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Celtics Rumors: Latest on Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward Trade Buzz

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2016

Based on the rumors, Boston is just getting started this offseason.
Based on the rumors, Boston is just getting started this offseason.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics didn't live up to the hype in the 2016 NBA draft, though the rumors market would suggest the front office is ready to make up for the disappointment.

Team president Danny Ainge deserved every bit of hype generated before the draft. The roster he crafted qualified for the postseason in 2015-16 and looked like a younger team needing more experience before serious contention.

Fitting, Ainge had a trio of first-round picks to upgrade his team. California product Jaylen Brown at No. 3 was a smart pick, but Guerschon Yabusele at No. 16 and Ante Zizic at No. 23 did more to confuse than inspire confidence.

With free agency set to open Friday, though, the Celtics have a chance to win back the good favor. The latest rumors suggest the team will attempt to make a big splash.

Detailing Durant

Let's get the biggest splash of all out of the way first.

The Celtics want Kevin Durant. No secret there—what team wouldn't? Slap Durant next to Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, and the Celtics likely square up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the top of the Eastern Conference.

It sounds like the first step in the process was a major win, as Boston is one of the few teams to get a meeting with Durant, according to ESPN.com:

Kevin Durant and his representatives have added free-agency meetings with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, a league source confirmed to ESPN's Chris Broussard.

The three additions join previously reported plans for face-to-face talks with the Golden State WarriorsSan Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The meeting alone is a big win for the franchise. The same report goes on to mention that notables such as the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards might not even get a sit-down.

It's still hard to imagine Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team was one epic 3-1 series collapse away from the NBA Finals, and the team that bested it, the Golden State Warriors, didn't look like the championship-caliber squad once in the Finals.

To steal away Durant, a team likely has to promise him it will contend as much as the Thunder would, which is a hard sell for the Celtics right now. Then again, one could argue the superstar's personality and demeanor fit the team and the city well.

Either way, the Celtics now stand in line with other major franchises and hope to win the biggest lottery of all. Though unlikely, it sure would make up for the odd draft.

The Whiff on Gordon Hayward 

Boston apparently wanted Gordon Hayward from Utah.
Boston apparently wanted Gordon Hayward from Utah.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

It would be quite un-Ainge like for the Boston front office to throw all its eggs in one basket and call it a day.

Hence a note by ESPN.com's Marc Stein that said the Celtics attempted to wheel and deal with the Utah Jazz to acquire Gordon Hayward: "Sources say the Celtics are one of just a number of teams trying to convince Utah to surrender Hayward."

Boston head coach Brad Stevens has the Butler University connection with Hayward, but there is so much more than that.

Hayward is only 26 years old, yet last year he posted averages of 19.7 points, 3.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor and 36 percent from deep. Given the proven production, it's not much of a shock to hear the Celtics dangled something as valuable as the third pick prior to Thursday's draft.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey already denied in his weekly radio interview that he'd trade Hayward (via the Deseret News' Jody Genessy), but that won't stop teams like the Celtics from calling. If Boston misses out on Durant, coughing up extra backcourt assets and future picks to secure Hayward is not only smart, but almost necessary.

Hayward isn't Durant, but he's one heck of a consolation prize for a team looking to contend.

The Al Horford Chase

Boston isn't ignoring the center position, believe it or not.

With the tandem of Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk a weak point on the roster, it was only a matter of time before the Celtics jumped in the fray during a free-agency period featuring top names such as Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside and Al Horford.

Any of those players would be an upgrade, but according to a note by Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Horford is the name to watch:

Darren Wolfson @DWolfsonKSTP

Heard today Wizards/Celtics/Heat also expected to be in mix for Horford. #Twolves likely call. But won't get him. https://t.co/4Jt06QC6jp

Horford is by far the best pick of the three. It took Whiteside years to emerge as a force, and warranted or not, Howard has begun to carve out a reputation as an iffy presence after odd stints since leaving the Orlando Magic.

Then there's Horford, one of the most respected veterans in the league, who has spent all nine of his seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. He's 30 years old, sure, but he hasn't seemed to slow down much, averaging 32.1 minutes last year and posting 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Reliability is the name of the game with Horford. Boston can ink him to a max contract, slap him in the lineup and get assured production each night, not to mention a strong mentor presence who can help a young locker room grow. 

If Horford is the only major move the Celtics make this summer, it's still one of the best possible options for the future of the franchise. To do it, Boston has to convince him it's a two-way street and that it will give him what Atlanta couldn't.

All stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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