How not dealing for a superstar may be the Celtics' best long-term plan

At this point in the offseason, it appears more than likely that a blockbuster trade isn't happening for the Celtics.  Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins aren't coming to Boston.  As the C's enter Year 4 of their rebuilding process, Danny Ainge continues to be extremely patient.  He's held on to all of his most-prized assets, saying that the right deal just hasn't been out there.

After relentless talk of "fireworks" (although the Al Horford signing absolutely fits that billing--if Kevin Durant hadn't been available we'd all be saying Boston made the biggest move of the summer), many Celtics fans are impatiently wondering what the reason for collecting all these future draft choices is if they're not being used to land a superstar.

Last month, Michael Pina of Real GM made an outstanding case for why keeping the Nets' picks (their No. 1 in 2018 and the right to swap No. 1s next year) is the smart thing to do.  He built his argument on two main points:

1. Boston has already gotten very good very quickly, without having to sacrifice anything substantial.

2. The Cavaliers and Warriors are looming.  Would adding Butler, Griffin or Cousins make the C's good enough (consider they might also have to part with a quality player or two in addition to a Brooklyn pick) to beat Cleveland?  Maybe.  Golden State?  Almost certainly not.

Since the Celtics are already approaching contention, Pina thinks they can have their cake and eat it too:

Championship windows slam shut without warning. They’re delicate. A front office with foresight knows this, and understands how many uncontrollable forces are at play. The idea, again, is to stay as good as you can for as long as you can; even more difficult than opening the window in the first place is keeping it ajar.

Boston has an obvious path towards both thanks to [Nets GM] Billy King...
By holding onto the Brooklyn picks and keeping everyone who’s expected to crack their rotation, Boston is already good enough for a deep playoff run, and well-positioned to straddle two timelines at the same time. 
There are obvious ways to build for today and tomorrow. That’s what makes these Celtics so special, and why they’re allowed to be picky on the trade market.

Marcus Smart could make a big leap in his third season.  Jaylen Brown has superstar potential.  Isaiah Thomas is only 27 years old and may continue to improve.  The same is true for Jae Crowder (26) and Avery Bradley (25).  More from Pina:

It’s possible this team is building itself in reverse, with the franchise player arriving in next year’s lottery to join Smart and Brown as their next Big 3, after their current core (plus whoever they sign with max cap space next summer) starts to decline. Imagine how long the Detroit Pistons would’ve dominated if they drafted Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade back in 2003.

"Building itself in reverse" is a great description of this club's future, as is the 2003 Detroit analogy.  In 2002-03, the Pistons won 50 games with a defense-first roster devoid of any major stars.  They drafted Darko Milicic with the No. 2 pick that June, then won the title the next year with him riding the bench.  Darko was a bust, and Detroit's championship window was short lived.

However, the difference between these Celtics and those Pistons is that Detroit only had one shot at landing an elite player in the draft--Boston has three.  Even in the unlikely case that Jaylen Brown goes the way of Darko Milicic, the C's still have two more chances to hit a home run and get a Carmelo Anthony or a Dwyane Wade.  And who knows, what if Brown, the 2017 pick and the 2018 pick all become stars?

Look out NBA.

Follow Mark Van Deusen on Twitter @LucidSportsFan