BOSTON (CBS) -- The sheer number of rumors swirling around the Boston Celtics heading into Thursday's NBA Draft should come as no surprise to Celtics fans. Danny Ainge has positioned himself well to have a seat at the table (if he so chooses) in any trade conversation in this year's draft, thanks to an impressive collection of draft picks, trade exceptions and expendable roster pieces at his disposal.
"There's no such thing as untouchables," Ainge said of his own roster Tuesday when asked about potential deals. "But there's guys that we really love and are part of our core who we don't want to move."
Marcus Smart is one name that Boston fans probably felt was on Ainge's core list of "hopeful keepers" for the long-term, but in Trader Danny style, the 21-year-old popped up in a reported trade offer on Tuesday, via Broderick Turner of the LA Times.
According to Turner, the Celtics were offering Smart and the No. 16 overall pick for Nerlens Noel and Philadelphia's No. 3 pick in Thursday's draft. Before we get into the particulars on what these rumors might mean for Smart, we have to first acknowledge this offer is garbage from the Sixers' perspective. Noel was the No. 6 overall pick a couple of years ago and has the same kind of long-term upside that Smart does.
So when you consider the Celtics were trying to get the No. 3 pick in addition to Noel, something does not add up here. There had to be more to this offer, (in the form of players and picks), but the truth is none of Boston's assets right now would allow them to nab the No. 3 pick and Noel. Whatever the real offer was, it was a long-shot at best.
So what should Celtics fans take away from the laughable rumored offer? It's time to look at it from the bigger picture perspective. Is Ainge looking to deal away Smart? It's unlikely. Brad Stevens and Ainge were pleased with his performance for much of his rookie season.
However, on a Celtics roster devoid of promising star talent, if Ainge wants to make a significant talent upgrade, he's going to have at least bring Smart into the conversation. Otherwise, GMs around the league aren't going to think there is much substance to his offers.
Smart is the only true young lottery core talent on Boston's roster. There are countless other young role players (Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, James Young) but none of those guys are going to push the needle in any big deal with another team. They are throw-ins if a big name is involved, and Ainge knows that.
Boston's future draft picks are nice to have as well as trade chips, but outside of maybe the unprotected Brooklyn picks in 2016 and 2018, none of them are projected to fall in the lottery at this point. Teams will gladly accept multiple mediocre first-round picks, but they aren't going to move a stud player for them.
With that said, if Boston calls up a team like Sacramento with a DeMarcus Cousins offer, the Kings are hanging up if Smart is not a part of that package. Given the Yahoo! Sports report that the Kings may be interested in bringing in Rajon Rondo, they may not even want a young, but flawed guard, like Smart. They may want a big man instead, if they are going to move Cousins.
So what does Ainge do if that's the situation? There are 28 other teams in the league that might want Smart and potentially have assets that are more appealing to the Kings. Whether it's a high lottery pick, or another promising young player like Nerlens Noel, Smart is the bait to keep the Celtics as a realistic trade partner in those conversations as well. Three and four-team trades are fairly common these days and will likely be necessary to get a major deal done.
So Boston fans who want to see a blockbuster trade this summer should be encouraged by the presence of Smart in these rumors. The fact the 6-4' guard is mentioned indicates that Ainge is aiming for, or at least willing to do, something big.
Whether a massive deal comes together remains to be seen, but the Celtics are likely to keep exploring every possible avenue to see if the pieces come together. If the right trade comes along, Smart may very well be one of those pieces worth parting with. Stay tuned.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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