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Boston Celtics rumors: Team looking for star forward ahead of NBA trade deadline

Jan 15, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) celebrates during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of a tough first half of the season, Boston Celtics rumors continue to point in the direction of the team adding to an underperforming core group.

General manager Danny Ainge has not been quiet about his criticism of both the roster and his performance from a player personnel standpoint. Something will happen in Boston between now and the March 25 NBA trade deadline with the team currently boasting a 17-17 record.

We now have some more specifics as it relates to who the Celtics might target. Primarily, it will be to replace the production they saw from Gordon Hayward a season ago. Remember, he left Boston for the Charlotte Hornets in a sign-and-trade this past offseason.

Read More: Boston Celtics rumors: 4 trades to help the struggling team

Boston Celtics to target Gordon Hayward replacement ahead of NBA trade deadline

Boston Celtics rumors
Jan 22, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (20) drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second quarter at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

“Rival executives believe they are hunting for a player who can play either forward spot and provide some scoring punch—exactly the kind of player they lost when Hayward left,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported recently.

This is the most-specific of the Celtics rumors we’ve heard since talk of Ainge making a splash became public record. The above-mentioned Hayward sign-and-trade created a league-record $28.6 million trade exception.

There’s every reason in the world to believe that Boston will utilize that before it expires. Whether it’s before the in-season NBA trade deadline or this coming summer remains to be seen.

However, it gives Ainge a ton of flexibility as he attempts to turn a disappointing Boston team into title contenders after it earned a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Celtics, check out #Celtics rumors, rankings, and news here.

Celtics rumors: Who might they target ahead of the NBA trade deadline

Looking for a versatile forward who can play the three and four in today’s NBA landscape is not an easy ask. Finding one who is good enough to justify using that trade exception and selling off important assets magnifies this further. However, there’s some decent potential options.

Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons

Celtics rumors: Jerami Grant trade
Feb 26, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) brings the ball up court during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Let us preface this by concluding that there’s no rumors out there suggesting Grant is available after the Detroit Pistons acquired him this past offseason. With that said, Boston could offer up a package that makes it nearly impossible for Detroit to turn down.

This would include rookie first-round pick Aaron Nesmith and either Grant Williams or Robert Williams as a starting-off point. From there, the Celtics would have to offer up multiple first-round picks. Grant, 26, is averaging 23.4 points and 5.3 rebounds on 36% shooting from distance this season. He’d be a tremendous third option behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Read More: NBA trade rumors: Latest updates leading up to the March 25 deadline

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic trade Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon
Jan 12, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) is congratulated by Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) as he dunks against the Boston Celtics during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There’s some rumors floating about that the rebuilding Magic might look to swap both Gordon and Evan Fournier ahead of the NBA trade deadline. It makes sense with the team mired in an ugly start to the 2020-21 season.

Currently sidelined with an ankle injury, Gordon will return ahead of the deadline. And while he has struggled over the past season-plus, there’s a lot to like here. The 6-foot-8 Gordon can play all three frontcourt positions. He’s athletic. He has range. He’s a rebounder. A move of this ilk would likely cost Boston nothing more than a young player and future second-round picks.

Those are just two options that stand out as Celtics rumors point to a pretty big trade ahead of the March 25 deadline. Expect Ainge and Co. to be active on pretty much every front here over the next three weeks.