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The Celtics have a lot to think about over the next few weeks as they head into the trade deadline. As currently constructed, they are unlikely to win the Eastern Conference this year or next. To change that, they must acquire more quality, which is much different than their current surplus of quantity. Every team is going to have money to spend this summer when the salary cap increases by nearly $20 million, which makes being creative and resourceful at the trade deadline this year even more important.

Therefore, Danny Ainge should be prepared to deal with all NBA teams, whether they are possible first-round opponents or division rivals. If the offer potentially improves the Boston Celtics this year and beyond, it is a trade worth making. Ainge needs to call every team and ask them for the player who helps the Celtics most, but also makes sense from the other GM's perspective, which is why I did not name Lebron James as the target from Cleveland or Carmelo Anthony as the target from New York.

As Ainge is calling around to the teams of the Eastern Conference, here is who he should ask for and here is what he should offer:

1. ATLANTA HAWKS

Who: Al Horford, whose per game averages this season are 15.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 2.9 APG. As demonstrated by his offensive (112) and defensive (103) rating per 100 possessions, he is getting it done on both ends of the floor this season. The Celtics need a reliable second-scorer and he provides that. Plus, bringing him to Boston now will help the organization convince him this is the place for him long-term. He is only 29-years-old and has been more reliable than not durability-wise. He will help the team win this year and down the road, so a complete winner of an acquisition. As a plus, he has played in an offensive scheme in Atlanta under Mike Budenholzer that is very similar to the one Brad Stevens employs.

Why: Horford is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is going to seek the max and will have plenty of teams willing to give him that. Will the Hawks be one of those teams? Possibly, but does Horford want to stay there? He may be tempted to bring his talents elsewhere after spending his entire career so far in Atlanta. With Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap (yes, I believe he will turn down his $21 million player option given the projected cap) becoming free agents after next season, Horford may conclude he has a better chance to win somewhere else, which is what will matter because everyone is going to be offering similar money. Plus, the Hawks have Millsap and Tiago Splitter. Although Tiago has missed time due to injury, he has been very effective this season. His offensive-defensive rating differential of plus-8 demonstrates that. Atlanta is also 21-12 with Splitter in the lineup and 6-7 without. Therefore, the Hawks will do the following calculation and make this deal with Boston: Horford is likely going to walk after the season, so why don’t we go and get something of value for his departure, which we can do without losing too much because we have Splitter to replace him.

How: The Hawks could use a multi-year improvement at the SG/SF spots as Kyle Korver is 34-years-old and the only other SG/SF under contract next season are Thabo Sefolosha, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Justin Holiday. How about a deal centered around an Avery Bradley-for-Al Horford swap, with the Celtics throwing in a future first-round pick?

2. BROOKLYN NETS

Who: Brook Lopez, whose per game averages this season are 19.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG and 1.6 APG. The Celtics have been searching for a rim-protector for a long time. Lopez provides that and much, much more. He is also a reliable go-to scorer, which Boston needs. He helps win this year and is under contract for two more seasons.

Why: The Nets organization is in absolute shambles right now. They do not own their first-round draft pick again until 2019. They have such a bleak future as well with only Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as their only young talent. While Lopez is their best player, he is an injury concern as well and they are not winning the championship during the life of his current contract, which takes him through the 2017-2018 season and pays him approximately $44 million over the final two years of deal. He is by far their best and only trade asset. Why not cash in? It does not hurt them in the short-term because they are not set up for success in the short-term with or without him.

How: Give them what they so desperately need right now – ASSETS. There are ways to make the money work and they all revolve around including David Lee’s expiring deal. So, would the Nets phantom GM consider Lee, Dallas’ 2016 first-round pick and Sullinger/Olynyk?

3. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Who: Al Jefferson – per game averages are 12.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 APG and 1.1 BPG. Reuniting with the Celtics is something Jefferson has reportedly thought about before. He would provide the Celtics with an inside scoring threat and a reliable number two offensive option. He has struggled more so than usual this season with the Hornets and is currently out until mid-February following right knee surgery.

Why: This is the last year of his current contract and will most likely receive more lucrative offers this summer outside of Charlotte. The Hornets have held their own in the playoff race without Baby KG and may opt to move him as a result, especially if they receive a player in return who can help them continue their playoff push and providers more future control than Jefferson.

How: Since he would be a summer rental and is currently out with an injury, is it possible Danny Ainge can get Jefferson for less than he would normally cost? How about a Sullinger-for-Jefferson swap, with the money difference being made up by Lee and an ancillary part from Charlotte?

