The Boston Celtics' pursuit of Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler or Indiana Pacers forward Paul George reportedly had the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers on "pins and needles" leading up to Thursday's NBA trade deadline.
RealGM passed along comments ESPN NBA writer Brian Windhorst made on the Lowe Post podcast about the Cavs' view of the situation as one of the top contenders for their Eastern Conference crown made a bid to land a potentially game-changing asset.
"The Cavs were on pins and needles yesterday about the Celtics getting Paul George or Jimmy Butler," Windhorst said. "Pins and needles. That's why I'm saying...Let's put it this way: If on day one next year it's Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs will be like, 'OK, that's going to be a challenge.' If it's Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Jimmy Butler, the Cavs might be out there saying, 'We may have to trade Kevin Love.'"
Even though the Cavaliers currently lead the East by 3.5 games with a 40-16 record, their title defense has been anything but smooth.
Four-time league MVP LeBron James was vocal throughout the first half of the season about the team's need to upgrade its roster before the postseason. His frustration boiled over following a January loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, as noted by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.
"We need a f--king playmaker," James said.
The Cavs' glaring need in the backcourt hasn't been filled despite the pointed public remarks. It's a situation magnified by the absence of J.R. Smith, who's currently recovering from thumb surgery.
Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press reported the Cavaliers are veteran point guard Deron Williams' preferred choice after he was waived by the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. He must clear waivers before becoming eligible to sign as a free agent, though.
Meanwhile, Cleveland watched as the Celtics were involved in a myriad of major rumors leading up to the deadline. Boston, which sits second in the East thanks to a 37-20 mark, owns a major bargaining chip in the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick in the 2017 draft.
Much to the relief of the defending champions, the Celtics didn't end up swinging a blockbuster trade Thursday despite speculation right up to the deadline. The trade chips remain in place, however, which could eventually lead to an offseason deal that shifts the balance of power in the East.