As always, the Boston Celtics are rumored to be in the middle of various trade talks. After winning 10 of their last 14 games, the Celtics have jumped up to ninth in the Eastern Conference. The recent hot streak has made the deadline direction harder to gauge for general manager and president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens. Stevens faces the question of whether the Celtics should trade veterans and play the young guys or strengthen the roster. While this is a definite dilemma, both routes require appealing assets. The Celtics don’t have the sexiest pieces in the world, but I am here to detail the ones they do have.
Untouchables: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown(?), Robert Williams
Almost every conversation you hear about the Celtics involves whether Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown fit together. The Celtics have smartly made it known that they are not looking to split up the Jays, but I believe that’s a temporary bandage.
A report came out that Brown could look to request a trade after this season. While I think that report shouldn’t put fear in the hearts of Celtics fans, I’m not sure not listening to offers for him is smart. While the Celtics shouldn’t consider trading Brown this season, they are coming up on tricky waters. In two years, Brown will be an unrestricted free agent and the worst thing a team can do is lose a star for nothing. You also run the risk of waiting until the last year of their deal which consequently degrades their value. Teams would be much more comfortable grabbing a guy with two years left on his deal than one. Eventually the Celtics need to either extend Brown or seriously weigh offers.
The worst thing you can do is lose him for nothing which could directly lead to Tatum walking the following year. I want to keep the Jays forever and that should be intact this season, but things could catch fire in the offseason.
Jayson Tatum along with Brown are having down years from the field. Tatum is shooting career lows from the field and behind the arc but he is trending upwards. In his last 10 games Tatum is averaging 27.3 pts on 46% shooting. Other than the last game against Charlotte, The Jays are literally the barometer between winning and losing. Celtics are undefeated this season when they both score 30 plus and if even one of them is struggling, it’s a tough out. Tatum, at 23 years old, is a franchise center piece.
Next, is newly untouchable Robert “Timelord” Williams. Averaging 9.8 pts, 9.5 rebs and 2 blks, Timelord is one of the NBA’s most improved players. He showed flashes of his current play mostly last year in a backup role. Fans continued to clammer for more minutes and a starting role for Rob, but Stevens refused. Former GM Danny Ainge then traded center Daniel Theis and Rob became the starter.
This year his play has shot through the roof. Health has always been the issue with him but this year he’s beat the injury prone allegations. 99% of games he is the most athletic person on the court which is an advantage in itself. His vertical spacing from lobs is vital but still underused. His shot blocking and help defense covers up any perimeter mistakes. Best of all his passing skills are impeccable. With your best two guys as scorers, having a big man with his vision and passing IQ opens opportunities that honestly need to be displayed more.
Tatum, Brown, and Rob Williams are the current core and that won’t change this season.
Trade Only if You Improve: Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Grant Williams, Al Horford
This is where things get tricky.
Starting with Marcus Smart, it seems like we have been having this conversation for 5 years. With the departure of Kemba Walker he has become the new PG of the Boston Celtics. Since returning to the team after protocols and a thigh contusion, Smart has been stellar. His totals stand at 11.8 pts, 3.7 rebs, 6.7 ast and 1.7 stls. Beyond the numbers, his approach to game management and unselfishness is evident. Most impressively he’s shooting 54%(!) from the floor since his return while still being an all-defensive performer.
Some believe this is Marcus putting on his best don’t trade me act but I think this could be reality. Although we love it, heightened play also means heightened interest and if the Celtics can somehow get an upgrade at PG, they should do it instantly. But trading your best playmaker for no playmaking in return or a low value 1st round pick doesn’t please me at all unless the deal is too good.
Marcus and the team are going upward. Breaking it up for the kids or salary relief would be foolish.
It’s safe to say that Josh Richardson has exceeded most expectations. After three straight years of subpar shooting, his 41% clip beyond the arc is 2nd on the team. His midrange/ in between game looks better than ever. Along with his much-needed bench play, he really seems to be cementing himself as a Celtic off the court. Trading him for a 2nd round pick would weaken this team heavily for a bench that’s already 28th in scoring.
In a dark cloud of recent player development, Grant Williams has evolved into a fixture in the rotation. After losing 15 pounds and evidently shooting 1,000 corner threes a day, Grant has transformed himself. He leads the team in 3pt percentage, and his weight loss has helped him in a switching defense. His stretch ability and defensive versatility is something that can stay in Boston for a long time. Unless he’s in a deal to acquire a star/starter, he’s staying put.