4. CHICAGO BULLS

Who: Doug McDermott, the 24-year-old is averaging 7.6 PPG and 2.3 RPG. He is in year two of his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent after the 2017-2018 season. The Celtics depth chart both this year and beyond at the SF position is Jae Crowder and a couple unknowns. For example, what kind of player is RJ Hunter going to be? Is James Young going to play the SF position, if and when he is ready to contribute? This lack of depth at the SF position also limits their small-ball lineup options. Lastly, they need three-point shooting. McDermott addresses all those concerns. He is quietly putting together a strong year and most notably, is shooting 43% from three and making 1.3 per game. Imagine if he was in position to play and shoot more.

Why: Playing time and greater needs. McDermott is only playing 21 minutes per game right now. Not at all a low number, but there are six players in front of him in the rotation. The Bulls also love Tony Snell, who plays the same position as Doug and is also still playing on his rookie contract. Therefore, they can trade McDermott and still be OK both now and in the future at the SF position.

How: The only reason the Bulls would make a deal to help the team directly behind them in the standings is if it meant they were being helped as well. They are set at the PG (Rose, Brooks) and SG (Butler, Hinrich) positions and probably feel good about themselves at the PF (Gasol, Gibson, Mirotic) position as well. However, with Noah out, they could use some help at C.  How about McDermott for Zeller and Dallas’ first-round pick? Zeller’s per 36 numbers are very good this year and he can help a team making a playoff run. Clearly though, the Celtics would be getting the player with more control and talent, so they would be expected to toss something else into the deal, which brings in Dallas’ pick. Why would the Celtics do this?  Doug McDermott is someone they can control for years out and I doubt they will have better options at the 21st draft slot in 2016.

5. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Who: Kevin Love, who is averaging 15.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 2.3 APG this season. Love signed a five-year, $113.2 million-dollar deal in the offseason. He would be perfect in Boston. He would be allowed to do what he does best on the block and coming to Boston makes him the number one scoring option again, which is a role he filled well in Minnesota. Did you see how well he played while Kyrie Irving was out at the beginning of the season? He needs to be a first-or-second option to be successful. In Cleveland, he is not and will not be for the duration of his contract. In Boston, he will be.

Why: This is quite simple. The tension between Lebron and Kevin is apparent and has been ever since they arrived in Cleveland. One has to start to wonder if those two just cannot play on the same team. He is also becoming less and less of an impact to the Cavaliers, which may convince them it is in their best interest both off-and-on the court to trade him. If he is unable to play at his peak level with James and Irving, who will both be in Cleveland for a long time, why keep him? There are already rumors circulating that David Blatt was fired first, but Love could be next.

How: The Cavaliers will never win an NBA championship with JR Smith playing big minutes at the two-guard position. The Warriors and Spurs would swallow him up in a playoff series. They need a better two-way player to deal with the guards on those teams as well. In comes Avery Bradley, who is under contract for two more years at reasonable money.  How about Bradley, Sullinger, Lee’s expiring, Dallas’ 2016 first-round pick and the Nets 2018 first-round pick for Love?

6. DETROIT PISTONS

Who: Andre Drummond – the 22-year old is averaging 17.1 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG and 1.4 BPG. No explanation is needed here. Drummond is arguably the best C in basketball right now and is the rim protector, reliable rebounder and low-post scorer the Celtics have not had in a very long time. He would instantly become the franchise cornerstone. The Kevin Garnett of the next great Boston team.

Why: Very little reason for the Pistons to trade him. It is possible Stan Van Gundy has different ideas for this roster, which do not involve a traditional big man. There is very little on-Court reason for them to trade Drummond; instead, it would have to be because they are blown away by an offer.

How: Drummond becomes even more valuable when you realize he is still playing on his rookie contract and will only be a restricted free-agent after the year. So, the Celtics would be able to match any offer he received if he turned down the qualifying offer, which he would do. Andre Drummond for the Nets 2016 first-round draft pick and Kelly Olynyk. Who says no?

7. INDIANA PACERS

Who: Myles Turner – the 19-year-old rookie is averaging 8.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 1.3 BPG in only 16.8 MPG. His per 36 minutes numbers are 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 2.7 BPG! The sky is the limit for Turner and future rim protector of the NBA. Most impressive this season though has been his offensive production. He can score and at only 19, he is only going to improve.

