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Celtics Trade Rumors: Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart 'Absolutely Not Available'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2019

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and forward Gordon Hayward (20) react during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics reportedly aren't willing to part with some of their top players in order to improve upon their pedestrian frontcourt.

According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Celtics have "made it clear to anyone who has asked that their core players are absolutely not available." That reportedly includes guard Marcus Smart and small forward Gordon Hayward.

Even without a clear answer at center, the Celtics are tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference with the Milwaukee Bucks at 11-3 and one game behind the league-leading Los Angeles Lakers at 12-2.

The Celtics have made do this season with a smaller lineup that oftentimes doesn't include a big. After losing Al Horford in free agency and trading Aron Baynes to the Phoenix Suns, Boston did little to replace them aside from signing Enes Kanter.

Kanter is averaging just 15.3 minutes per game, while undersized Daniel Theis is playing 23.1 minutes per game and raw second-year man Robert Williams is getting 14.1 minutes of run per contest.

In particular, Kanter was expected to play a bigger role this season, but since suffering a knee injury in the season opener that cost him some time, Kanter has largely come off the bench and seen 20-plus minutes of playing time just once in the past six games.

Primarily, head coach Brad Stevens has gone heavy on wings, as Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Smart are the top five on the team in both minutes per game and points per game.

After not looking himself for much of last season during his comeback from a gruesome leg and ankle injury, Hayward has appeared to be back on track. He is averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists, although he is on the shelf with a broken bone in his left hand and isn't expected back for more than a month.

The 6'7", 225-pound forward is an All-Star-caliber talent when healthy, but he can become a free agent at the conclusion of the season since he has a player option in his contract for next season. That means the Celtics could risk losing him for nothing.

Smart is a huge reason why Boston is seventh in the NBA in points allowed per game and tied for sixth in the NBA with a team defensive rating of 102.4.

The 25-year-old guard is averaging 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and a team-leading 5.1 assists per game, which has allowed Walker to take on a scoring role rather than always having to distribute.

Boston doesn't have another proven ball-handler to take that type of burden off Walker, which makes Smart invaluable. Smart is signed through the 2021-22 season after signing a four-year, $52 million deal last year, which means there shouldn't be any sense of urgency to move him.

If the Celtics are going to add a big who can help them go up against a team like the Philadelphia 76ers and their All-Star center Joel Embiid, draft picks are likely the main assets they will use to get a trade done.

Boston owns Memphis' 2020 first-round pick, which is top-six protected before becoming unprotected thereafter. That could be an attractive piece for a team on the trade market, and it may be enough to help the Celtics avoid moving one of their top players in order to improve elsewhere.

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