2 of Boston's top 3 targets are off the board; should the Cs be worried?

In less than an hour's time last night, still several hours before the official start to NBA free agency, two of the Boston Celtics' top targets came off the board.

First Blake Griffin canceled his meetings with other teams to resign with the Los Angeles Clippers for five years and $173 million dollars. I wasn't pleased, but it's not like Boston would, should or could have thought about trying to match a deal like that, given his injury history.

Then, Paul George was traded by the Indiana Pacers for an about-to-be overpaid Victor Oladipo and Damontas Sabonis, with the General Manager Kevin Pritchard turning down better packages from Boston to reportedly keep George out of the East. Stunning pretty much everyone, and turning the Western Conference into a post-apocalyptic wasteland after the Chris Paul defections to the Houston Rockets, suddenly, the Celtics faced the prospect of whiffing on all their most hoped-for teambuilding options, again, should Gordon Hayward chose to decamp elsewhere, or to remain with the Utah Jazz.

Should we be panicking?

I don't think so. As much as the fantasy of George and Hayward being on the Celtics next season titillated, it would have gutted the roster and removed much of the flexibility the team cherishes going forward. I would have still rolled the dice so long as we retained Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and most of the young core to rebuild with once the Golden State Warriors - or the tax bill - forced a partial rebuild, but that dream is but a memory already. So where does that leave us?

1) Boston is still the most optimal destination for Hayward. Money has clearly never been the primary motivator in Hayward's case, or he'd be focused on trying to garner the hardware required to become eligible for the Designated Veteran Player Exception with the Jazz. And speaking of, the Jazz had chances to pay the man in the past, but balked. Don't think he's forgotten that, despite the numerous appeals to loyalty being made by Salt Lake City media. And we have few if any indications the Miami Heat are in a better position than Boston, given their primary advantages in recruiting (nightlife, championship pedigree, taxes) are unlikely to sway a family man known to keep things low-key, with a former coach working in a city unmatched by any other in terms of ring count with an earning potential likely equivalent or greater once endorsements come into play.

2) The Celts may actually be better positioned to make a trade for a player who would be a better fit - at the deadline or next summer - who is currently unavailable, regardless of Hayward's decision. To be sure, landing George might have been exactly what the Celts needed given the apparent exodus of talent to the Western Conference. His price tag to actually land him might have forced disrupting longer-term contention windows, too, though, and George is not an ideal fit despite his considerable skill. In fact, we don't know at all what if any other significant factors might happen (or already have) to shake up the picture even further. The free agency period hasn't been officially active for 12 hours yet, so a lot more moves could be coming down the pike. Let's try and be patient.

3) While it makes sense to make a big offer for big talents, there's a limit (see: Justice Winslow), especially before knowing what the short and long-term prospects for contention are going to be. Losing Andre Iguodala could be a major blow for the Warriors, and a failure to add talent to the Cleveland Cavaliers could similarly add all kinds of hard-to-predict instability in the league's already-fluid state. If there has been a time to bide one's time from a position of strength (and, hoarding jokes aside, Danny Ainge is still VERY MUCH in such a position) in the odds that unexpected deals might shake a surprising player free, this is it. Keep in mind, the West has only gotten worse, and may continue to become a lopsided arms race should players like Paul Millsap sign with teams like the Phoenix Suns.

I know this is not the article you were hoping for this morning, and I know preaching patience after almost a half-decade of waiting is not what people want to read, but the Celtics have come much further much faster than expected already, and despite the gloomy results of the last 24 hours, I believe the team is actually poised to strike once the right opportunity comes.

The question is what will that opportunity be, and, of course...when?

For more stories about the offseason on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.

Photo via SI.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn