Give the Boston Celtics this: They are persistent.
Thanks to their droves of draft picks, prospects and reasonably priced contracts, the Celtics are mentioned in just about every imaginable blockbuster scenario. Everything turns out to be noise, though, because their position is almost too powerful. Why fork over so many assets for a star when you continue to have max-contract flexibility in advance of this summer? And when you have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference? You might as well keep your stable of assets, and continue mastering the art of contending while rebuilding.
Unless, of course, the right deal or player comes along.
You know, like Jimmy Butler or Paul George—both of whom remain the Celtics’ radar, per The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Boston’s shown minimal interest in Anthony, preferring to continue its pursuit of persuading Chicago (Jimmy Butler) and Indiana (Paul George) to engage in trade talks that involve two younger, more well-rounded stars.
Boston’s pursuit of George is going to be fruitless. He isn’t a free agent until 2018, and the Indiana Pacers still have hope he’ll qualify for the Designated Player Extension before next season. If he doesn’t qualify and then makes it clear he’d rather leave, the Celtics may be able to pounce. But that won’t happen until the end of the year.
Butler is the more gettable target, insofar as “gettable” refers to someone who might be available. But he isn’t slated for free agency until 2019 (player option for 2019-20), so the Chicago Bulls can play hard ball, demanding impact players in addition to one or both of the Brooklyn Nets’ next two picks. And the Celtics don’t have enough incentive to do a deal at the price. If the Bulls only want one of the Nets picks, plus a couple other low-end first rounders, and mostly cap fodder, this changes things. But Chicago’s front office must be resigned to an immediate and thorough rebuild for that to happen.
The Celtics, make no mistake, will need to do something eventually. They aren’t going to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers as currently constructed, and their flexibility will be compromised once Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are up for new deals in 2018. But that still gives the Celtics plenty of time. And if they poach a free agent this summer, they have even more leverage, because they won’t need to deal either of those Nets pick at all.
So despite what anyone might say, the rumors are true: Boston’s situation is pretty sweet.