Sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 32-23 record, Boston found itself in prime position to land a star player and make its case as the best team in the East. The team was linked to superstars like DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and even James Harden.
In his weekly interview with Boston sports radio 98.5 The Sports Hub, Ainge noted that the Celtics were actually very close to making a big trade:
I can’t tell you the team or the name, but it was very close. It was something we had been deliberating on for two days straight. We were wrapping ourselves around a big package to do a deal, and at the very last minute … they did not want to do it, they backed out.
Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub also pointed out an interesting tidbit from Ainge's interview:
Adam Kaufman @AdamMKaufman
ALSO: Danny Ainge said the mystery team involved would've surprised fans because rumor was "never reported" #Celtics https://t.co/wT5QixfFn22016-2-19 15:41:48
The fact that the trade would've been for a player whose potential move to Boston was "never reported" is very intriguing, since practically every tradable superstar was mentioned as a Celtics target.
Naturally, the revelation brought about some interesting theories from Celtics fans:
Nicholas Guarente @nickel5393
@AdamMKaufman @danielrainge I think it was either Durant, Okafor, Harden, or Lillard. Don't laugh, Thunder always trade player a year early2016-2-19 15:35:28
Bobby Manning @RealBobManning
Who do you guys think the "mystery" #Celtics target was? Would Danny have given up the BKN pick for Gordan Hayward?. I doubt it.2016-2-19 19:21:25
Kaufman himself noted some interesting trade possibilities:
Adam Kaufman @AdamMKaufman
So, theoretically (not a report), the mystery player who could've gone to #Celtics is Butler, Harden, Okafor, Lillard, Durant, Parker. Yeah?2016-2-19 20:23:17
The idea of Harden going to Boston seemed possible, though highly unlikely. Trading for him would've likely required the Celtics to part with several talented players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder, in addition to a handful of first-round picks.
Love seemed the most likely trade option, as Ainge has been trying to acquire the 27-year-old superstar for quite some time. But a trade for Love has always appeared to be the most viable option in the offseason, when teams have several months to organize themselves—and also when some of those coveted Celtics first-round picks are locked in.
Regardless of what could've been, the Celtics ultimately stayed quiet at the deadline. Some individuals agreed with the decision.
Per Sources Sports @PerSources
Celtics did not force the issue on any deals. Kept their core. I'm kind of happy. No need to rush into anything2016-2-18 20:08:23
Celtics Direct @CelticsDirect
Celtics did not make a trade before the deadline. Atleast we did nothing stupid.2016-2-18 20:10:09
Others, meanwhile, felt the Celtics had flopped big time.
Troy Johnson Jr @TheTroyJohnson
Winner of trade deadline: Cavs Loser of the trade deadline: how about the C's? (Celtics) plenty of picks: pick your star.2016-2-19 02:09:15
The Crossover @TheCrossover
Celtics and Raptors are two of @BenGolliver’s trade deadline losers. Here’s the full list https://t.co/SBmYCTruOk https://t.co/RYLGZbXGN82016-2-19 04:18:31
Overall, most Celtics fans understood the situation the team was in and supported its decision to stand pat at the trade deadline. Ainge and the Celtics will have all offseason to try and land some of their top targets, and until then, the rumors will continue to swirl.