Five potential Celtics moves for NBA trade deadline — or beyond

February 23, 2017 GMT

Not even Donald Trump amuses himself on Twitter as much as Isaiah Thomas. When the Celtics guard tweeted the bug eyes emoji earlier this week without further explanation, waves in the trade deadline pool began splashing over the sides.

Thomas returned to the Twittersphere yesterday with an hourglass emoji, and again no further clues. But based on what Danny Ainge has sifted through this week in advance of today’s trade deadline, none is required.

According to a league source privy to what the Celtics are thinking in their attempt to land a home run deal, barring radical change the C’s are about to have their second straight quiet trade deadline.

“Both teams are out there listening, they’re kind of shopping around, but aren’t really discussing anything concrete,” the source said last night of Chicago, with Jimmy Butler, and Indiana with Paul George. “This could all change overnight, but if anything happens, it won’t be until (today). Right now there’s nothing from either team.”

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Ainge also is being very protective of his assets, with Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick quite possibly too precious to surrender. The 2018 draft field isn’t projected to be nearly as good as this year’s crop — thus diminishing the value of the 2018 Brooklyn pick. In a nod to this year’s draft, the Celtics love what they see in Washington guard Markelle Fultz and Kansas swingman Josh Jackson — the latter drawing comparisons to a young Butler.

But Larry Bird could wake up in Indianapolis this morning, realize he’s not going to land enough other pieces to make George stay in the summer of 2018, and call his former teammate.

What follows are five directions the Celtics could follow, starting today.

ANDREW BOGUT, Dallas center

Not everyone believes this is such a good idea.

“He’s old, gets hurt,” said our source, and indeed, the 32-year-old missed 17 games between December and January to knee and hamstring injuries. Then again, he’s the rebounder the Celtics lack, and despite his advanced age still would offer better rim protection than the Celtics already have. He’s also fallen off Rick Carlisle’s radar.

Compatibility factor — Still one of the most skilled centers in the NBA, and someone who would enable Al Horford to at least begin games in his preferred position of power forward.

Chance this actually happens — Provided he comes cheap (Tyler Zeller or Amir Johnson plus a future low first-rounder?), the Celtics probably will jump.

JIMMY BUTLER, Chicago swingman

The Bulls are at a crossroads that has to be addressed today. Hesitate on making a real play with Butler for the 2018 Brooklyn pick — their key to starting over — and Indiana threatens to move in. As good as Butler is, they don’t have what it takes to rebuild with him as the cornerstone.

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Compatibility Factor — With Butler and Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics would have the best scoring backcourt in the NBA. Blending them together? That might take some time. But regardless of who they lose in the trade (Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart?) the Celtics won’t lose much defensively.

Chance this actually happens — Right now the most likely home run scenario, which isn’t to say it’s likely.

PAUL GEORGE, Indiana swingman

George had dinner with Pacers ownership last weekend, and depending on which version you believe, they either talked about the food or the state of the Pacers. George still would like to stay, in part because Indiana can pay him the most in the summer of 2018. But Larry Bird also is searching for deals that will keep his star satisfied, though it remains to be seen how much a reported trade for Jahlil Okafor keeps anyone happy.

Compatibility factor — Even a better fit than Jimmy Butler, because George is a better shooter.

Chance this actually happens ­— Not so much. Roughly around the time Magic Johnson took command of the Lakers, stories about George’s availability multiplied. Conspiracy theories abounded. There’s an excellent chance Johnson has targeted George as his first big free agent target, especially since George grew up idolizing the Lakers. If he has to take less to play somewhere else, what do you think he picks – the Celtics or his boyhood team?

AINGE TURNS TO FREE AGENCY, AND GORDON HAYWARD

The Celtics president seems to have a particularly bullish attitude about next July, and the Celtics have long been linked to Brad Stevens’ former Butler star.

Compatibility factor — The idea is to pair Hayward and his remarkable stroke with Jae Crowder, not to replace the Celtics forward. Hayward was Stevens’ first great player at Butler and, in a sense, a creation of the Celtics coach. The transition would be seamless.

Chance this actually happens — Hayward is said to be perfectly happy to stay and raise his young family in Utah — and the Jazz can pay him more than any other team under the new CBA — unless perhaps he senses a quicker route to the top with a coach he knows better than any other.

THE HELL WITH THOSE OTHER TEAMS: AINGE HUNKERS DOWN FOR THE DRAFT

In what projects as the best draft in years, Markelle Fultz is considered the most likely player to carry his stardom onto the next level. One league scout, when asked about the athletic and long Jackson and how he compares to Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, said, “Better.”

Compatibility factor — The Celtics have determined that Fultz can play next to Isaiah Thomas. Josh Jackson is one of those multiple-position players that Brad Stevens loves.

Chance this actually happens — Better than you think.