by: John Tomase on Thu, 02/23/2017 - 1:45pm

The Celtics have made Paul George a priority as the trade deadline nears. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)The clock is ticking towards Thursday afternoon's NBA trade deadline, and here's my take on where things stand with the Celtics, to be updated throughout the day.

1. Paul George is in play

The incomparable Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the C's have relented on this year's Nets pick, which could be No. 1 overall, in discussions for George, the All-Star swingman who belongs in that next tier of franchise players after LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Kawhi Leonard.

I've made my thoughts on keeping the Nets picks pretty clear, but of all the possible trade targets we've heard about over the last week (Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, et al. ...), George is the only one I'd consider trading the potential top pick to acquire.

Danny Ainge seems content to keep that choice, so we'll see what kind of fire accompanies this smoke. But there's no questioning George's qualifications. The 26-year-old four-time All-Star is averaging 22.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game while shooting .383 from 3-point land. The 6-foot-9 forward is an all-league defender, strong finisher, and excellent shooter.

He's also a proven postseason performer who led the Pacers to consecutive Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, where they fell in seven and six games, respectively, to James and the Heat.

I'm still skeptical there's a deal to complete, because the Pacers and their boss, Larry Bird, would be well within their rights to demand next year's Nets pick as well, which means that Ainge would be sacrificing the potential future flexibility of relying on low-paid top draft picks to augment whatever veteran core he builds through free agency.

One other thought -- Durant is already on record that George is his "favorite player in the league," according to a December story in USA Today. If that's the case, perhaps Ainge believes his best shot at acquiring a transcendent player is by acquiring George and hoping that his presence, alongside Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, would convince Durant to leave Golden State and head east when he opts out of his contract this summer.

The odds of that seem low, but I'll let the mathematicians decide if the chances are greater or lower than the Celtics finding a franchise player in either of the next two drafts.

UPDATE (1:36 p.m.): It seems these rumors are gaining steam. ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein are reporting that Indiana is engaging other teams in an attemp to clear space, perhaps to make room for whatever players would return from Boston in a George deal. If Ainge can pull this off, depending on what he surrenders, the Celtics could become ... favorites? ... in the East. It's not crazy.

UPDATE (2:19 p.m.): Woj says the Celtics don't appear to be close on anything with the Bulls or Pacers. That's no fun. No fun at all.

UPDATE (2:58 p.m.): Woj says the deal is dead. Woj ruins everything. Paul George isn't going anywhere.

2. Jimmy Butler is overrated

I love Butler's game. That isn't the issue. It's the idea of shredding the roster to acquire him that confuses me. Reports that the Celtics put the brakes on any Butler talks because of an unwillingness to include Jae Crowder make sense to me. Let's say the package to acquire the All-Star is Crowder, Marcus Smart, and the No. 1 pick. How does such a deal make the Celtics better now or later?

It doesn't. Without Smart and Crowder, the C's aren't getting out of the East. So what's the point? Future wins matter just as much as current ones, and the Celtics will be better served saving their money and assets and targeting an upgrade in free agency.

Butler's biggest drawback, from a Celtics perspective, is his 3-point marksmanship. He's shooting .337 on 3's this year, which is roughly in line with his .329 career average. If the C's are going to blow up their roster and future flexibility to acquire an impact player, it ought to be one who can impact the game in every way. Adding another below-average 3-point shooter to the mix doesn't fit the Stevens system.

So if the C's want to talk Paul George, I'm all ears. But I'm not emptying the vault for Butler.

3. Andrew Bogut is on the move

According to multiple reports, the Mavericks have traded center Andrew Bogut to the Sixers with a conditional first-rounder for fellow big man Nerlens Noel. Philly doesn't plan to keep Bogut, however, and is reportedly looking to flip him, which leaves the veteran in play for the Celtics.

If there's no other move to be made, then sure, acquire Bogut. But otherwise, I'd think the Celtics can do better than an injury-prone 7-footer on the back end of his career who would help in the rebounding department, but not necessarily anywhere else.

4. Nothing wrong with a complementary player

Two names linked to the C's in recent days perhaps make more sense than unloading the draft pick U-Haul in order to acquire Jimmy Butler. Phoenix's P.J. Tucker and Memphis's JaMychal Green possess skills the Celtics need. Both can rebound, play some defense, and shoot 3's. In Brad Stevens' system, those last two are prerequisites.

If the C's trade lesser parts for either player, they'll improve on the boards without sacrificing spacing offensively. They'll also retain the money to max out a free agent this summer; perhaps someone like Utah's Gordon Hayward, should he opt out of his deal with Utah and test the market.

They'll also keep both Nets picks, allowing them to build a contender for today through free agency, and for tomorrow through the draft. All things considered, that probably remains Ainge's preferred plan.

UPDATE (3 p.m.): Cross Tucker off the list. Woj says he was traded to the Raptors for old friend Jared Sullinger and a pair of second-round picks.