As trade rumors typically do, speculation on the Boston Celtics‘ preferred trade target has continuously flip-flopped. After weeks of Harrison Barnes looking like the team’s top priority ahead of the March 25 deadline, recent reports point towards Aaron Gordon being the apple of Boston’s eye.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein recently backed this notion, stating “Boston has duly pursued a variety of big men whose teams are resistant to deals: Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Atlanta’s John Collins and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.”
From there, Stein relays what we noted above, that the Cs appear to be “focused on Gordon” at this time. With that said, while Gordon may not be as expensive as Barnes, Collins or Vooch, prying the former No. 4 overall pick from Orlando will be no cheap task — and may very well cost Boston the services of Marcus Smart is the process. This is likely why Stein also highlighted two far more “affordable options” as potential trade candidates that Boston may have shifted their focus towards with the deadline looming — Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica and Toronto’s Norman Powell.
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Norman Powell is ‘75%’ Likely to be Traded
That’s at least what one NBA team’s capologist believes, and there’s a chance that trade could be to Boston, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
The B/R columnist notes that the Celtics are among a five-team list that have been linked to Powell discussions as the deadline draws closer. The Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks are the other potential suitors named by Fischer.
Powell is in the final year of his $10.8 million deal and is set to test free agency this offseason. A sniper from deep, Powell is shooting 43.4% from 3-point range this season, second-best in the NBA among players who have attempted at least 255 shots from beyond the arc. Powell’s shooting prowess has powered a career season for the 27-year-old guard. His 19.5 ppg output is an 8.8 ppg jump from his career average over the previous five seasons and currently ranks third among all Raptors players.
Bjelica, a Low-Priced Target That Fills Danny Ainge’s Desires
Bjelica is a player that Boston has been readily linked to during this process. A 32-year-old big, Bjelica has seemingly fallen out of favor in Sacramento this season, averaging 11 minutes per game fewer than he had the season prior. As his usage has dipped, so has his accuracy from beyond the arc. Fresh off a 2019-20 campaign where he led the Kings with a 41.9% 3-point shooting percentage, Bjelica has seen that number drop all the way to 29.3% in 2020-21.
Still, he’s a player that has shot above 40% from three in each of the past three seasons and is a career 38.8% shooter from that range. Furthermore, he checks in at 6-foot-11-inches and 235-pounds, checking off Danny Ainge’s desires of acquiring “shooting with size.”
For a while, the belief was that Bjelica would be part of a larger deal that included his Kings teammate Harrison Barnes. While Boston will still likely sniff around the possibility of acquiring the highly versatile forward over the next 24 hours, the likelihood that Sacramento cuts bait with Barnes is growing increasingly unlikely.
“They’re holding the line firm,” said one assistant general manager of Barnes, per Fischer.