We've been waiting a long time for this day. Deadline day has arrived in the NBA, and a lot of questions remain to be answered. Who will be on the move? Which team will improve the most? What will happen to Dwight Howard? And most importantly, what will happen with the Boston Celtics and the prized Big Four?
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo have had plenty of time in the rumor spotlight this season, especially in the past few weeks leading up to the deadline. Pierce has reportedly been offered to the Portland Trail Blazers. Rondo has been tied to Pau Gasol. Allen has been drawing interest in general, as has Garnett.
But hold on, now. Rumors aside, it's highly unlikely that any of the Big Four will be moved.
All throughout the season, the general consensus on trading Pierce, Allen, Garnett and Rondo has been that, if the Celtics can obtain players of equal or greater value or a young talent to build around, they would consider it. Alas, that deal hasn't presented itself yet, because if it had, general manager Danny Ainge would have done it already.
Teams simply aren't going to destroy their future by trading building blocks (young stars or draft picks) to add veterans, albeit talented ones, for a one-year championship run. Don't fool yourself -- Pierce, Garnett and Allen are still very good players that could help any contender in its pursuit of a title. But they aren't worth mortgaging the future for.
Rondo, though, is a different story. Rondo is one of the league's premier guards and would be an excellent addition to almost any team, contending or not. That being the case, Rondo's price is much higher. And we know that Ainge has shopped Rondo once or twice before, including this season. But he's still here, meaning it's unlikely that he'll be dealt by the deadline on Thursday.
Ainge and Celtics coach Doc Rivers have both said that they don't think any major moves will be made, with Rivers reaffirming that belief after the Celtics' 105-103 win over the Warriors.
"I would be surprised if we're not [fully intact]. But you never know. Last year I may have made that statement and we traded nine guys," quipped Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referencing how Boston traded five players, including starting center Kendrick Perkins, at last year's deadline. "I mean this thing goes pretty quickly, I guess you're telling me that Dwight [Howard] is going to be back in play, so you never know." (via ESPN Boston)
Of course, Ainge went off script last season when he traded Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green in a deal that nobody saw coming. Judgement on that trade should still be withheld considering Green's surprising heart condition that would require surgery.
Ainge can't afford to be wrong if he deals a member of the Big Three or Rondo. Perkins was an important part of the Celtics' championship contending teams, but he wasn't a critical component. The same can't be said for the Big Four. If the Celtics plan to make any noise in the playoffs this year, they will need all four on the roster, healthy and productive.
That circumstances would change if Ainge found players of equal value or high picks, as previously discussed. But it doesn't look like those deals exist. The better route would be dealing a minor part of the team, like a Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels or Jermaine O'Neal, in order to bring in a healthy big, which the Celtics desperately need.
Let's face facts. For better or worse, this is likely the team that the Celtics will bring into the playoffs, give or take a few players. Ainge may be able to acquire some bigs, but nobody of major impact. It's not all bad, either. After all, this is a team that has won a championship and has three (possibly four) future Hall of Famers on it.
Don't get too comfortable, though. Ainge has proven he will pull the trigger. Will he do so again?