Danny Ainge praises 'best player' Kemba Walker, offers take on Celtics' No. 1 trade deadline need

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Ahead of the 2020 NBA trade deadline, it seems that Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is happy with how the team's roster is performing. But one player in particular has earned his respect over the course of the season: Kemba Walker.

Appearing on NBC Sports Boston's Celtics Pregame Live, Ainge offered effusive praise of Walker and called him the team's current "best player."

"I think Kemba has been our best player this year," Ainge said. "He's made a lot of big shots for us at crucial times. He brings great effort and intensity to the game. He brings energy to his teammates. He's a selfless player. 

"I think he's at that stage of his career where he really only cares about winning. He's letting Jaylen [Brown] and Jayson [Tatum] have their moments. He's letting Marcus [Smart] handle the ball some and Gordon [Hayward]. He's been very willing to share understanding that this is going to be to his benefit."

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It's hard to argue with that analysis. And beyond Walker's performance on the court, he has had a big impact on the team's off-court chemistry, which was an issue with the 2018-19 squad.

Ainge gave Hayward his stamp of approval as well, and seemed to be frustrated that people aren't paying attention to just how efficient Hayward has been this season.

"I don't think people are paying attention. Gordon is the most unselfish of all our five main players. He gives the ball up the most. We're trying to get him to even be a little bit more aggressive because he's our most efficient offensive player," Ainge said.

Hayward is shooting 50.6 percent from the field this season, good for third-best on the team among players taking three-plus shots per game. He has made an impact as a passer too, averaging the third-most assists per game behind Walker and Smart.

Ainge also offered his thoughts on the Celtics ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline. While the team has been rumored to be interested in big men like Clint Capela, Ainge had a different take on what the No. 1 need is.

"I think our No. 1 need is health," Ainge said. "I think we're going to look to see if there's ways to strengthen the end of our bench. We like all of our guys. We do have probably too many really young guys."

Ainge added: "We don't want to make a deal just to make a deal" while confirming that the Celtics were comfortable with the three centers they have on the roster in Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams.

"We're not getting beat at the center position," Ainge said. "We're getting 17, 18 points per night. We're getting double-figure rebounds. We're just doing it as a team."

Of course, that could just be cover as the C's explore their options before the deadline, but given that Theis and Kanter have exceeded expectations this year, perhaps the C's will be content to keep them around instead of sacrificing assets for another center. Especially if Williams is progressing in his return from a hip injury.

We'll soon see what the Celtics do at the deadline. But for the moment, it seems that Ainge is content with their current roster.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Magic-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Danny Ainge praises 'best player' Kemba Walker, offers take on Celtics' No. 1 trade deadline need originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston