2 wild trades that could've made the Celtics NBA title contenders
By WILL LAWS
Let's be honest. This year's trade deadline was a sobering follow-up to last year's fascinating mid-season shakeup. If 2015 represented the last call at the bar, with most general managers eager to make one last daring move before calling it a night, 2016 was the eventless day after, when you're content to stay home and hang tight with the friends you already know.
The pieces were in place for a few monster transactions, however, which could have shaken up the Eastern Conference and shaped another legitimate title contender in Boston. It basically came down to the architects of perhaps the NBA's two most flexible rosters opting to stand pat with the guys they have.
PointAfter explores an alternate universe where that didn't happen.
Trade 1: Hawks Let Horford, Teague Fly Away
Atlanta acquires: SG Avery Bradley, C Kelly Olynyk, C J.J. Hickson, Brooklyn's 2018 first-round pick
Boston acquires: C Al Horford, SF Danilo Gallinari
Denver acquires: PG Jeff Teague, PF David Lee, Dallas' 2016 first-round pick
These three teams were frequently linked together in the days leading up to the deadline, and for good reason. They all matched up well on paper, but seemingly reached a snag when it came down to draft picks. More specifically, Boston reportedly refused to entertain moving Brooklyn's juicy 2016 first-round pick, which has a good chance of landing in the top three.
The Celtics also own Brooklyn's 2018 first-rounder, however, which could have served as an interesting consolation prize for Atlanta and the final piece in an intriguing three-way swap.
The Nets don't possess any of their own draft picks until 2019, so the Hawks could bet on Brooklyn's bleak outlook staying that way. Trading away Horford and Teague wouldn't completely torpedo their chances at remaining competitive in the present, either. Bradley's three-and-D skill set would complement Dennis Schroder well, and Olynyk could bloom into a perfect fit for Mike Budenholzer's stretchy, shooter-heavy scheme.
It's fair to debate if the Kings would still be interested in Gasol without Cousins on the roster, but their rotation isn't looking too shabby after this deal, either.
Coach George Karl would likely tab Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Gasol and Willie Cauley-Stein as starters, with Smart, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Acy, Johnson, Jerebko and Kosta Koufos fighting for bench minutes. That could very well be enough to climb into the playoffs in a depleted Western Conference this year. Plus, they'd have Brooklyn's first-round pick this summer!
Even if Rondo and Gasol bolt for greener pastures this summer, Sacramento would have enough cap space to sign one max-level free agent. And that Nets pick would go a long way toward forming a cohesive plan to reload in L.A.B. (Life After Boogie).