With the NBA trade deadline past, it seems unlikely that the Celtics will change much this year. The club has already reached an agreement with free agent center Greg Monroe. The team can no longer use the $8.4 million exception created by Gordon Hayward’s injury, but a move may someday still be on the horizon.
Rumors had been circulating in recent weeks of a Marcus Smart trade, with a number of factors leading toward his departure from Beantown. Between a post-game altercation with a picture frame that has kept him on the shelf since playing the Lakers on Jan. 23 and a breakout from third-string point guard Terry Rozier, Boston may not feel that Smart’s hustle plays and defense are enough to balance his offensive inefficiency. Couple these with Smart’s impending free agency, and it makes plenty of sense to consider moving him for additional assets.
An important piece to consider here is that Danny Ainge rarely makes short-term moves and will only pay the trigger on moves that help the team in the long run. So, while trading Smart may feel strange considering his impact on the team, there’s reason to believe this is a scenario similar to the Kyrie Irving trade of this past summer.
With DeMarcus Cousins going down with an Achilles injury before his free agency this summer, the New Orleans Pelicans may be inclined eventually to ship superstar Anthony Davis out of the bayou while they can receive massive value for him. A deal centered around Al Horford, who would have to be included for salary reasons, Rozier, Jaylen Brown and a bevy of draft picks may be enough to pry the Brow from the Pelicans. The idea of Irving, a healthy Gordon Hayward, Davis and Jayson Tatum in the same starting lineup would make most Celtics fans foam at the mouth, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
In terms of short-term help, it’s clear that the Celtics want to make a push this year, especially in a situation where Cleveland is struggling to stay afloat amid injury and underperformance, and Toronto is still considered a piece or two away from topping Golden State. Monroe proves this point, and expiring contracts like Tyreke Evans may seem enticing to Ainge come Thursday. However, the price must be right.
Tyreke Evans has been the piece commonly linked to Boston, as his minimum salary contract and efficient scoring and playmaking abilities make him incredibly valuable on the trade market. Contenders all around the league will be calling Memphis. Boston could oneday offer Smart in a deal, but the struggling Grizzlies will almost definitely want a first-round pick in the transaction. The question of whether injury-prone Evans is worth parting with must be considered first and foremost, especially when his performance this season ensures keeping him long-term will be nearly impossible. Still, he is a legitimate piece in the puzzle who can add much needed firepower to the second unit.