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Celtics don't pull off a deadline deal, and that's OK

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  February 20, 2014 03:30 PM

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Are you not entertained?

The NBA's trading deadline came and went without a peep from Celtics president of basketball Danny Ainge Thursday. Rajon Rondo is still a Celtic, and in a bigger upset, so are Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries. The roster that has carried the Celtics to a 19-36 record will more or less finish out the season.

In an unscientific poll during our live chat this afternoon just before the deadline, 72 percent of you said you weren't OK with this result. You wanted the Celtics to make some kind of move. For a large percentage of you, this lack of action is disappointing.

The trade deadline wasn't just a dud in Boston. Andre Miller, Aaron Brooks, Steve Blake, and Jan Vesely were among the players changing uniforms Thursday, which doesn't exactly move the meter. Teams are reluctant to make trades in February when so much is uncertain, but even by quiet trade deadline standards this one was a snooze fest.

As disappointing as the lack of action now might be for Celtics fans, it's important to remember that for the long term, today doesn't change much. Trades involving Rondo, Bass, Jeff Green, and others for guys like Kevin Love, Dion Waiters, Josh Smith, and Omer Asik can happen just as easily in June as now. Easier in fact, given that by then we'll know which teams are picking when in the draft and which players have declared.

The Celtics had two main objectives Thursday: To gain assets, in the form of draft picks or good young players, and to free up future salary cap relief. The best they could have hoped for was to do one or the other. The worst result would have been taking on either a bad contract or giving up one of their picks to make anything less than an exceptional deal happen.

And as hard as it may seem to believe given their record, the Celtics are dealing from a position of strength. Here's the first-round picks they own, and where they come from, over the next few seasons:

2014 1st round: Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia (lottery protected)
2015 1st round: Boston, LA Clippers, Philadelphia (lottery protected)
2016 1st round: Boston, Brooklyn
2017 1st round: Boston
2018 1st round: Boston, Brooklyn

Humphries has value staying put because his $12 million comes off the books after this season. Rondo is signed for another year at a reasonable $13 million, and you only want to trade him if you're getting something really, really great in return. Trading guys like Bass, Green, Keith Bogans' contract, and Gerald Wallace, while nice in theory, means you have to take on bad contracts in return. It delays the process.

There's one good argument for the Celtics having made a move today, and its that they may be too good to get a high lottery pick with the roster they have now. Right now the Celtics have the 7th-worst record in the league. The formula for improving their chances involves playing guys like Kelly Olynyk and Chris Johnson more and Rondo and Humphries less. You could call it tanking, but the Celtics can do it in the name of player development. They're not likely to get much better regardless of who's out there, even if they don't get much worse.

The lottery is exactly that. The Celtics are dependent on fate, but with multiple picks and smart cap management they're trying to insulate themselves against one bad roll of the dice. If the process works it will be boring, less an overnight success than a methodical slog back to the top. Ainge didn't screw anything up Thursday. He could screw it all up with a bad draft or trade in June, but let's get there first. If you were on board with trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett last July, you should still be on board now.

So now that that's out of the way, anyone hear any good Rondo rumors lately?

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