The Boston Celtics appear to be pursuing reinforcements who would dramatically improve their chances to contend for a title.
With the March 25 trade deadline three weeks away, the Celtics are interested in trading for Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic, sources told The Athletic's Shams Charania.
After a spirited run to the Western Conference finals with the Denver Nuggets last fall, Grant surprised pundits by signing a three-year, $60-million pact with the rebuilding Pistons, reportedly turning down identical terms from the Nuggets to take on a featured role with his new team.
Though Detroit has posted a conference-worst 10-25 record, the 26-year-old is producing following the front office's big bet. Through 33 appearances, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging career highs in points (23.4), rebounds (5.3), and assists (2.9) per game, with an effective field goal rate just north of 50%. Grant's development has made him a Most Improved Player front-runner.
Meanwhile, Vucevic's injury-marred Magic are similarly bottom-feeders in the Eastern Conference at 13-23, though the Montenegrin big man is also enjoying a career year. The 30-year-old is putting up 24.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per night with 41% shooting on threes, and he was just selected to his second All-Star Game in three years.
The Celtics have made the Eastern Conference finals in three of the past four postseasons, though they haven't advanced to the NBA Finals since 2010. Boston currently boasts a milquetoast 18-17 record with one game remaining before this weekend's All-Star break.
Rival executives reportedly believe general manager Danny Ainge is targeting an offensively minded frontcourt player on the trade market. However, Ainge hasn't been active prior to the trade deadline in recent years, as the Celtics haven't added a player in-season since Isaiah Thomas in 2015.
The club's NBA-record $28.5-million trade exception - received through last offseason's Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade - gives Boston a chance to make a significant upgrade soon, and one that could address the team's ball-movement issues while creating simpler, more effective scoring opportunities.