Al Horford is obviously the most expendable out of this group despite starting the season in a fountain of youth. For the first 18 games of the season, he averaged 12.2 pts, 9 rebs , 3.2 asts and 2.4 blks. He since of course has slowed down, and the shooting ability has never materialized. His $27 million dollar salary this season makes things interesting though. He also could bring salary relief with half of his salary being shaved off next season. It’s unlikely you get something of value for a 35-year-old big man on that deal but, we’ve seen worse trades *Hi Portland*.
Besides that, he is a key part of a stating unit with elite NET ratings. His savvy and toughness are a cog in the #1 overall defense since Christmas. I wouldn’t mind seeing him moved for the right price but it’s very unlikely.
Dump: Dennis Schroder and Enes Freedom
At the beginning of the year, it was actually a debate whether to just dump Dennis Schroder. Dennis was actually very effective in some games and singlehandedly won them about three. The problem is that Dennis benefited from injuries at the guard position. When Jaylen Brown and or Marcus Smart missed games, he was the next man in the starting lineup. The production difference between bench Dennis and starter Dennis is mind boggling. Off the bench he averages 9.3 pts and 4 asts on 35% shooting. As a starter his scoring exactly doubles at 18.6 pts with 5 asts on 48.6% from the floor. He also shoots 11.1% better from three when starting. The Celtics health blessing has actually been a curse for Dennis.
Since Marcus and JB have been consistently in the lineup, coach Ime Udoka hasn’t been going to Schroder as often. Every single month of the season his minutes have gone down. In October and November his minutes were at 33 and dipped slightly to 30 in December. But for the next two months, January and February, his time has plummeted from 26 to 19. Dennis was actually a valuable piece to winning at the beginning of the season and his value was nowhere near dump. But as the season progresses his time, production, and value have dipped which leaves him in my dump zone.
Kids/sweeteners: Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, Payton Pritchard, P.J. Dozier, Bol Bol, Bruno Fernando
Since the 2019 draft the Celtics have had a problem with drafting/player development. Grant Williams is the only current BOSTON rotational piece from the last three drafts. Boston is in all caps because Matisse Thybulle and Desmond Bane are players they picked and traded in back-to-back drafts. To start in 2019, Romeo Langford was their first pick at #14. He’s dealt with injuries his first two years and this season he’s flashed excellent on ball defense, but they’ve been minimal. In the 2nd round they had three picks being Grant, Carsen Edwards, and Tremont Waters. As we know Tremont and Carsen Edwards aren’t on NBA rosters.
In 2020 they owned three first round picks. At #14 (again) Aaron Nesmith was chosen out of Vanderbilt. He came in labeled as the best shooter in the draft with a small college sample size. With no summer league and a shortened training camp, the rook struggled and fell out of the rotation. Later in the year he got another shot and showed Celtics fans his shooting and under advertised athleticism. Surprisingly to me at least, this season he has completely lost the little touch he had. If he’s not hitting shots (which he’s not) he has no value at all.
Next, Payton Pritchard gets selected at #26. With Kemba Walker missing the start of Payton’s rookie year, Pritchard got an opportunity to play. Unlike Nesmith, Pritchard played four years in college and his extra seasoning showed with Kemba out. His limitless range and shot creation were a nice addition to the squad. This season though, he hasn’t earned the same amount of time. Dennis and Richardson have come in and bunched up Payton’s window and now he’s just a garbage time baller. To me Pritchard is the most capable kid/sweetener and I’m curious to see what he is if Schroder in fact gets moved. 30th overall is Demond Bane but of course he doesn’t wear green.
P.J. Dozier and Bol Bol were acquired in a three-team trade that sent Juancho Hernangomez to the Spurs. Everyone I’ve spoken to sees both players as dumps, but I would like to take a chance. Dozier is an actual rotation piece with size, on ball defense, and secondary playmaking ability. Bol Bol is a 7’2″ uber talented big man. I honstly believe that someone of his size with his handle, shooting, and shot blocking ability can help an NBA team. I hope Boston can unlock something in him.
Everyone in this tier should be add- ons attached to picks or another veteran for the Celtics to upgrade.
The Celtics are on a pretty nice tear of late, but this team is nowhere near finished. Staying under the tax seems to be an emphasis for Brad Stevens but I would be surprised if nothing happens in Beantown.
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