The Boston Celtics did make a trade deadline deal this season — and used part of the massive Gordon Hayward trade exception — to land sharpshooter Evan Fournier out of Orlando. That’s a quality pick up; Fournier will be a good fit in the Celtics’ offense.
However, that didn’t stop the annual trade deadline tradition of “Danny Ainge just missed out on this big trade” stories.
Every year these stories come out, sounding like your grandfather after a fishing trip, talking about the one that just got away. This year, it was how close the Celtics came to landing Nikola Vucevic or Aaron Gordon out of Orlando. From Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
According to league sources, in addition to their well-documented courtship of Aaron Gordon, the Celtics were a finalist for Magic All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, including multiple first-round picks as part of their package…
The Celtics also offered a first-round pick and a young player to Orlando in exchange for Gordon, sources said, and they were prepared to add to that haul, but the Magic accepted Denver’s offer, which included Gary Harris Jr., R.J. Hampton and a first-round pick, before Boston had a chance.
Orlando ended up trading Vucevic to Chicago in one of the surprise trades of the day. The Magic got back two first-round picks, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter. Maybe Boston did offer two first-rounders, but what likely swung the trade Chicago’s way were the quality of those picks — even with two All-Stars in Vucevic and Zach LaVine, at best the Bulls look to be a second or third-tier team in the East, finishing in the 6-9 range most years, and those picks likely fall in the mid-to-late teens. Boston should be a top-tier team and should finish above the Bulls most years, meaning their picks will be worse.
Take every team’s post-deadline leaks about how close they were to some trade with a grain of salt. Every GM wants the fan base to think they are active and trying to improve, it keeps the core fans happy.
However, in Boston, the “we came thisclose to a major deal” saga is an annual tradition, as reliable as the Patriot’s Day Parade and the Boston Pop’s fireworks spectacular on the Fourth of July.