Since the NBA trade deadline is now weeks old, looking back at what could have been is usually a fruitless activity. That said, the Boston Celtics were apparently looking to land a blockbuster trade involving Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler.
The Boston Herald reports Celtics exec Danny Ainge was prepared to “give up two first-round draft picks this year” for Butler. A Herald source explained the rationale, noting the Bulls weren’t explicitly looking to get rid of Butler:
This is not a case where Chicago was looking to trade Jimmy Butler. That would be crazy. But if Boston calls, you have to look at those picks and some of the players they have and at least hear them out. Most times when teams call about your star, you can just dismiss it right away, but you have to think about it with Ainge and the Celtics right now. There’s a lot to go over there with possibilities.
The Bulls tweener had been dealing with a knee sprain that kept him out of the All-Star Game, but Ainge was reportedly looking for deal involving a “difference maker.” Butler would certainly fall into that category, especially since the Celtics can be classified as an overachieving bunch without much star power [insert Isaiah Thomas caveat here].
A reported play for Butler would fall in line with Ainge’s aggressive philosophy, which reportedly included a push for Carmelo Anthony. All things considered, the Celtics are playoff-worthy on their own merit. Their defense is top three in points allowed per possession and the offense ranks in the top 10; they’re one of only five teams (the other being Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and the Clippers) to rank in the top 10 for offensive and defensive rating. Head coach Brad Stevens has done a remarkable job building up this franchise in a short amount of time without any real big names.
Ultimately, it seems, that was the missing piece for Ainge: Could a name like Butler (or Melo, or Paul George — basically a 2/3 guy who can score) be the player to push the Celtics from playoff team to championship contender?
For now, that question will go unanswered.
(Via the Boston Herald)