The Boston Celtics want Kevin Durant, just like every other team in the league. Their forthcoming pursuit of the Oklahoma City Thunder star was reported before the team visited Boston in March, and fans chanted “come to Boston” at Durant during the game.
With free agency two months away, The Vertical’s Chris Mannix reported that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge thinks they can get a meeting with Durant, but they need to get a star like Jimmy Butler or Al Horford on board to have a chance at signing him:
Ainge will be aggressive in free agency, team sources told The Vertical, and yes, that means a run at Kevin Durant. The Celtics believe Durant will meet with them this summer, but they know that meeting won’t accomplish much unless there are significant moves leading into it. Durant will be 28 in September, and the former MVP isn’t interested in hearing what a team could someday become.
He wants to win now, which is why Golden State and San Antonio expect to be appealing, why Oklahoma City is still very much in play. Boston needs a deal for Jimmy Butler, a commitment from Al Horford, a carrot to dangle in front of Durant to persuade him that relocating east is the smart play.
As CBS Sports’ Matt Moore wrote, Boston needs a major move or two if it wants to go from good to great. Durant would be the biggest possible one, so it feels like a longshot. This could be an attractive free-agent destination now because of coach Brad Stevens, but it doesn’t give someone like Durant a better shot at a title than staying with the Thunder or joining the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
Essentially, The Vertical is suggesting that Ainge do what he did in 2007, only with a different Kevin. Back then, the Celtics had a bunch of good, young players — not as many as they do now, but still — and one All-Star, Paul Pierce. They wanted to try to get Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Garnett’s agent was adamant that he wouldn’t agree to a contract extension in Boston. That would change, obviously.
Ainge traded the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle for Ray Allen. Once Allen was in the fold, Garnett changed his tune. It led to a championship, and Ainge looked like a genius.
Can Horford or Butler play the role of Allen this time, though? Neither one will be easy to acquire.
Horford has been with the Atlanta Hawks for his entire career, and they play a style of basketball that fits his game. They’re not exactly a contender and he is a free agent, but the Celtics would have to convince him that leaving a stable situation is best for his career.
Butler is not a free agent, but the Chicago Bulls reportedly at least discussed a potential deal around the trade deadline. Trading him would go against almost all logic — the Bulls have him under contract long-term on a favorable deal, and he is one of the best two-way players in the NBA at 26 years old. There are concerns about his leadership ability, though, and maybe Boston can talk them into moving him for the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick in this year’s draft.
If Ainge can pull either one of those moves off, then the Celtics will have quite a story to sell Durant. This is a big summer for Boston.