By Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor
For a moment, imagine Paul George in green and how he could have improved the Boston Celtics’ chances of advancing deep into May or June.
That moment has passed. The NBA trade deadline brought no last-minute drama. George is staying in Indiana, at least for now. Jimmy Butler still is in Chicago. Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks did not yet get the divorce both sides seem to desire.
Rumors and speculation were running rampant before today’s deadline, but only a handful of minor moves came to fruition.
The biggest curiosity: Why did the Celtics sit still?
Boston is holding 14 picks, including seven first rounders, in the next four drafts. Instead of dealing some of those cards for George or Butler and a better chance to knock off Cleveland in this postseason, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge remained conservative and focused on the long-term future.
The Celtics, currently the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and only three games behind the Cavaliers, probably need another star to make a run at the NBA Finals. So did Ainge make the right move by making no move at all? That’s up for debate.
Considering the knee injury to Kevin Love and the Cavaliers’ somewhat dysfunctional and vulnerable appearance, a strong case can be made that now was the right time for Ainge to gamble.
The biggest winners: The New Orleans Pelicans, the 11th seed in the West, made the boldest move by trading for DeMarcus Cousins. The Pelicans now boast two of the league’s top 10 players, but it remains to be seen how Cousins and Anthony Davis will fit together on the floor, and they are surrounded by a weak cast.
New Orleans is worth watching, but it has not changed the power structure in the West. The All-Star break is history, and with games resuming today, bettors are not racing to the windows to support the Pelicans, who are 4-point home underdogs against Houston.
The Rockets improved their bench by acquiring guard Lou Williams from the Lakers.
Oklahoma City is a better team, too, after getting forward Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Russell Westbrook needed some help, and Gibson will be a boost.
San Antonio and Houston are the only real threats to Golden State in the West.
Boston, even without trade help, could give Cleveland problems in the East. But it’s tough to bet on Isaiah Thomas taking down LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in a long series.
At the South Point sports book, the Warriors/Cavaliers combination is a minus-360 favorite against the rest of the field (plus-300) to win the NBA championship.
The trade deadline threatened to shake up the league, but a lot of talk produced little action. It still looks like Cleveland-Golden State in the Finals for the third year in a row.