By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Danny Ainge has his wish list as he looks to improve the "meh" Celtics roster ahead of the NBA trade deadline on March 25. Many of the players he's looking to acquire will remain just that, a wish, but we've heard plenty of rumors that have included names like Harrison Barnes, Nikola Vucevic and Jerami Grant.
Given Ainge's recent track record, with the C's president of basketball ops. sitting out in-season trades the last six years, expectations are a bit tempered despite Boston's glaring needs on the roster. And now we're starting to hear rumblings about deals that would be considered a "consolation prize" for Ainge and the Celtics, courtesy of The Athletic's James Edwards III and John Hollinger.
Edwards, who covers the Detroit Pistons, and Hollinger believe the Celtics could "pivot" to a deal for Detroit big man Mason Plumlee and guard Wayne Ellington in hopes of upgrading the team's overall depth. In their proposed deal, Edwards and Hollinger say Boston could send Tristan Thompson, Javonte Green and a first-round pick to Detroit for Plumlee and Ellington.
That trade isn't going to move the needle for anyone. It's underwhelming from a Boston standpoint, especially given everything else that has been floated to this point. A deal for Plumlee and Ellington is about as exciting as Boston's 19-17 record at the moment.
Plumlee isn't having a great season for the Pistons after signing a three-year, $25-million deal in November, though he is averaging 10.4 points and 9.1 rebounds for Detroit. He would represent a slight upgrade for the Celtics over Thompson, who has struggled to the tune of 7.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and some uneven defensive play after inking a two-year, $19-million deal with Boston over the offseason.
Ellington, meanwhile, would add some much-needed shooting off the Boston bench. He's averaging 10.8 points over his 28 games this season (including 24 starts), hitting 45 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point land on 6.4 long-range attempts per game. He has played for nine teams over his 12-year NBA career, and is in his second stint with Detroit.
The Pistons don't seem to be very inclined to trade Grant over the next few weeks, so you can scratch him off Ainge's wish list. He'd be a fine addition to the Boston roster, but it sounds like the C's will have to look elsewhere for some scoring pop off the bench. Maybe Ellington could provide that, and Plumlee would be a marginal upgrade in the frontcourt.
We've seen the Celtics play some pretty good ball this season, and we've seen them play some pretty terrible ball for large stretches. They sit third in the Eastern Conference, but no one really knows what they are at the moment, including the team's brass. If they're truly set on giving the team its best shot to make some noise come the playoffs, the Celtics should be aiming higher -- much higher -- than a Plumlee/Ellington trade. Ainge doesn't have much at his disposal that appeals to opposing teams in potential trades, but he does have that giant TPE in his back pocket.
He's hinted that he may hang onto that until the offseason, which is already tempering expectations for March 25. But Ainge has also made it clear that he's looking for ways to improve this season -- and not just slightly. Settling for a "consolation prize" in two weeks won't really do much to help in that department.
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