The Celtics aren’t messing about; they mean business this offseason and they’ve made it perfectly clear that they plan on challenging LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers and progress on to their first NBA Finals since 2010.
Signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal was a huge step in the right direction, he’s an excellent wing player who can attack both with and without the ball. He’ll take a huge amount of pressure off Isaiah Thomas who struggled in last year’s playoffs.
Anyone who stands 5 foot 9 simply isn’t going to be effective enough in the postseason as a team’s first option. Defensively, Thomas was a liability all season, but in the playoffs when defenses get a lot tougher they could simply trap him in pick and rolls or be very physical to throw Thomas off his game.
Even though the Celtics had the number one seed in the East when it came to the Cleveland series they were completely outmatched. Apart from a bizarre game 3, Cleveland tore Boston apart, even winning game 2 by nearly 50 points.
If they are to beat the Cavaliers then the addition of Hayward isn’t enough; they need to upgrade some their less effective assets to ensure everyone who wears Celtic green next year can contribute well. Here are 4 trades the Celtics could make to really rival themselves against the Cavs.
4. James Young
I watched James Young during his one year at Kentucky and I loved what I saw. He was a pure scorer, able to ignite at any moment and give you 8 straight points to turn a game around. I expected him to need a couple of years to find his stroke and for his mind and body to mature to the standard required in the NBA.
Alas, this hasn’t happened.
Young was expected to develop a JR Smith type game with a killer jump shot and an explosive first step but he’s shot just 27.6% from three so far in his career, a number which is just appalling for a wing player.
Boston needs to ship him somewhere to give Young a second chance, and to bring in a quality shooter in his place.
3. Terry Rozier
Rozier is another young player who still has some potential to be effective, but the Celtics need production now, not in a few years time. Both Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward are excellent at driving and finishing at the rim, which means Boston will need lots of floor space to give these two players the chances they need. Floor space requires shooters whose defenders daren’t leave their side lest they be yelled at by their coach for letting their guy sink a corner three. Rozier only shot 31.8% from beyond the arc as a point guard. If your PG can’t knock down three with any reliability then defenders can just sag off him and not let him drive or pass with any effectiveness.
In today’s NBA with the power that ball-handlers have, floor spacing is paramount if you intend to win. The Golden State Warriors have the two best three-point shooters in the game and they’ve won their second title in three years. Cleveland last year had 6 players shooting above 40% from three.
You need shooting to win you games and any guard or wing player who can’t shoot well from the outside and doesn’t have a special role has to go for Boston.
2. Marcus Smart
I really liked Marcus Smart and his game style. He is extremely rough and rugged with his opponents and is never out-hustled whilst on the floor. He serves as an excellent backup for the defensively-deficient Isaiah Thomas and can spark his team on a run with his grit and physical prowess, but yet again Boston have themselves a guard who can’t shoot.
Smart only shot 28.3% from three last year and he was jacking up 4.2 attempts a game. He also only shot 35.9% from the field making him a complete dub on offense which cancels out his defensive abilities.
I believe there is still hope for Smart yet. A player’s free throw shooting percentage is often a good indicator of a player’s ability to shoot from the outside. Hitting free throws requires patience and discipline. Smart was a measly 65% in his rookie year, but he worked hard and shot 78% the next year and 81% last year. This proves that Marcus is willing to put in the work to improve his outside game year on year.
Smart is still very young and has a lot of potential, which could mean a team might gamble on him. He’s a terrific athlete and if his shooting becomes even average he will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Celtics should capitalize on this potential to get assets that work for them now.
1. Jae Crowder
The NBA is a rough league sometimes. At any time, even though you may be doing your job extremely well, anything can happen which could lead to you being made redundant on the team you’ve now spent years working hard for.
Jae Crowder is about to feel the wrath of the NBA trade guillotine now that a better player has come to Boston at his position. Crowder’s starting role has been snatched from him by the player that the Boston crowd were baying for Hayward to come to the Celtics last season.
Crowder said it was a ‘sign of disrespect’ when the crowd did that, and now it has come to fruition. Crowder is a quality small forward who averaged 14 points a game as the fourth option last year and he shot nearly 40% from three as well. He will feel that he deserves a starting role and this could be an excellent opportunity for the Celtics to include him in a blockbuster trade deal to bring in a true center so that Horford can slide over to the power forward, his natural position.
The Celtics have real quality at every position except at center; Crowder could be used to acquire a star guy to complete Boston’s title-contending starting five.