Brooklyn Nets

Paul George trade: Did the Celtics waste their best chance to add another star?

It turns out you can place too much value on your own assets, and failing to part with them when it’s time to make a deal forces you into damage control. 

In the aftermath of the
Oklahoma City Thunder
‘s blockbuster trade for
Paul George
, there are a lot of questions. Was this the best offer the
Indiana Pacers
could generate? Will
Russell Westbrook
sign an extension with the Thunder now? What does this mean for the
Los Angeles Lakers
 when it comes to George? 

But there’s also this one: What about Boston?

The
Boston Celtics
have had the best trade assets in the NBA the past three seasons. Young players, movable contracts and picks. They had the
Brooklyn Nets
‘ picks in 2017 and 2018, along with the
Memphis Grizzlies
and
Los Angeles Clippers
‘ picks in 2019. They landed the No. 1 spot in the lottery with one of those Nets pick in the June 22 draft. And with a team that made in the Eastern Conference Finals, they could offer a star player a winning environment with star players and a great coach in Brad Stevens. 

So it made sense that many people around the league believed the Celtics would be the team to deal for Paul George. 

Except they didn’t. 

And that’s where the damage control comes in: 

The Boston Globe shortly reported more of the same. The Celtics put together a “massive” deal. They offered multiple picks. Of course, since the draft, the value has gone down according to multiple outlets, with ESPN reporting that neither the Lakers’ 2018 protected pick nor the remaining Nets pick were on the table. 

And that makes sense. The Pacers’ leverage was compromised after George informed them he wouldn’t return, wanted to join the Lakers and someone leaked that information to the media. At that point, it became about not overpaying for George. The minute that happened, the Celtics’ approach pretty clearly changed back to their standard M.O., which is to make every deal by trying to squeeze blood from the stone. 

The going theory now is the Pacers were never going to trade George to the East, so the Celtics were out. But if the Celtics offered a deal they could not refuse, would the Pacers have really turned it down? But they didn’t. The Celtics chased another sweetheart deal like the one they got for
Kevin Garnett
, when he was traded to Brooklyn.

Maybe Boston had an opportunity to go all out, but didn’t, or the Pacers’ front office just willingly passed up superior offers and there was nothing Boston could do. 

The Celtics are still in great shape. They have young talent in
Jaylen Brown
and No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum. They have an MVP candidate in
Isaiah Thomas
and a star in
Al Horford
. They have a good chance to sign
Gordon Hayward
in free agency. But the reason you collect assets is to get a player like George. 

We’ve seen the
Houston Rockets
collect assets in the past, and then cash them in for stars. Daryl Morey is an analytics-focused shrewd trade collector, but he doesn’t waste time. He knows he can always get more assets. The Celtics not only hoarded assets, but then turned one of their best assets (the No. 1 pick, which they traded to the 76ers) into more assets instead of using it. 

Boston’s ability to make a deal hasn’t evaporated. If they add a key free agent, they’ll be in position to improve on a season where they landed the No. 1 seed in the East. They still have flexibility, multiple picks, and young players. Maybe, if nothing else, this George debacle will provide a lesson that sometimes, you just have to accept you’re not going to get a star player for nothing every time out. 

(Although, if
DeMarcus Cousins
leaves the
New Orleans Pelicans
and
Anthony Davis
becomes available…) 

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