Even four games deep in a losing streak, the Celts have the third-best record in the league and the best in the East by a game and a half, so with such a major in-season get as their own star wing waiting on the sideline for a potential return, shaking this team up may not be as wise as it seems. But that horrific injury spawned another resource that could give Boston a much-needed edge - the Disabled Player Exception (DPE), a one-time allowance to sign or trade for a player with only this season left on their contract at a value up to $8.4 million.
A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, and the consensus seems to be Lou Williams if he can be had (unlikely), Tyreke Evans if he can't, with a slight chance of Nerlens Noel, Ersan Ilyasova, Rodney Hood, Vince Carter or Julius Randle. Others think Danny will wait out the buyout market before pouncing on one of these guys. Unless Williams, Evans, Hood or Randle can be had with one of Boston's own picks, this is probably true - but as Ainge tends to zag about here, are there any players who might stand out as unexpected options? I "scoured the league for help" myself, and found a few interesting possibilities based on some needs we've seen the team have of late, so let's dive in:
Reliable distribution on the second unit: I think it's pretty safe to say we don't believe in Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier in that role, at least not yet, this season, and a gritty veteran who will send the ball where it needs to go when it matters could do a lot of good for this team. Old friend Rajon Rondo has a year left on his $3.3 million deal, no real future with the New Orleans Pelicans, and a history with Boston.
Brad Stevens says Rajon Rondo is “the best passer in small areas that I’ve ever seen.”
It might take more than it should to pry him free given the Pels are currently in sixth place out West, but it would be in their best interest to flip Rajon for any first-round pick given any move they can realistically make is no guarantee to retain DeMarcus Cousins after this season. I'd offer (at most) Shane Larkin and Boston's own 2018 first.
Shooting: the axiom that you can never have enough of it may be as tired as "defense wins championships", but both have a basis in fact, and this year, Boston is no exception with the latter - especially when Kyrie Irving is sitting, Jayson Tatum has an off night, or (god forbid) when both happen at once. Cue Wayne Ellington, who is in the last year of a deal valued at a hair under $6.3 million bucks, and sits just behind Lou Williams in three-point attempts for the year - and is actually better at hitting them (by a very minor degree - .406 to .405).
Other than Steph, nobody is able to square up in the air from weirder angles than Wayne Ellington. That dude can be on the run facing the opposite basket when he jumps and still manage to be fully square on release.
Like the Los Angeles Clippers and Pels, the Miami Heat's recent success (they are breathing down the necks of the Cleveland Cavaliers in fourth place) may convince them to retain Ellington unless an offer above his normal value is offered - but as with Rondo and the Pels, the organization would be foolish to turn down any first round pick for a guy on the wrong side of 30 for a rebuilding franchise. In this scenario, I'd offer the same pick (Boston's own 2018 first) plus Abdel Nader.
Rim protection: How do you make the league's best defense better? Add a brick wall to it! That wall would be, in my opinion, Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trailblazers, who is looking for a shot at showcasing his skills to get a good deal in a league moving away from his kind of big man.
There's a lot of potential negatives to adding Jusuf - he reportedly gets angsty when he doesn't get as many minutes as he feels he deserves, duplicates Aron Baynes aside from shot blocking, and would likely take away minutes from Daniel Theis and other frontcourt players - but he's the only top-20 shot blocker likely to be had given the Blazers' terrible cap situation, so a package of Jarrell Eddie and cash plus the 2019 Clippers first could save them a lot of money while giving them another tool to mitigate costs while trying to unload Evan Turner or Moe Harkless.
A crazy end-of-article heave: Jabari Parker. The Milwaukee Bucks are trying to figure out their next step, and may be willing to part ways on the cheap with Parker for a team willing to take a risk. Given he likely won't help much this season any team that he ends up playing for, this is more about rolling the dice for a potentially huge reward, as Parker's rights would come with him, allowing Boston to lock up a high-level player on the cheap this summer.
Assuming he's healthy and ready to go, Jabari Parker might be one of the best trade deadline "additions" a team can make. He was playing terrific before getting hurt again last year.
It'd probably take a young player who can help the Bucks now plus a solid first, and would almost certainlyrequire saying goodbye to Smart if he did re-sign, so sending him and the 2019 Memphis Grizzlies first might give Milwaukee the same right of first refusal for a player likely to command less even healthier than Parker while freeing each team up from an off-season conundrum.
Keep in mind I am not saying we SHOULD make these deals - it's just a thought exercise of some deals below the radar that might fit the Ainge profile. If you have some of your own, DPE eligible or otherwise, let us know in the comments below.