After 44 games, the Celtics sit in third place in the Eastern Conference behind the Cavaliers and Raptors. They'd be facing a first round series against the Hornets if the playoffs started today and, if they advanced, would likely be facing division rival Toronto in a series that they'd likely lose.
Winning a playoff series would be another step in the right direction for the Celtics. Four years ago, Danny Ainge blew up his aging roster to create salary cap space and add draft picks while also plucking Brad Stevens from Butler University to coach his team. The plan has worked up until this point but the idea of continuing to take small steps in the rebuilding process is getting frustrating.
This Celtics team seems to carry itself as a contender when in reality, it's truly a pretender. To get to that next level - the level where they can put themselves in a position to at least qualify for the Conference Finals - Ainge has to turn his roster and draft picks into impact players.
There just so happens to be a match for Ainge. The Chicago Bulls rolled the dice this off-season that aging stars Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo could team up with Jimmy Butler to form an Eastern Conference contender. That gamble failed and now the Bulls are entering the territory in which trading Butler may be their only path to rebuilding.
The Celtics have young talent on cheap contracts, veterans on expiring contracts, and draft picks to offer the Bulls. Ainge can offer Chicago the 2018 Nets first round pick along with a package of Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller, and Jonas Jerebko to land Butler in Boston with Robin Lopez being added to balance out the salaries.
Chicago lands what should be a high lottery pick in addition to three players that could be part of their future - Olynyk, Crowder, and Rozier - or who could be used as additional trade bait. Zeller, Jerebko, and Green balance out the salaries.
This deal would give the Celtics a starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford, and Amir Johnson with a bench rotation consisting of Marcus Smart, Robin Lopez, and Jaylen Brown. It definitely cuts away at the Celtics depth but Butler provides another All-Star to complement Thomas and Horford while Lopez can give them the interior defense and rebounding that they desperately are lacking. Ainge could then add veteran free agents to round out the bench as Boston would become an enticing place for a veteran who is looking to play for a contender.