The elephant in the room

Been wanting to write this post for a while, but after all the news finally broke yesterday which carrot Danny Ainge was using in trade talks it became even more important. Saw this tweet on Sunday and it was the right question to be asking. Because if the Celtics are being linked to actual very good NBA players, you're no longer talking a late first round pick and absorb the contract with the TPE.

So looking at the value pyramid we created early last week you can have an idea who other teams are calling about:

While no player is untradeable to Danny Ainge (and the most GM's for that matter), it makes no sense to trade either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. You're trying to create a young Big 3 that can compete for titles for many years to come (Think Warriors Curry/Klay/Draymond). So you need to add a potential star to Jaylen and Jayson, not swap one out. That leaves Robert Williams, Payton Pritchard, and Marcus Smart as the highest tier players other teams would be asking about. Note the tiers take into account contracts and age. If Kemba was 23 and making $4 million a year he'd be way higher up.

To cut to the chase, while we all love Pritchard, his trade value is likely good, but not great. And I believe Danny doesn't want to pay a big man in today's modern NBA big money (unless they were an All-NBA player like Jokic, Davis or Embiid) so he wants to retain Robert Williams as the inexpensive center of the very near future. So teams are asking about Jaylen, but that's not happening. And the other names to answer CelticsCanada's question are Time Lord, Pritchard and Marcus Smart.

The reason you are hearing Marcus Smart's name most prominently is for the same one as to why you heard his name before the draft. The Celtics are unsure if they want to pay him the brinks truck of a contract he will receive in 2022. Marcus is making just under $13 million this season and next year he will make $14 million. If you've seen what lesser role players like Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, and the like have made in free agency, it's not some crazy stretch to believe someone will be willing to double Marcus' annual pay. Only takes one team. And Marcus is pretty universally coveted.

So the Celtics ownership group and front office likely made the decision they can't afford to keep Marcus past this contract and that's why you are seeing him available in trades. Now they literally can afford to keep Marcus, but its cap and tax management stuff. If your'e paying Tatum the max and Jaylen near the max, even if you removed Kemba Walker from the books, do you want to pay Marcus Smart close to $30 million a year? Because then that's your Big 3. Smart and their Jay's.

I don't understand the fascination of going all-in on Aaron Gordon. Yes he would have been a suitable replacement for Gordon Hayward as your 4th or 5th guy, but he's not a top 3 guy on a championship team. Maybe if you're talking a Kyle Kuzma next to two All-NBA 1st team players, but so is Smart. And right now neither Jay is 1st team All-NBA and that's a tall task to predict one or both will be. Plus Gordon will be a free agent in 2022 as well. So different player, same situation. Not to mention you're also kicking in 1st rounders when you don't have extra ones anymore. That means that's your team for the future.

John Collins? That's another story. If you need to trade Smart to get the 4/5 player like Collins that would compliment your two stars perfectly then that makes sense. One big and two wings/guards as typically been the recipe for success in the NBA. Now you need your big to do more wing things like. a Draymond or AD can do. Collins fits that mold. Age wise he's perfect for the Jay's timeline.

The only other way to add a star is to draft one. If the Grizzlies lost a few more games last year, the Celtics could have ended up with Tyrese Haliburton instead of Aaron Nesmith. For this reason if you are going to trade your future 1sts you better already have the 3 players on your team that make you a contender. Players can gain and lose value, depending on age, injuries, contracts, play, etc. A positive asset can become a negative one (and vice versa). Future low salaried, cost controlled 1st round draft picks always have strong value.

In an ideal world and what I'm hoping for the Celtics add a 3rd star and re-sign Marcus to a team friendly deal around $22 million a year to be their 4th guy. Their glue guy, heart and soul, "everyone needs one of these guys to win a championship" guys. Think Andre Iguodala on the Warriors.

To get Marcus to agree to that discounted contract you'd NEED to do it before his agent fishes out $30 million or near $30 million offers from other teams (You know like good agents do. See Horford's in 2019 and Hayward's in 2020). So my realistic goal in the next 48 hours or so is for Boston to add John Collins. If that means parting with Marcus, so be it. If Marcus isn't going to be a Celtic past next season rather get a young future All-Star than the jack shite they got for Kyrie, Hayward, and Horford when they walked. But if you're trading Marcus and 1sts for anything less than a future All-Star, then please just do nothing and let this deadline expire Danny. That right there would be a perfect example of making a trade just to make a trade that also makes you worse. Now and especially long term. You're not winning a title with Gordon and Fournier in place of Hayward and Smart. And Gordon will be a free agent in a year. You going to pay him $30 mil then? If you are thinking big splash make sure you don't settle on the wrong target. Trading Perk made some sense when you did. But you settled on Jeff Green instead of James Harden. Huge fail. Trading Smart makes some sense now. But don't settle on Aaron Gordon (or Harrison Barnes for that matter). John Collins is the available prize. Remember when the Sonics wanted Rondo, but you gave them Delonte instead? That's the Ainge we need now. Don't be the team settling for Jeff Green or Delonte West. Be the team that ends up with Rondo or Harden.