As we’ve learned (or refused to learn because we love and crave nothin’ but pain), especially here in Boston, the NBA trade deadline is often a big bowl of hype.
Every year, the Celtics will find themselves connected to about a dozen different players of all walks, and every year, nothing happens and Danny Ainge and the Celtics stay the course. I’ll never forget the day the Celtics got me excited about signing Greg Monroe off the buyout market. Greg Monroe! But with the Celtics struggling to find their footing, and ‘angst and pressure’ making its way to Boston’s front office as the Celtics flirt with play-in tournament seeding, The Athletic’s Sam Amick truly believes things will be different this year. That or he poured an entire town’s supply of gasoline on the Aaron Gordon rumors for the mere thrill.
“If you would’ve caught me last night, I was really starting to think this Aaron Gordon thing was gonna heat up today, and who knows, maybe even go down today,” Amick said during an appearance on The A-List podcast with A. Sherrod Blakely. “I would still put him at the front of the line in terms of what seems most possible.”
Now in his seventh season with Orlando, Gordon is on the block in the midst of a 24-game season that’s come with 14.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per night. Gordon is also in the third year of a four-year, $80 million contract, and there’s been talk that he’s reportedly open to an extension if he’s traded to a contender. The latter is more than understandable when considering the fact that Gordon has appeared in just five playoff games in his entire NBA career.
Amick also confirmed an earlier report from Action Network’s Matt Moore that said the Celtics had offered up multiple first-round picks to the Magic in a potential deal for Gordon (something no other team has considered before now), but highlighted the other issues facing the team in a potential move for the 25-year-old forward.
“For the Magic, you’re talking about those [first-round] picks,” said Amick. ‘That’s what they’re looking at. And if I had to guess, there’s probably a lot of haggling going on in real time about the protections on the picks. Is it gonna be two straight firsts? Is it gonna be a first and a second?
“It seems like the one part that is still in flux potentially, as far as the possible framework, is the Marcus Smart inclusion or lack of inclusion. And that ties in with the trade exception and the size of it and where the Celtics are at with the hard cap. One way around that, and to use all of that exception, is to send a guy like Marcus out with his salary.”
Amick certainly sounded like a man aware of the gravity of such a suggestion around these parts, but mentioned that Smart’s rip-your-throat-out mentality is the kind that may have run its course in Boston.
“There’s a lot of history there and [Smart] runs really hot. And his intensity has been a real part of their fabric, but you do occasionally hear noise that maybe [the Celtics] are looking to turn a new page,” Amick noted. “And that’s where other teams are getting excited because Marcus has value on the market and he’s the kind of guy that can fit into a lot of elite cultures.”
It’d also be about more than just Smart and Gordon swapping places and the C’s throwing some extra picks to Orlando.
“And the idea that Boston is pursuing, and is still believed to be pursuing, not only Aaron, but Evan Fournier in this situation as well, is big,” said Amick. “That would require, I think, Marcus going out and if you talk about reputation and personality, the fans are gonna look at that and go, ‘Wait a minute.’ [You’d be trading] Marcus Smart and what he stands for and then Evan Fournier who kind of floats with the wind and plays great one day and not so great the next day… He’s not gonna get into anybody’s backside competitively.”
A 6-foot-7 guard, Fournier is averaging a career-high 19.6 points and 3.7 assists per game in 2020-21, and would represent a true rental for the Celtics, as he’s wrapping up a five-year, $85 million contract this season.
The Celtics are not alone in their pursuit of Gordon, either, according to Amick, who noted the Nuggets’ interest in the 6-foot-8 forward. But one thing that is potentially working in the Celtics’ favor in a potential bidding war? The Nuggets are in a position similar to Ainge’s most recent deadlines, with urgency not necessarily the name of the game given their record and core.
“I think it’s those two teams, and if a move is gonna happen, I think it’ll be to one of those teams,” Amick said of the Gordon sweeps. “I’m dying to see what happens.”
Same here, Sam. Same here.
Scroll down for Sean Sylver’s list of the Celtics’ most notable trade targets, including Gordon and others from the Magic.