Tyreke Evans

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Three star-caliber players Celtics could target at trade deadline

John Tomase
February 08, 2018 - 10:26 am
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If last year's NBA trade deadline proved anything, it's that standing pat has its merits.

At this time last year, there were howls for the Celtics to do something. They were linked to Indiana's Paul George and many fans and commentators wanted them to trade the potential first overall pick in the draft to get him. With George set to hit free agency, the Celtics demurred. Similar rumors about superstars Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin similarly fizzled.

The C's ultimately did nothing, Danny Ainge declaring that he liked his team. Meanwhile, fellow Eastern Conference contenders Toronto (Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker) and Washington (Bojan Bogdanovic) improved. Some idiot (me) believed the C's ranked no better than fourth in the East.

We all know how that season ended. The Celtics reached the conference finals as the No. 1 overall seed, where Isaiah Thomas hurt his hip and the LeBron James-Kyrie Irving Cavaliers dispatched them with relative ease in five games. All things considered, the C's maxed out their talent.

That brings us to this year's trade deadline, which arrives on Thursday afternoon at 3. The Celtics have already made one deal, signing forward Greg Monroe, who was bought out by the Suns. With Tuesday's loss to the Raptors exposing the massive gulf between their respective benches, could the Celtics strike again?

There's no urgency, not with the buyout market expected to be robust. But just for the fun of it, let's think big. Here are three (*) star-caliber players the Celtics could target via trade.

The most realistic prize is Memphis swingman Tyreke Evans, whom we wrote about recently. Evans checks virtually every box. He's athletic, capable of playing multiple positions, an accomplished scorer, and underrated defender. He's also one of the most desirable names on the market, thanks to his cheap expiring contract ($3.3 million) and clear availability via the rebuilding Grizzlies. The Sixers and Nuggets are also reportedly engaged, and this one may come down to someone blinking and meeting Memphis's asking price of a first-round pick, which would be steep for a rental. Don't be surprised if Ainge walks away based on that price.

(UPDATE: Disregard the following paragraph. The Cavaliers acquired Rodney Hood as part of a three-team trade that continues the total makeover of their roster. We'll leave the sentiment here for posterity.)

For all the attention on Evans, a better player could be available. Jazz guard Rodney Hood told Yahoo Sports he believes he'll be dealt. A restricted free agent after the season, Hood has delivered excellent value for the 23rd pick in the same 2014 draft that saw Marcus Smart go No. 6 overall. He's averaging a career-high 16.8 points a game while shooting a career-best .389 from 3-point land, but he has also been surpassed by explosive rookie Donovan Mitchell as a potential building block. Acquiring him would take a first-round pick and more, but the 6-foot-8 guard would be a great fit in Boston.

Finally, if you're looking for an outside-the-box addition, high-flying Magic forward Aaron Gordon could be available. The Athletic reported last week that the Magic are quietly shopping the 6-9 power forward who's averaging career-highs in points (18.4), rebounds (8.3) and 3-point shooting (.346). Ryan Bernardoni made the case for Gordon last week at Boston Sports Journal, noting that even if he's not a perfect fit for this Celtics roster (and that was before Monroe added another body to the frontcourt), Gordon would make for a compelling centerpiece to a possible Anthony Davis trade next year. Given how far in advance Ainge likes to think, anything is possible.

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