The Boston Celtics are having a great season by any measure. Despite battling various injuries all season, the Celtics are among the best teams in the East.
Boston has put themselves in a great position to capture the second seed, as Milwaukee leads the Conference.
Where they stand now
Compared to last year’s dysfunction, the 2019-2020 Celtics are in a much better position. The team ranks ninth in offensive rating behind the play of newcomer Kemba Walker, who is averaging 22 points and five assists per game.
The team’s defense is what sets them apart. Boston is ranked fourth in defensive rating, and second in opponents’ points per game.
While Jayson Tatum has improved his scoring numbers and defense this season, Jaylen Brown has taken a huge leap. After being benched last season, Brown is looking like an All-Star caliber player, averaging 20 points and seven rebounds on a career-high field goal percentage. Tatum and Brown remain the team’s franchise players for the foreseeable future.
Gordon Hayward suffered a broken hand at the beginning of the season, and was playing great prior, serving as the team’s best playmaker. Defensive anchor Marcus Smart, big men Robert Williams and Vincent Porier, along with Walker, have all missed time this season.
Boston has managed their frontcourt well, with Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis getting a bulk of the minutes. This area, along with their bench, is where they can improve the most.
Under Danny Ainge’s leadership, Boston has amassed several draft picks in the next two drafts:
2020 NBA Draft
–Memphis Grizzlies (top-6 protected)
–Milwaukee Bucks (top-7 protected)
–Boston’s own pick
2021 NBA Draft
–Memphis Grizzlies (unprotected if it doesn’t convey in 2020)
–Milwaukee Bucks (unprotected if it doesn’t convey in 2020)
–Boston’s own pick
In any deal the Celtics make, one or more of these picks will be included to gain positive trade value. As well as picks, they would likely have to give up at least one of their rookies from the 2019 Draft.
While Grant Williams has played well in a limited role, most teams would be after Romeo Langford in a trade with Boston.
Langford was taken with the 14th pick and has the potential to be a good scoring guard in the NBA. Langford had a successful season at Indiana, all while battling a thumb injury. He has a very high upside, and a team would likely want him included, despite not showcasing himself much in Boston so far.
What deals are out there?
Two All-Star big men have been rumored to be trade targets for Boston. While Kevin Love and Andre Drummond would both upgrade the Celtics at the center position, both would come at a cost that might outweigh the reward.
Love is slated to make $30 million per season until the summer of 2023. At 31, Love would likely still be a productive offensive player, but he is a liability on defense. Additionally, his large contract would prevent the Celtics from paying Jayson Tatum down the road.
Money is also a concern in a trade for Drummond. He has a $28 million player option available next season, but will almost certainly opt-out. Paying Drummond, a one-dimensional offensive player and a decent rim protector, a max contract would be a bad move for the Celtics to make.
In both trades, Gordon Hayward would be included for salary purposes. It’s hard to imagine Cleveland or Detroit, both looking to build young, accepting a Hayward-centered deal, even if bundled with picks and a young player. Not to mention Hayward can opt-out this summer.
Should Boston make a move before the deadline?
While the Celtics are playing great basketball this season, they are probably just outside of the ‘championship contender’ tier of teams. The Celtics could surprise the NBA and come out of the East as currently constructed, but adding a piece would greatly increase these odds.
A trade for a big-money player isn’t the best move Boston could make, in terms of fitting basketball-wise and in terms of the team’s payroll. Instead, the Celtics should look to acquire a solid role player to bolster depth.
Giving up picks, Langford and another low-level contract, Boston should look to acquire one of the three players: Davis Bertans, Robert Covington, or Nemanja Bjelica.
Each of these players has a different skill set that would help the Celtics raise their ceiling. Having a deep team is critical come playoff time, and adding one of these players could help Boston make an NBA Finals appearance. Additionally, each player is on an affordable deal.
Instead of trying to make a blockbuster trade, Boston should play it smart and acquire a solid role player. However, don’t be shocked if Ainge doesn’t make a deal at all before the deadline.
Featured image credited to AP.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.