The 2019 NBA trade deadline has passed and three of the five teams in the Eastern Conference made moves to bolster their talent before 3 p.m. ET. The 76ers added Tobias Harris, the Bucks acquired Nikola Mirotic and the Raptors made a big move for Marc Gasol. The Pacers stayed quiet as they try to get through the season without Victor Oladipo. More notably, however, the Celtics decided to stand pat as well.

The Celtics are 35-19 — good for third in the East — and there was no necessity for them to make a move. However, they have a built-in trade package that would be attractive for suitors, including a Grizzlies pick that could be unprotected in 2021 (and is currently top-eight protected in 2019 and top-six in 2021), a Kings‘ pick that is only protected if it’s No. 1 next season, and a potential Clippers first-rounder.

The obvious answer for why the Celtics didn’t push their chips along with the rest of the East is Anthony Davis, who as of the trade deadline is still a Pelican. The Pelicans opted to wait until the summer to field all of their offers for Davis, despite the relentless pursuit of the Lakers.

Danny Ainge is notoriously savvy in fielding trades, but this is a big gamble for the Celtics.

For starters, there are no guarantees that if the Celtics ultimately decide to go all-in and trade for Davis that Davis will re-sign after next season. He’s under contract until 2020 free agency, but he’s adamantly said that the Celtics aren’t a team he’ll commit to a long-term deal.

The Celtics also have another major chip to think about this offseason, with Kyrie Irving suddenly being noncommittal about re-signing with the Celtics when he’s eligible for free agency after this season.

To get Davis, the most common name being floated who would have to be involved in a package is Jayson Tatum. He’s eligible for restricted free agency in 2021, giving the team he’s with a lot of control on the budding star as long as he’s on a rookie deal. There’s an implicit risk in relinquishing that control for Davis, who could go to what seems to be his preferred destination of Los Angeles as early as next season.

However, outside of the realm of hypothetical trades that may or may not be on the table come summer, the Celtics are also running a risk for the remainder of this season. The Celtics lost to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals last year, and they’ve shown that they can still run with the top two teams in the East this season. While they’re 2-1 against the Raptors and 1-1 against the Bucks in the 2018-19 season, the difference, of course, is that those two teams made strides to improve.

The Bucks didn’t give up a ton to acquire Nikola Mirotic — mostly second-round picks — but he fits them extremely well. He’s a 3-point volume shooter, something that’s immensely valuable in a Bucks’ offense that already does that well. Gasol, meanwhile, came at a steeper cost. The Raptors gave up Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles. In the short-term, however, he adds a physical presence for the Raptors, including 8.6 rebounds per game. Finally, there are the 76ers, against whom the Celtics are 2-0 this season. Harris adds a fourth All-Star-caliber player to Philly’s lineup, as it tries to get back into the conversation of the best in the East, rather than a contender.

Seeing these teams around Boston actively get better while Boston stands pat says two things: The Celtics feel they can win the East with the roster they have, which still features Irving, Tatum, Al Horford and the up-and-down Gordon Hayward. It also shows they’re willing to hedge their bets to try to trade for Davis in the offseason. It’s a risky move from Ainge, but perhaps a shrewd one. This is part of the Raptors, Bucks and 76ers’ plans. The Raptors are concerned about the future of Kawhi Leonard, the Bucks want to contend for as long as Giannis is on their roster and the 76ers have been working toward the lineup they have now. 

The Celtics clearly didn’t want to let this flurry force their hand, so to them, standing pat was the best option. Come the postseason and beyond, we’ll see if that pays off.

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