It's been said for a few years now, but the feeling now truly feels imminent: the Celtics are on the brink of landing a superstar.
No, Isaiah Thomas is not a superstar. Neither is Al Horford. But as the No. 2 and 3 options, behind a true star, the Celtics will quickly find themselves back in NBA championship contention.
Boston has the trade pieces to acquire virtually any player available. Let's take a look at some of those options:
Noel isn't a superstar, nor does he have superstar potential. But he is an excellent fit on the Celtics: A rim protector with solid offensive upside. He's still only 22 years old, and as a Malden native grew up as a die-hard Celtics fan. A trip back home would do everyone well.
Given the 76ers frontcourt logjam, he'll also be one of the less costly acquisitions. Though Philly has been insistent on acquiring one of the Nets picks in return, Ainge can eschew that price if he wants to. A package of either Marcus Smart/Terry Rozier, Amir Johnson's expiring contract and two of the Celtics' own 1st round picks may very well be enough to land Noel.
Among the Celtics' "superstar" targets, this one makes the most sense because it's the least talked about. The Bird-Ainge connection makes for a steady channel of legitimate trade talks, and at 26 years old, George is entering the prime of his career.
George has been linked to the Pistons as of late, for a proposed package that the Celtics can easily match or better. A deal of Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson, Brooklyn's 2018 1st rounder and a Celtics' own 1st rounder with limited protection could put George in the middle of a potent Celtics lineup.
Here it is: the big splash. The guy Celtics fans have been drooling over for years. The de facto best center in the league at only 26. The player no Eastern Conference contender would be able to stop.
THIS GUY is a superstar.
First, this deal offers a unique possibility: the further acquisition of his close friend, superstar point guard John Wall, brought about in this intriguing blockbuster deal that sends both Cousins and Wall to Boston. But before I get WAY ahead of myself here...
Cousins' attitude is not the problem. It's whether or not Ainge will pay the price, which I could very well see being Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and the 2017 Nets pick. A raw proposal certainly, but one that could certainly come to fruition.
Even now, this Celtics team is rested in the middle of the East, a superstar away from becoming a premier team in the NBA. The question isn't whether Ainge CAN pull a blockbuster deal off...it's WHEN he will.