Celtics trade for Isaiah Thomas

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Boston Celtics thrust themselves into the frenetic final minutes of the 2015 NBA trade deadline, acquiring point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns and dealing Tayshaun Prince to the Detroit Pistons, the Pistons announced Thursday.

Boston acquired Thomas in exchange for Marcus Thornton and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round draft pick, sources told ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman.

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Kevin Pelton offers his grades for today’s trade between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns. He liked the move Boston made to acquire the veteran point guard. Story Insider

Boston sent Prince to the Detroit team he spent most of his career with in exchange for Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome.

The players dealt were among 39 to change hands Thursday, a day that marked the busiest NBA trade deadline day in 25 years.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had said Thursday morning that Boston was “all over the map” while examining possibilities as a buyer, seller or facilitator. For much of the early afternoon, it looked as if Boston might endure its third tradeless deadline in four years, but the Celtics finished with a bang.

Ainge had made Thomas a free-agent target this past summer before he landed with the Suns. With an overstocked backcourt and a disgruntled Goran Dragic, Phoenix overhauled its backcourt Thursday. The Suns traded Dragic to the Miami Heat and shipped Thomas to the Celtics as Boston pounced on a player it coveted.

Thomas signed a modest four-year, $27 million contract this past summer that decreases in value each season. In the hours leading up to the deadline, Ainge had noted, “We’re also looking to acquire players that are already under contract. We really don’t want to get rid of multiple draft picks for players with uncertainty in the free-agent market — a situation like we were in with [Rajon] Rondo. … We’re looking for more certainty.”

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Thomas
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
The Celtics obtained point guard Isaiah Thomas in a trade with the Suns on Thursday.
Now the Celtics add a pint-sized point guard who immediately becomes their best penetrator. Thomas can create off the dribble and provide a scoring punch, mixing into what will be a three-guard rotation with rookie Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.

It’s just the sort of infusion of talent that Ainge had hinted he wanted.

“We really like [the team’s young guards] a lot, but you need depth and you need a lot shooting and scoring at the guard position to be a great team,” Ainge said. “We like our young kids, also. But we don’t have enough. The talent level that we have right now is not good enough at this moment.”

Boston sits 1½ games out of a final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics just got hypercompetitive with two other teams in the mix also upgrading their point guard position — the Heat, who obtained Dragic, and the Detroit Pistons, who picked up Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After its acquisition of Thomas, Boston’s 2013 blockbuster with the Brooklyn Nets looks even better. The Celtics essentially turned the $12.9 million trade exception generated from trading Paul Pierce into Tyler Zeller and Thomas. Boston drafted James Young with Brooklyn’s pick this past summer and will collect two more first-rounders in 2016 and 2018 (with an ability to swap spots in 2017).

The Nets traded Garnett to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, leaving Brooklyn with no remaining players from the Boston swap.

The Celtics were able to move Prince, a player who was headed for a buyout discussion if he was not moved. Thornton could have been a buyout candidate as well if Boston didn’t find a home for him.

Boston’s roster now stands at 15 players, although it’s unclear whether Jerebko and Datome figure into the plans moving forward. The Celtics are still comfortably under the luxury-tax line.

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