With Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaching, the Boston Celtics have a chance to add pieces to boost their hopeful Eastern Conference playoff run.
According to NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Celtics are reportedly inquiring about high-flying Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and young Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins to balance out the team’s backcourt-heavy lineup.
Gordon is averaging 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season and is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (including 47.2 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s), making him a potentially good fit for Boston’s ball-dominant stars. He’s also entering the final year of his contract next summer, giving the Celtics more time to work on a longer-term deal — something Danny Ainge has listed as an important factor.
The 24-year-old Collins, who was one of just four players to average 20 points and 10 rebounds last season, could similarly fill a need for a Celtics team in search of more consistent interior play to go with stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker on the perimeter.
But Celtics fans might not like what such a splashy move could cost: namely, veteran guard and leader Marcus Smart.
Aaron Gordon has formally requested a trade from the Orlando Magic, sources tell @sam_amick & me. A deep dive his trade market, the Celtics’ pursuit of John Collins & how Marcus Smart and Bogdan Bogdanovic could be involved.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) March 22, 2021
NEW @TheAthleticNBA https://t.co/5PEqOav4DA
Charania reports the Hawks in particular have their eye on trading for Smart should they look to make a deal with Boston for Collins and another player like sharp-shooter Bogdan Bogdanovic. Charania hinted last week the Celtics could balk at the “steep” price; Smart’s inclusion in such a trade might explain why.
Smart has played well in his return from a calf strain he suffered in January, averaging just over 11 points on 40 percent shooting from 3-point range to go with 3.5 assists in his first six games after the All-Star Break. The Celtics struggled mightily without him in the lineup before a four-game win streak took them into the break with a record of 9-9 sans Smart.
Fellow Athletic writers Jared Weiss and Sam Amick write the Hawks initially pitched an even grander plan when the Celtics first sought after Collins, seeking to build a trade package around All-Star forward Brown — this reportedly had no chance unless the Hawks included stars Trae Young and DeAndre Hunter in return.
But Weiss and Amick say refusing to part with Smart might not be an option if the Celtics hope to bring in a high-impact player via trade.
“Completing a deal without Smart is tricky for Boston,” they say, “as their young players aside from Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams currently hold minimal trade value and the front office still values those players as potential key rotation pieces in the near future. Boston still sees Romeo Langford as a project worth investing in, but Langford has not generated nearly enough value in trade talks to make it worth parting with the second-year wing.”
Ainge has repeatedly said he wouldn’t make trades simply out of desperation to fix the Celtics’ continuing roller-coaster of a season and has maintained the team will most likely seek to use its much-discussed traded-player exception (TPE) after the season.
Thursday’s trade deadline will put that resolve to the test with multiple intriguing players on the market, though it could mean parting with a fan-favorite in Smart.
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