn’t come cheap, and while you can argue the whole point of stockpiling assets is so you don’t have to worry about overpaying, there’s not much incentive for Ainge to do anything other than remain patient.
Obviously if the deal is right, like it was with the Nets or with Phoenix for Isaiah Thomas, you strike. Waiting for the perfect deal may mean Ainge never gets his big fish, but even in that situation, the worst case scenario could be adding back-to-back number one overall picks to a young team on the rise.
If even one of those prospects turn into a star, you’ve set yourself up for major long-term success instead of going all-in while LeBron and Golden State still have a vice-like grip on the NBA. Patience is a virtue and Ainge
knows this better than most.
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