Why: The Pacers are dangerously close to that dreaded middle-of-the-pack, where you are not good enough to get free agents or win a playoff series, but are too good to fall into the lottery. With Paul George and Monta Ellis under contract for another three seasons, they need to get this roster over the hump. It remains to be seen if they see Turner as that answer and they have been trending towards more small-ball lineups too.

How: Danny Ainge calls his old running mate, Larry Bird, and offers him a way out of the middle: Turner-for-Sullinger? The Pacers have no PFs and could use Sullinger as the five in their small lineups. With the rising cap and the lack of money on Indiana’s roster, they will not have any issues matching any offer Jared receives in restricted free agency after the season.

8. MIAMI HEAT

Who: Justice Winslow – the 19-year-old rookie is averaging 5.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 1.4 APG this season. The Celtics were willing to trade as many as six picks, including three in the first-round, for the right to take Justice during the 2016 draft, but Michael Jordan said no. The reason Ainge wanted to make that deal is Winslow is going to be a special, special player in this league. He can play both ways already and has so much room for growth. He is likely a franchise cornerstone and the Celtics are in need of one.

Why: Pat Riley likes big, shiny items. That is how he builds his championship teams. He thrives on convincing great players to come play for in Miami, like he did with Chris Bosh and Lebron James. With Durant and other all-stars ready to hit the open marker this summer, Riley is going to be busy and he needs money. They are also going to have to pay Dwayne Wade, who is also a free agent this summer. Furthermore, the Heat do not have a first-round draft pick in 2016, which is an asset they could use to further free up cap space prior to embarking on their summer pursuit of Durant. Subtracting Winslow from the roster has the added benefit of not affecting their playoff chances too much this season.

How: Would Riley be interested in a deal revolved around David Lee’s expiring contract, one of their trade exceptions, a 2016 first-round draft pick and the Nets 2018 first-round pick for Winslow and Josh McRoberts, who I am certain Riley wants to get off his books for the next couple of years?

9. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Who: Jabari Parker – the 20-year old, who is in his second NBA season, is currently averaging 11.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.4 APG. As stated numerous times already, the Celtics need a franchise player, a Paul Pierce-type player. Parker drew comparisons to Pierce before the 2015 draft and he appears capable of reaching an all-star level very soon. Boston would love to have him in their frontcourt.

Why: The Bucks have nearly seven players averaging double-figures, but they are not very efficient offensively, which is likely because the pieces just do not fit. They already have Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton and John Henson signed long-term in their frontcourt. So, if Parker is not the perfect fit for what they are trying to do, one can argue he is expendable. Plus, with OJ Mayo and Greivis Vazquez coming off their books at the end of the season, this may be a fairly new ownership group who tries to create some fireworks in the offseason. Again, that lends some credence to the idea they would be okay giving up on Jabari. Furthermore, the Bucks defensive rating per 100 possessions of 109.1 is ranked 29th in the NBA and Parker’s defensive rating of 111 does not help. While the Celtics have guards who can help mask his defensive deficiencies, it is clear Milwaukee does not.

How: This would cost the Celtics the 2016 Brooklyn pick. Would you trade anyone currently eligible for the 2016 draft, except Simmons, straight up for Parker? I would. The scary part of this is you are also giving up you’re the chance at winning the lottery to draft Simmons, but I am willing to take that chance. Are you, Danny?

10. NEW YORK KNICKS

Who: Arron Afflalo – he is currently averaging 13.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 1.8 APG. He has a player option next season worth $8 million that he will certainly decline in order to reenter the market in a season where the cap is projected to increase by $20 million. He will be further encouraged to do so as a result of his productive season in which he is shooting 45% from the field and 36% from three. Boston could use him down the stretch of their playoff run as he provides them with the outside shooting they currently lack. Then, by virtue of him declining his player option after the season, his contract is essentially an expiring, which will give Danny Ainge more flexibility to go after free agents in the offseason.

Why: Phil Jackson and the Knicks are desperate for assets right now, especially since they do not own their 2016 first-round pick. Similar to last year, Phil is going to do his best to acquire picks. Well, no one is better positioned to offer a first-round draft pick in 2016 than the Boston Celtics.

How: What is the cost of renting Afflalo for the summer? The 76ers 2nd round pick, which is currently projected to be the 31st pick of the draft.

11. ORLANDO MAGIC

Who: Nikola Vucevic – the 25-year-old C is currently averaging 16.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.1 BPG. He is shooting over 50% from the field, so is incredibly efficient on the offensive end of the floor. He would not only provide the Celtics defense with a rim protector, but also a serious scoring threat to pair with Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. His presence gives the frontcourt in Boston some stability, which is desperately needed right now.

