Boston Celtics Rumors: C’s Seek Star Player This Summer, Willing To Trade Their Best First Round Pick As Part Of Package

The Boston Celtics are having a fantastic season so far but they plan on making a big splash this summer.

Boston (38-25) has won five in a row after eking out a 105-104 home victory over the struggling New York Knicks. The C’s are 19-6 over their last 25 games to go 13 games over.500 for the first time this year. The Celtics are currently third in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division, four and a half games behind the division-leading Toronto Raptors.

Boston is doing all this despite not having a star, though it hasn’t been a lack of trying. The Celtics had been linked to a number of stars prior to the trade deadline such as Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Kevin Love, Jahlil Okafor, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler.

The Boston Herald has reported that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hasn’t given up his pursuit in acquiring a franchise-changing player this summer and is willing to pay a hefty price this summer. It was rumored he was willing to give up multiple first-round selections, including the Brooklyn Nets draft pick that the Celtics own this year, for the right deal.

“The term I’ve heard with Danny is that he’s looking for a ‘difference maker,'” a league source told the Herald. “He’s definitely willing to pay you for the right guy, but he wants someone who can move them to the next level.”

How the Celtics are succeeding

Head coach Brad Stevens is having them play fast, team basketball, on both the offensive and defensive ends.

The Celtics rank in the top four in the league in scoring (106.1) despite being in the bottom third in shooting as well as three-point shooting. The C’s are also doing a good job on the defensive end as they lead the league in forcing turnovers while also being among the league leaders in opponent shooting percentage as well as three-point percentage.

Plus, they are getting career years out of several players like first-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas as well as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. Thomas, who is averaging 21.6 points and 6.7 assists a game, was nominated for player of the month in February where he averaged 21.7 points along with 7.2 points.

Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner, Kelly Olnyk, and Marcus Smart have also been solid contributors. Olynyk has missed the past seven games with a shoulder injury and there is still no timetable for his return.

Boston is one of the youngest teams in the NBA as the C’s do not have any player older than 30 on their 14-man roster and seven of them are 24 years old and younger. The Celtics, as all teams, will have plenty of cash to spend in the offseason but Turner is the team’s only unrestricted free agent this coming offseason. Sullinger and Zeller will likely be a restricted free agent.

So, is there a problem with having a lot of young players that are considered to be under contract for several years?

Yes, there is, as it is widely considered that a team needs at least one star and possibly two to win an NBA title. Smart, who will turn just 22 years this Sunday, is the closest to being a star per Chris Forsberg of ESPN. The 6-foot-4 combo guard has emerged as a key contributor to this year’s squad in the team’s last 24 games, averaging 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.8 steals in 28.2 minutes off the bench. More importantly, Smart is playing great defense – ranking 16th among all point guards in real plus/minus rating.

Note: Smart did struggle Friday night against the Knicks, tallying two points (0-for-3 shooting) though he did haul in four rebounds and doled out three dimes.

Smart may be the only player that would likely be termed untouchable by the Celtics this summer with Olnyk a possible close second. It would probably take a very good offer to pry Bradley and Crowder away from them as well. The C’s may end up having Sullinger and Zeller available to trade by offering them a qualifying offer, even if they decline to do that they have a bunch of assets including James Young, Terry Rozier, and Jordan Mickey along with veterans Johnson and Jonas Jerebko.

The Celtics also have a plethora of future draft picks this year. This year, Boston has its own first-round selection (projected to be anywhere from No. 12-24), the Nets selection (projected 1-5) and the Dallas Mavericks pick (projected 12-24). The Nets pick is unprotected while the Mavs get to keep their selection if it ends up in the top 7 picks. The C’s also have five-second round selections this year and as many as two first-round selections as well as two second-round selections in 2017.

Boston needs shooting/ scoring from the wing position, so if the Bulls make Butler available — a possibility if they decide to totally rebuild – or Anthony decides to give up his no-trade clause, those two should be the team’s top trade target. The Celtics can pursue Horford (unrestricted free agent) and Howard, who has a player option, during free agency.

Boston has 19 games left with 10 of those on the road, including nine of the team’s next 14 contests. The Celtics, who play in Cleveland on March 5, are 16-15 on the road this year.

[photo by Winslow Townsend/ Associated Press]

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