Danny Ainge has been under a lot of pressure to do something to help the Boston Celtics, specifically by using his $28.5 million Traded Player Exception. The prevailing thought has been to do something.
However, it’s not that easy.
“Some people think they can make a grocery list and go to the grocery store and pick it up,” Ainge said on his Thursday Toucher and Rich appearance. “We're not playing fantasy league, we're dealing with other teams. And there's a lot of good players that you can’t acquire. I hear as I walk down the street from people and friends of mine that, you know, Hey, why don't you try to get sewn so? Well, because they don't want to give them away? Well, because I would have to give up Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum and two first-round picks to get him.”
There is a disconnect between what fans want and think can happen versus what is often possible. That leads to reactions like this:
This basically translates to: “Yes you make sense, but we don’t want to hear things that make sense.”
The knee-jerk reactions can live on talk radio. Reality can live in this space, and the reality is simply this: There’s no big deal available on the table in February when the trade deadline is on March 25.
Right now, the teams with the most sensible Boston targets, the Sacramento Kings (Harrison Barnes) and Orlando Magic (Aaron Gordon), aren’t in a rush to blow their teams up or help Boston build a winner.
Sam Amick of The Athletic recently reported “sources say teams have been given the impression that the Kings have no interest in moving Barnes.” Gordon, as of right now, is even more theoretical as there hasn’t been a peep out of Orlando.
So what can Ainge really do? Let’s assess the trade situation realistically.
- Because of the hard cap, he can use up to about $19 million of the TPE without moving a player.
- He can create more hard cap room by moving players out in separate deals and use more of the TPE.
- He can make smaller deals, maybe using Boston’s smaller TPE’s ($ to clean up some of the back-end players, clear some cap space, tinker around the buyout market, and save the TPE for the summer.
- He can just make a straight-up trade, rearrange the roster some, and save the TPE for someone this summer.
Let’s start at the top. The Kings are very close to play-in tournament contention, so they may not want to simply jettison an important player. However, this player is part of a team only good enough for play-in game contention. The pressure of the trade deadline might knock Barnes loose.
Orlando is fading quickly, so they might be able to be convinced to part with Gordon, but what’s the price? Further, is John Hammond really interested in watching a player misused in Orlando go to Boston, flourish, and help the Celtics make a deep playoff run?
How do you think that will go over on Orlando sports talk radio?
These are the admittedly ridiculous things all GMs face in trade talks. Even when good deals are on the table, public perception can end up squashing them.
So Ainge might have to come up with a plan B. One name that comes to mind is Nemanja Bjelica, who is out of the Kings' rotation. He’s a 6’10” shooter who can help the Celtics and, at $7.1 million, available in all of these scenarios. Boston could send Daniel Theis, Jeff Teague, a pick and cash to Sacramento, which would free up minutes for Robert Williams and put Bjelica in a natural power forward spot.
The downside is Bjelica is in the last year of his contract and Boston would have to decide if they want to pay him long-term. Also, there will be some bidding for his services. The Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat have been mentioned in various reports as possible suitors.
One other thing to keep in mind when scanning the NBA for trade possibility is that Boston would really like to stay under the tax this season. While they will spend if a no-brainer move comes along to make them a real contender right now, avoiding the tax this year resets the repeater tax clock for them, saving them tens of million dollars down the road.
SECOND HALF SCHEDULE
The NBA is reportedly close to coming out with its second-half schedule. Part of this hellish February schedule for the Boston Celtics involved creating three games to account for the three postponements in January. Those games were shoehorned into the remaining schedule so they could have 36 left to play in the second half.
The good news for Boston is that they will hopefully have a more normal pace with the occasional practice day to clean up any slippage. The bad news is… well… what we’ve been watching this month.
According to the ESPN report, it’s possible some teams won’t play the full 72 games. That would also probably work in Boston’s favor too since there might not be such a fervent need to make up the odd postponement here or there. The more rest Boston gets from this point forward the better.
35,000 FOR THE KING
LeBron James scored his 35,000th point Thursday night. He now trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). It will take LeBron averaging about 25 points per game (his current average) for about 135 more games. He can knock out the 35 this season, giving him two seasons, or 164 games to cross that threshold.
I want to say that’s a tall order for someone who will be almost 39 by the end of that run, but LeBron is one of those few superstars who has defied the ravages of time. If he can continue that, then he’ll have a good chance at breaking Kareem’s record. I’m certainly not going to bet against him doing it.
A UNIQUE 50 PIECE
Denver’s Jamal Murray became the first player in NBA history to score 50 points without even attempting a free throw. He shot 21-25 from the field against Cleveland on Friday night.
DUNK OF THE YEAR
Anthony Edwards’ dunk on Yuta Watanabe was... wow.
I really don’t care what his stat line was or how his rookie season is going. Let’s just appreciate the awesomeness of this dunk.