With the Covid and injury bug striking, the Boston Celtics have had a major slide since starting the season 8-3. Every player on the team has missed a game except for German big man Daniel Theis. Their downfall over the last 14 games started due to the Covid-19 wave hitting the team. Jayson Tatum, Tristan Thompson, Grant and Robert Williams all went out with contact tracing and the team has gone 5-9 since this happened.
Teams like the Portland Trailblazers have stayed afloat in spite of multiple injuries to top players but this hit the Celtics quite harder. Despite the downfall Boston sits at 4th in the Eastern Conference. While 4th isn’t bad by any means this Celtics team has way higher aspirations. They have the talent when 100% healthy to be a legit contender. This team obviously needs to gel first and I am here to propose that the gelling will happen with some different faces rocking the Celtics green.
The Ainge Factor
Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge has been thought of as a mastermind in the NBA world for pulling off some massive deals to advance the teams rebuild. But, in past seasons the Celtics were rumored to be buyers in the trade market and nothing was done. Anthony Davis, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler are just a few stars that were linked to the Celtics for quite some time before being moved to other teams. Just this past offseason it seemed like the Celtics had Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner in the bag for Gordon Hayward. The deal fell through however because Ainge was looking for more.
Ainge however has always been in a tricky situation when it comes to trades. Having the pieces to compete now and in the future makes decisions a whole lot harder for the now. For example, in the Anthony Davis trades the Pelicans were only down to talk business if Jayson Tatum was involved. AD at the time and right now is still a better player than Tatum. But, potentially only one season of AD wasn’t equal to what Ainge thought Tatum could do as the cornerstone of this team for 10+ years. It seems his investment is on the right track in that regard. This season, I don’t think the Celtics can stand pat at the deadline without making a move. Therefore I’ll give a few candidates the Celtics should be looking at and how they can make the deal work.
Trade #1 – Nikola Vucevic
Despite having a career year scoring the ball (23.7ppg), Vucevic is still one of the most underrated players in the league. In many people’s opinions he is wasting his years in Orlando. HE IS. Vucevic’s Magic career, which started in 2012, has resulted in him seeing the playoffs only two years. Those years being last season and the season before; both times losing in 5 to the higher seed. Vuc has never been out of the first round and has never played super meaningful basketball. The one time All-star would give the Celtics a much needed upgrade in the front court. While Vuc isn’t the best defender he would give the Celtics another dimension offensively as a more reliable floor spacing big than Daniel Theis. 43.1% from 3 definitely will give more driving lanes to Tatum and Brown.
Boston Celtics receive: Nikola Vecevic
Romeo Langford is a lottery project that the Boston Celtics can definitely afford to package in a deal. The young Indiana Hoosier product is still battling injuries like he has his entire young career. Since being drafted in 2019 he has only played 32 games and in those games has shown flashes of aggressive scoring and great on-ball defense. As for Aaron Nesmith he should get more of a chance at minutes in Orlando. His calling card is his sniper ability from the three point line and is a better athlete than advertised. I don’t believe the Celtics should package him away just yet for just anyone. But for someone of Vuc’s caliber, the Celtics can live with losing a young wing when they have Tatum and Brown. Last but not least Daniel Theis and the picks.
Theis of course is no All-Star like Vucevic but he is and will be a very solid big man for at least five more years. He can help any NBA team with his versatility defensively and his surprising athleticism allows him to be a lob threat and block or contest a good amount of shots. Theis also has a reliable mid range jumper in the pick and pop and on a good night he can give you a couple threes.
With the Magic’s front court going through a lot of turmoil Theis can be a glue guy through Johnathan Isaacs injury and the uncertain futures of Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba. The pick involved most likely will be in the late 20’s but there are currently 18 players in the league right now that have made an All-Star game while being selected outside of the lottery. I am not saying this pick from the Boston Celtics will give Orlando an All-Star but they can certainly get a good role player.
Trade #2 – Lonzo Ball
Now I do not believe Lonzo and friend in this deal are the saviors of the Boston Celtics season. But, I do think this deal makes them better and gives them the best chance to gel and maximize their talent.
New Orleans Pelicans: Kemba Walker, 2021 2nd Round (OKC), 2021 2nd Round
Let’s start with Lonzo; his skill set is just what the Celtics need. They lack playmaking and on ball defense especially with Marcus Smart being out with a calf injury. Lonzo Ball is a winning player. He makes winning plays on both sides of the ball and most importantly he is not a ball dominant scorer like Kemba Walker. That is why he is a better fit. The Celtics are 9-3 without Kemba Walker and I believe this is because Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get more offensive reign and the defense overall is better. During the playoffs in the bubble last season the Celtics main problem was guarding the big man. Whether that was Joel Embiid in the first round or Bam Adebayo in the Eastern Conference Finals. But the play of Kemba Walker also could’ve propelled them to the Finals.
Against the Heat, Walker’s scoring was not bad at 19.5 ppg a game. But, he never had that signature big game that Kemba usually has once in a while. In fact during the 17 Celtic playoff games last season he only eclipsed 25 points two times! Believe it or not, that isn’t the main problem. Kemba Walker is a 6 foot point guard who plays his ass off but is just too small to actually play defense and teams know this. Miami’s starting lineup did not feature a player shorter than 6’3’’ and on defense size does matter. Down the stretch of games Walker got picked on heavily all playoffs long but most importantly against Miami.
Opposing players most effective offense came from Kemba switching on to them and either going right to the cup or rising over him for an easy bucket. This just tells me that for Kemba to be a plus in a game he has to be having a marvelous night in the points category to account for the points he’s giving up. That didn’t happen 15 out of the 17 playoff games. This season he’s had moments but he is inefficient to say the least.
Everyone in the league gets scored on but getting picked on will not happen with Lonzo Ball. Lonzo’s best attributes are his playmaking and his defense, something the Celtics can desperately use. Smart is the team’s best playmaker and he isn’t even a true point guard. Lonzo changes the dynamic of the offense because he defers to scorers like Tatum and Brown and would easily come in and be the Boston Celtics best playmaker and if he can continue to hit 39% of his three point attempts playing off Tatum and Brown, the Celtics would love this deal.
As for Redick all he needs to do is what he’s always done and that’s shoot the ball. He has been surprisingly inefficient this season but I can’t see a shooter of his caliber staying in a slump like this all season and he will get some shots off on that Celtics bench. Worst case scenario, Redick doesn’t play that much but is a quality vet. Rookie Aaron Nesmith plays similarly to Redick as a great shooter and Redick could teach him a lot.
Lastly, New Orleans, I realize I said a lot of ish about Kemba, but, he is still a former All Star and could very well get back to the player he once was and could create a mini big 3 with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Moving Lonzo also should give Kira Lewis more looks as Kemba is still taking recovery slowly. P.S. Hopefully Van Gundy tells Eric Bledsoe to sit down.
The Celtics have many players to look out for this season that could help them. Maybe Andre Drummond and John Collins can be added to this list but there is no way the Celtics currently constructed can reach their championship aspirations. Danny Ainge should be on the phones looking for deals until that March trade deadline has passed.
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Nik is a longtime Celtics fan from Washington DC. NBA writing has always been one of his dream jobs and now he focuses on articles about the Celtics and rumor based news.