Did Danny overplay his hand? Probably.
It’s abundantly clear that a deal with the Pacers involving Gordon Hayward, Myles Turner, and Doug McDermott was on the table, but Danny Ainge held out for more, essentially calling Gordon Haywards bluff.
Ainge clearly assumed Hayward had nowhere else to go other than Indiana and thought he could just leverage the Pacers into a Godfather offer.
It turns out Hayward did have somewhere else to go. Somewhere that was willing to offer him much more than just about anybody thought was possible. Michael Jordan and the Hornets played Ainge like a fiddle and left the Celtics nearly empty-handed.
Over the past few weeks, Ainge had to tuck his tail and work on a sign-and-trade with Charlotte in order to acquire a trade exception. Earlier this week, the deal was announced that two Celtic second-round picks would be heading to Charlotte along with Hayward for a $28.5M trade exception and a conditional second-round pick that will likely never convey.
So after Ainge blew the Hayward deal, where can the Celtics go from here? The trade exception gives the Celtics loads of flexibility in terms of possible trades.
The only issue? The Celtics don’t have much to give up in terms of assets in any potential deal. They had three first-rounders in the 2020 Draft, but as per usual Danny made two out of his three first-round picks and essentially gave away the 30th pick.
The biggest trade chips the Celtics have that they would reasonably be willing to give up are Romeo Langford, Robert Williams, and possibly Grant Williams, along with their own draft picks. Not much to work with.
There is no more Brooklyn or Memphis picks to deal. The Celtics are pretty much stuck unless the Celtics are serious about dealing one of their four building blocks in Walker, Brown, Tatum, and Smart. I’d be stunned if Ainge even considered dealing any of them. Smart should undoubtedly be on the trading block, but my guess is that the Celtics value Smart more than any other team would, and would never receive an offer they deemed equal value.
Some potential targets that would fit into the trade exception are Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Buddy Hield, Eric Gordon, Justice Winslow, and Victor Oladipo. Wing depth is the Celtics’ biggest need at the moment, and these players would fit in well with what the Celtics do on both ends of the floor.
There does exist a scenario where the Celtics don’t end up using the trade exception and actually get worse than nothing for Gordon Hayward.
Here’s to hoping Danny remembers he can make trades. The Celtics haven’t made an in-season trade since the famous Isaiah Thomas acquisition in 2015.