Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said nothing in his team's war chest of assets is untouchable at this year's trade deadline, but cautioned that the team puts an extremely high value on the picks and young players in its possessions.
During an appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI, Ainge explained that Boston cannot deem anything untouchable -- including the unprotected first-round pick it will receive from the Brooklyn Nets -- because all options must remain open in the team's quest to return to legitimate contender status.
"There’s obviously a lot that I don’t want to touch, more than others," Ainge said. "Realistically, until we get to a point where we’re competing for a championship, we can’t have a mentality that we won’t listen to every conversation and every idea."
Pressed on whether that would include this year's Brooklyn pick, Ainge didn't hesitate with his response.
"Sure. The Brooklyn pick could be had for the right [price]," Ainge said. "It’s going to be a costly price, as it would be for some of our best players. Look, we’re not looking to trade the Brooklyn pick, but at the same time, I could certainly see some things that we would do for the Brooklyn pick. And they wouldn’t be taking risks.
"We value [the Brooklyn pick]. Even the chance, even a small chance to get a very talented player is worth [keeping the pick] because you have some chance. And you can’t just give up a chance to get a really good player unless [it's] for another really good player. ... It would have to be, certainly, a very good player. And also it probably wouldn't be someone in their 30s. That would have to be a good young player because again, even if we had a 5 percent or a 10 percent or a 15 percent chance at one of the top picks in the draft, that’s worth keeping."
The Nets currently own a 12-38 record, the third-worst mark in the league. According to projections by ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the Nets pick currently projects at a 15 percent chance at being the top overall pick, a 45.2 percent chance at being in the top three and a 91.7 percent chance at being in the top five.
The Celtics reportedly have been "quietly aggressive" in advance of this month's trade deadline, though both Ainge and coach Brad Stevens have downplayed the early batch of rumors surrounding the team.
Ainge, as he's done in the past, noted during Thursday's radio appearance that he'd like to add another "closer," a player who can help shoulder the scoring load alongside All-Star Isaiah Thomas during the crunch-time situations that Boston has struggled with at times this season.
During both his appearance on WEEI and his weekly call to Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub earlier in the day, Ainge admitted it was unlikely that the Celtics would move top assets in a situation to land a potential rental player on an expiring deal. But Ainge also didn't rule out the possibility of chasing a player who could help Boston now and roll the dice with re-signing him this summer, particularly if it came at a low cost.
The Celtics stand a season-best seven games over .500 at 29-22 entering Friday's visit to the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston has climbed into a tie for the No. 3 seed in the East with the Atlanta Hawks. According to BPI, the Celtics project to win 48 games and land the third seed. BPI currently projects Boston with a 63.1 percent chance to advance to the East semifinals and a 29.7 percent chance at the conference finals.
Ainge, who acquired Thomas at a low cost last February, is examining potential upgrades at this year's trade deadline, all while patiently waiting to land the franchise player who might push his team back to the championship contender status.
The Celtics own as many as eight picks in this year's draft, including what's likely to be three first-round picks and five second-round selections.