With the NBA trade deadline fast approaching this afternoon, the Celtics stand as one of the most interesting teams yet to make a play. They're loaded with assets -- young players on cheap contracts and Brooklyn Nets draft picks -- and find themselves currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, just three games back of LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
They're right on the precipice. And this is a unique deadline in that two real, in-their-prime stars are available: The Pacers' Paul George and the Bulls' Jimmy Butler, ages 26 and 27 respectively, multiple-time All Stars, could be had for the right package.
The common wisdom I'm seeing sprinkled around NBA Twitter is that the Celtics shouldn't overreact, they should play it safe, keep their assets, not go all-in just to make a splash.
This is silly. It's time for Boston to go out and get a star.
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Yes, there are questions about Jimmy Butler and Paul George. Butler has had issues in Chicago meshing with different teammates and has never led a team to a deep playoff run. George is a few years removed from a horrific leg break, and I suppose injury concerns remain.
But here's the question I have: If you aren't willing to go spend for these guys, who exactly are you waiting for? LeBron James? James Harden? Russell Westbrook? Kevin Durant? There are maybe seven or eight guys in the league sho are more complete players than Butler and George, and none of them is moving.
The only one in that stratosphere who could potentially move in the next year or two is DeMarcus Cousins, and he's already moved once.
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The Celtics showed us in their run of the late aughts that if you bring together a few stars who are desperate to win, you can build a team that can win a title. This team is already most of the way there -- it has an elite big man in Al Horford and a star scorer in Isaiah Thomas. Add a star swing man, and you're there. You've got your three All-Stars, plus complimentary players who can do all the rest of the work.
You could argue a trio of Thomas-Horford-Butler or George doesn't fit together like Garnett-Pierce-Allen, but I don't see why not. They don't play the same positions. George and Butler have played alongside scorers before.
Most important: How would you know until you try?
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As the Warriors showed us a few years ago, put together the right team with the right coach and it doesn't matter who the other juggernauts in the league are -- you can make the leap and become the best team in the league. You just have to make the play, bring together a group of proven, talented players and see what happens.
The Celtics have the coach in Brad Stevens, already proving to be one of the sharpest in the league.
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If the Celtics can pair their tenacious guards in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, a proven scorer in Thomas, a passing big in Horford with a two-way gem like Butler or George? That's a team. That's a real team, ready to go at anyone. They don't have the Warriors' shooting -- no one ever has -- but that's a team that, combined with Stevens, can give anyone hell in a seven-game series.
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I understand the cost may be high. There are rumblings that the Celtics would need to include talented swingman Jae Crowder in any deal for Butler, and I can understand why they would be reluctant to give up someone as good as that on top of valuable draft picks.
But deals like this are never easy. It's easy to fall in love with future draft picks because of the possibility they represent. You know the weaknesses of a player like Butler or George. A draft pick, especially one as high as the Nets' will be, is perfect because we can't study its flaws.
But how many draft picks, at any point in the draft, turn into players as good as Butler or George? It's rare. The Celtics have more assets than they know what to do with, and Ainge expertly acquired them so that one day he could go out and get a star player to complete his team.
That time is now. The stars are available. Make the move.