Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday he has nearly pulled off some trades this season.
Appearing on 98.5’s Toucher and Rich (h/t Brian Robb of MassLive.com), Ainge said he isn’t sure when or if he will make a trade, but revealed that talks have been ongoing: “I don’t have those answers and it’s probably not the time that it’s going to be answered. It’s rare that trades get done [not close] to the deadline. We’re talking and we’re trying to do some things. We’ve been close a couple of times. Time will tell.”
Ainge has assembled a talented roster, but the Celtics are suffering through a three-game losing streak and are 7-14 over their past 21 games. That puts them at 15-17, which is only good for a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics’ struggles are jarring, considering they are led by a pair of young All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are both enjoying huge statistical seasons.
Tatum is averaging 25.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 three-pointers made per game, while Brown is putting up 25.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.4 three-pointers made per contest.
Outside Tatum and Brown, however, the roster is filled with question marks, and it starts with veteran guard Kemba Walker.
He was once one of the NBA’s premier scorers, but in 16 games since returning from a knee procedure, he is averaging just 17.3 points, which is tied for his lowest since his rookie season.
Guard Marcus Smart is the only other player averaging double figures in scoring with 13.1 per game, but he has missed the past month with a calf injury.
Ainge also said: “I think we need to surround them with more scoring off the bench. We need guys to play with more swagger and confidence that aren’t subservient to Jaylen and Jayson. They will go out and play their game also and let it go.”
It also stands to reason that the Celtics could use help in the frontcourt. They have depth with Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams, Semi Ojeleye, and Grant Williams all playing significant minutes, but few of them would be starting options on a top team.
Ainge didn’t place much blame on Tatum and Brown for the Celtics’ issues, but he acknowledged they “aren’t perfect” and added:
“We’re playing terribly. We don’t have a good enough team, in my opinion. I’m trying to deflect some of the attention that the stars get, although that is part of it. They have to learn to do that. Winning is what we are expected to do in Boston. We are expected to win, to put up championships, win playoff games, and that’s what we’re hoping to be able to do, still, this year.”
Boston’s fall from grace has been shocking considering it reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season and has made the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and 12 of the past 13.
If things continue this way, however, the Celtics are in danger of missing the postseason.
This year’s team is quite similar to last year’s aside from the departures of Gordon Hayward and center Enes Kanter, meaning Ainge may be best off looking for players with comparable profiles.
If the Celtics get into the playoffs, they have the makings of a dangerous team capable of knocking off anyone behind the firepower of Tatum and Brown.