ORLANDO, Fla. — If the Boston Celtics could find a way to publish the roster on their website in pencil, they should. It would be the most honest representation for a cast that is certain to change – dramatically, they hope – before the season opens.
While the latest trade for Tyler Zeller (from Cleveland), Marcus Thornton (from Brooklyn) and a first-round pick is not the direct precursor to another move, it is further evidence the Celtics are far from done dealing.
Though Danny Ainge is still hoping he can execute a major transaction that will vault the club back into the upper playoff echelon, he is presently left to hoard assets in the event something good shakes loose.
The trade exception the Celts used to make this deal was about to expire, so the bottom line is they got Zeller and a first-rounder (Cleveland’s top-10-protected pick in 2016, ’17 and ’18 or unprotected in ’19) for taking on Thornton’s expiring contract of $8.575 million. The Celtics also gave up a future second-round pick, but it’s so heavily protected that it will likely never be lost.
What the move doesn’t necessarily do is bring the Celtics any closer to Kevin Love. Minnesota has still not shown any interest in what the Celtics could have to offer, and they have not communicated to Ainge what players they would like that he might be able to get for them.
It is important to note the Celtics and Minnesota have never been close on a deal for Love or even been engaged in any meaningful back-and-forth discussion. It’s a trade the Celtics certainly want to make, but it would take a major change in thinking by the Timberwolves.
And while the Celtics may never have had a realistic shot at Love, it’s possible their latest trade could put Cleveland in position to get him. Though most sources believe LeBron James will remain with Miami, the Cavaliers now have more cap space and have told James if he returns, they are working on scenarios to get Love.
Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations and coach, has told people involved that he doesn’t want his club to take a step back, but if he has the chance to get No. 1 overall draft choice Andrew Wiggins, he could think differently. If you’re Cleveland, you are probably reluctant to give up the top pick, but if getting Love is the difference in reeling James back, you probably have to wave goodbye to Wiggins.
Ainge, meanwhile, is just trying to get in on the big action.
Sources say he believes Boston is a place Love wants to play, but he knows it will take more than the presence of Rajon Rondo to attract him. So he is continuing to look for ways to set up larger moves – to get an All-Star or the talent to support one.
The Celtics are also aware they could be left again with a mismatched roster ripe for change. Even in that case, sources say they will hold off on doing anything drastic with Rondo, unless another club is willing to make them an offer too good to refuse.