Tha Sports Junkies 101

Do the Celtics Need a Blockbuster?

Avery Bradley with the Celtics Mark Runyon via Flikr


The Boston Celtics missed out on their number one target during free agency, but still improved their squad. Is a huge trade necessary to compete in the East?

With all the rumors swirling around the Celtics, more people seem to be asking who the Celtics are going to trade for rather than whether they need to make a trade at all. Danny Ainge barely missed out on signing Kevin Durant during the off-season, but signed Al Horford to fill the hole at the starting center position.

Even though the free agency talk has cooled down in the NBA, it doesn’t seem like the Celtics are done trying to improve their rotation. The team has plenty of depth at certain positions, but there are others that could use some fine-tuning. If the rumors involved the Celtics making trades for role players, they would be more believable, but names like Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Jahlil Okafor are being linked with a trade to Boston.

In order to make a deal for one of those three players, the Celtics would have to dig into their large bag of prospects and draft picks, plus add a player currently in their starting lineup. A most likely trade package would include an assortment of picks, including the Brooklyn Nets 1st round pick in the 2017 draft, Terry Rozier, James Young, or possibly Marcus Smart.

Either Avery Bradley or Amir Johnson, the two weakest points in the Celtics projected starting lineup would also be included in the deal. If the the Thunder, Clippers or Sixers demand more, they could end up losing Jae Crowder.

The question is, are the Celtics concerned about possibly giving up their long term assets to compete in the short term? An even better question is do they even need a huge trade to compete with the Raptors, Bulls and the Cavaliers in the East?

The three glaring weaknesses in Boston’s lineup lie at shooting guard, power forward, and the backup center position. Bradley is not a true two guard, standing at only 6’2, but he is the best option to play next to Isaiah Thomas on the perimeter.

Westbrook is not a true shooting guard either. In college, he spent a lot of time in the two-guard role due to Darren Collison starting at point guard. Since moving to the NBA, Westbrook has become one of, if not the premier point in the league.

It is doubtful that even if the Celtics did manage to put a package together for Westbrook, that he would start over Thomas. That would mean he would be forced back into the shooting guard role and it is hard to say whether he would perform the same in that role.

Amir Johnson is the best power forward on the roster, but maybe the least talented player in the starting lineup. The former Raptor is a good player, but on a team looking to compete for a title, he would be better suited as a role player.

That is why, of all the possible trade scenarios, Griffin would make the most sense. He would add a strong presence at starting power forward and would work well with Horford in the paint. While Horford is able to strech the floor with his shooting ability, Griffin would control the paint and establish his dominance down low.

The Clippers star will be a free agent in 2017, along with Westbrook, so any deal involving those two would have to come with the guarantee of a contract extension.

Okafor, who is being considered the most likely candidate, would play well in the Celtics system. Horford would most likely move to power forward to make room for the 20-year-old. There are questions about Okafor’s character given that he has allegedly been involved in street fights, ironically enough, in Boston.

That, along with the fact that he is still young and unproven, would mean that the Celtics wouldn’t be willing to give up quite as much to acquire him. That could work in the team’s favor given that the Sixers’ GM Bryan Colangelo is looking to deal a big-man in order to clear out some of the top-heavy talent for some backcourt players.

Any of these trade scenarios will most likely come down to whether Boston is willing to let go of the Nets’ pick. Brooklyn’s first round pick from this past season was the number three overall and netted the Celtics a huge talent in Jaylen Brown.

The 2017 Draft class is expected to be deeper than the one in 2016. If Ainge expects the Nets pick to make the top-five, he may be more hesitant to part with it.

Boston made the playoffs as a 5-seed last season, losing out to the Hawks in six games in the first round. Atlanta lost Horford and Jeff Teague this off-season, but added Dwight Howard. The Celtics will look to finish above them this season, but given their current roster, it doesn’t appear that they can truly compete for a title this season with all of the talented teams around the league.

The future must always be taken into consideration, though, and if Boston feels like their prospects and future draft picks, along with their already talented roster and coach in Brad Stevens, can win a title in the next three years, then it may be a bad idea to sacrifice that for a blockbuster deal.