Why: The Magic are falling apart, having lost seven in a row and falling to 20-24 on the season. They currently play five players 30 minutes or more, which demonstrates their severe lack of depth. The Magic were optimistic heading into the season and another losing season will not be taken very lightly. Orlando also seems stuck with the current roster since they do not have many contracts coming off their books this summer. Is it possible they begin selling off their most expensive parts come the deadline if the team continues to fade? If so, Vucevic and his remaining three years, $36 million will likely be the first to go.

How: The Celtics can offer the Magic some much-needed financial flexibility this offseason by including David Lee in the trade. How about Lee, Olynyk and Dallas’ first-round pick for Vucevic and Jason Smith (expiring)?

12. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Who: Jahlil Okafor – the 20-year-old rookie is averaging 17.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.2 APG and 1.1 BPG. He is shooting an efficient 49% of the field, which is impressive considering this is only his first season in the NBA. Okafor, despite his past issues in Boston, would be a welcome addition to an organization currently lacking any star power. He also provides the Celtics with a surefire offensive force, multiple-time all-star for years to come, which is something they do not currently have. Having Jahlil would provide the team with more confidence going forward with regard to future production than any of their current assets, including Brooklyn’s first-round pick.

Why: Okafor and Noel are for the most part interchangeable parts, which makes one of them expendable. Unlike Noel though, Okafor cannot play defense and appears prone to off-the-court issues. By trading Jahlil, the 76ers can gain another huge asset to use in potential trade talks in the offseason. Being able to do that is immensely important, especially with it being reported that the 76ers want to compete next year. If true, they are going to have to improve their roster through trades because it is going to be hard for them to sign needle-moving free agents.

How: Brooklyn’s 2016 first-round pick for Okafor. This provides the 76ers with two picks likely to land in the top three of the draft and they can use one, or both, of the picks to trade for NBA-ready players.

13. TORONTO RAPTORS

Who: Terrence Ross – the 24-year-old forward is currently averaging 8.7 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 23.4 MPG. He is shooting 44% from the field and 39% from three. The Celtics do not have much depth at the SF position and with Ross, could employ a small-ball lineup of Smart, Thomas, Ross, Crowder and Sullinger/Olynyk. Ross signed a three-year, $31.5 million-dollar deal this offseason, which does not go into effect until next season.

Why: Although injured at times this season, the Raptors have DeMarre Carroll and they are going to have him through the 2018-2019 season. Therefore, Terrence has almost no chance of starting in Toronto over the life of his current contract. While everyone needs a bench, do they need an $11 million-dollar eighth/ninth man? Furthermore, if the Raptors want to continue their recent success, they are going to have to open up their wallets this summer when DeMar DeRozan becomes a free agent. Freeing themselves of Ross’ deal will help Toronto do that.

How: Tyler Zeller and Dallas’ 2016 first-round pick for Terrence Ross? The Zeller inclusion makes the money work and provides Toronto with a backup C that they currently do not have.

14. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Who: Bradley Beal – the 22-year-old has only played in 22 games this season. He is averaging 18.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.0 SPG. He is set to become a restricted free agent after the season. No explanation is necessary with regard to what Beal would mean to the Celtics franchise. Boston has been chasing a Ray Allen-type player ever since he left and Beal could be their best option at finally accomplishing that goal.

Why: There is very little reason other than the Wall-Beal combo has not amounted to much, including this year’s 20-23 record. A lot of that is due to Beal’s injury problems, but could there be more there? He is going to want a max deal in the offseason, which is going to be north of $20 million under the new projected cap for players with 0-6 years in the league. Will Washington’s front office want to commit that type of money to him given all of his injury concerns, especially when they plan on chasing Kevin Durant this offseason? Will they be comfortable having three max-players on their books, which would be necessary if they want both Beal and Durant?

How: Although Beal is an all-star caliber player, he has injury concerns and is due a max deal in the summer. Both those things lower his value. The Wizards need a PF with Nene Hilario becoming a free agent at years end, so how about Sullinger, Dallas or Boston’s 2016 first-round pick and the Nets 2018 first-round pick?

PART TWO: Who the Celtics should target from the 15 teams of the Western Conference...NEXT!

Questions for the Readers: do you agree with the target from each team? do you agree with the trade offer? Please let us know!

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox of Getty Images

Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz

Max Sandgrund 1/27/2016 10:51:00 AM Edit
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