Now that the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, somewhat surprisingly, the Boston Celtics’ roster is intact and they will play out the remainder of the season with the players they had prior to the deadline. With nearly no trades of any significance made despite the constant rumors and reports coming out from the media, the league remains unchanged for the most part as we approach the final third of the season with an eye on the playoffs.
The Celtics and a number of their highest profile players had been constantly mentioned as trade candidates over the past few days, but general manager Danny Ainge obviously did not find the value he was after and will postpone his wheeling and dealing for draft day and the 2014 offseason. As with any actual trade, the decision to stand pat at the trade deadline brings with it a number of positives and negatives. Ainge passed over an opportunity to further improve the direction of his team, but at the same time his patience may have avoided a hasty decision that a lesser-experienced GM may have rushed into.
The problem facing the Celtics for the rest of the season now is they may be too good. This season is essentially a write-off, as the team will not contend in the playoffs and should realistically be looking to maximize their chances in the NBA draft lottery. With the decision to keep the likes of Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Kris Humphries on the roster, Ainge has a team of experienced players, likely to beat a number of the weaker teams in the East that are obviously tanking the end of the season. The Philadelphia 76ers traded away Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, the Orlando Magic have bought out Glen Davis and the Milwaukee Bucks already sit at the bottom of the league as they all gaze towards the stacked 2014 draft.
The Celtics and their fans have endured a tough season so far and realistically the reward should have been a top draft pick come June, however with the decision to keep the team intact, Ainge has likely surrendered a number of draft slots by refusing to offload some of his veterans. Bass and Humphries will eat into the minutes of young big men Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, while realistically neither of them could be in Boston once the season is over. If those players, along with Green, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley manage to fight their way to five more wins than they would have otherwise, that could have a dramatic effect on the Celtics’ odds when it comes to the draft lottery.
As it stands, the Celtics currently have a 19-36 record which is the sixth worst in the NBA. With just 27 games remaining, the focus for the rest of the season becomes the development of the young talent on the roster, assessing the veterans to see who could possibly stick around long-term and getting All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo back to 100 percent before the end of the season. That record is going to play a vital part in the direction of the franchise going forward as the results in the draft lottery could determine exactly what Ainge does next with his roster.
The 2014 draft has long been touted as one of the most star-studded classes in recent years and especially the top three looks to have the potential as franchise-changing cornerstone players. With the sixth worst record the Celtics would have a 6.3 percent chance at the first overall pick and a 21.5 percent chance at landing in that coveted top three. If they are not that lucky, they will pick either sixth, seventh or eighth. While the difference may be just a few draft slots, the actual impact of missing out on the top of this draft could be devastating, especially after enduring the season that the Celtics have thus far.
Ainge showed poise and patience at the deadline, not rushing to make a trade just for the sake of it if he didn’t think the value was there and that has to be commended. He had countless combinations of players and draft picks at his disposal if he had chosen to make a move but will instead plan long-term and likely begin making major moves in the offseason. Judging by the activity (or lack thereof) at the deadline it appears that there were few teams actually willing to take on highly paid guys or players with long term contracts.
But one would think that at least offloading Bass from a stacked front court would have been addition by subtraction for the Celtics moving forward. The fear now is that with the veterans on the roster, they will play themselves out of the top of the draft and wind up in the 8-10 range on draft day, the special talent at the top of the draft will be gone and prospects you could find in any first round draft will be all that remains. If that happens the decision to stand pat could be one that Ainge regrets for years down the track.
The positive in all this is that even if the Celtics do miss out on a top draft pick, Ainge has shown the ability to put together a championship team with trades. The last time the Celtics were in a similar position was 2007. They wound up with the fifth pick in the draft after they had hoped to land either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant at one or two, Ainge capitalized and moved the fifth pick (coincidently Jeff Green) to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen, which was followed up by the deal for Kevin Garnett and the “Big Three” team that won the 2007-08 NBA Championship. Celtics’ fans can only hope Ainge has something like that up his sleeve again this offseason.