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What Do Celtics Have Cooking On Trade Front With Deadline Two Weeks Away?

BOSTON (CBS) -- The NBA trade deadline is two weeks away, and it sounds like the Boston Celtics are going to be pretty active as Feb. 10 approaches. Brad Stevens is attempting to play both sides, with the Celtics kinda buyers and kinda sellers ahead of his first deadline as Boston's president of basketball ops.

The Celtics will only be buyers should the right deal come along that helps Stevens add to the core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and, now, Robert Williams. Steve Bulpett, now of, reported earlier this week that the Celtics "have been extremely active in trade talks" as Stevens look to help this year's team.

But that help comes with a caveat. Stevens appears to be more interested in avoiding a luxury tax bill, so he won't be adding anything too expensive at the deadline. According to HoopsHype's Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan, who discussed all the deadline rumblings on a podcast Wednesday, Stevens recently inquired about old friend Daniel Theis. The Celtics traded the big man to Chicago at last season's deadline as a way of trimming salary, and he's currently with the Houston Rockets on a four-year, $35.6 million deal. Theis played his best basketball with the Celtics, but his $8.2 million cap hit doesn't fit into Stevens' grand bookkeeping plan this season or next. Stevens already trimmed $3 million off the ledger by dealing away Juancho Hernangomez in a three-team trade, so adding Theis would wipe that out.

Inquiring about Theis does provide a quick glimpse at what Stevens may be interested in at the deadline. He will not be trading Williams, whom Sotta says has drawn interest around the league. But rival executives believe that Stevens and the Boston brass see the young big man as a core player around Tatum and Brown, and that Williams isn't going anywhere.

But Stevens could be looking to add an affordable depth piece in the front court because he's attempting to sell off Al Horford, whom the Celtics have reportedly made available. The veteran has cooled off considerably after a hot start to his Celtics return, and now the focus shifts to his impact on the books next season. Horford's contract is only partially guaranteed in 2022-23, which should make him easier to move. The Celtics are projected to be right at next year's tax threshold with Horford on the books, so moving him now would give Stevens a fresh approach to build out the roster in the summer.

And then there is the whole matter of Marcus Smart, who became trade eligible on Tuesday after signing a four-year extension with the Celtics in the offseason. It's not the best look to deal a player who just re-upped with a team, especially when that player is seen as the "heart and soul" of the Celtics. Boston also doesn't have much depth at point guard, since the team will likely cash in on the Dennis Schroder trade chip at the deadline.

Teams will be interested in Smart, with the Mavericks reportedly "linked" to the point guard, via Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Smart may be the only player that will actually net anything of worth at the deadline (at least among players that Stevens seems willing to move), though it's debatable whether or not subtracting Smart will really be an upgrade to Boston's suddenly solid defense. It's a delicate balancing act that Stevens has to navigate this trade season.

Whatever happens, Stevens will be busy over the next two weeks. The Celtics are 25-24 and on a bit of an upswing, but they've yet to prove that they're a team worth investing in. They remain a play-in team, four games out of being a real playoff team. But they're also only 6.5 games back of the top spot in a crowded Eastern Conference. It's a lot to digest.

We usually hear plenty about the Celtics at this time of the year, but in years past, Danny Ainge was always "close" to making moves but came up short. It sounds like Stevens won't settle for a runner-up status as he looks to marginally help this year's Celtics team while also creating some more flexibility for next year's squad.

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