By Shawn Dennis
The Celtics are the current focal point of practically all trade talks in the NBA. With a ridiculous amount of trade rumors, some being farfetched while others Danny Ainge could actually do, what makes the most sense to put Boston over the top? The missing pieces for the team have been the same over the last 5-plus seasons. A scoring/defensive big man that can play in crunch time and a veteran off the bench that can put up points in a hurry. These two positions have been a bit of a problem for the Celtics as they have come up short of an appearance in the Finals for over a decade now. Boston’s also had its fair share of injuries when playoffs come around, always setting them back from being a Championship contending team.
In order to have an understanding for the trade rumors that have been presented by the media, let’s have a justification for the need to trade specific players as there have been a few recurring names. On of those being Kemba Walker. Likewise, there’s a high possibility that the Celtics will trade all three of their first round picks, if the ideal trade is brought to the table.
A more controversial take is trading away Kemba Walker. It’s not that Kemba doesn’t fit in the Boston lineup, nor is there realistically another player the Celtics could afford that can provide as much of a spark on offense as him. However, as history has shown for the Celtics in the point guard position, injuries have haunted them. Take Isaiah Thomas for example. IT bled green for Boston, he put up numbers that legends like Paul Pierce and Larry Bird were scoring in the playoffs, but once the Celtics knew of the severity of his hip injury, they weren’t willing to take the chance regardless of what he did in the past.
In Kemba’s case, the combination of having a knee injury and being 30-years old, the future doesn’t seem to be too bright for the four-time all star being on the back end of his career. Yet, to not give Kemba another year and to bring in another point guard wouldn’t be the most ideal situation for a team that needs a leader. Boston is better off believing he will be able to play the majority of the season instead of having their fourth point guard in five years take over because of the fears they have from previous players.
What’s also been a recurring scenario is packaging the three first round picks the Celtics have in the upcoming draft. Between trading the three first round picks or Kemba, I’d put it in that exact order for the highest possibility of them happening and the best decision to make all around.
With that being said, what’s the market look like for the Celtics to finally put the pieces of the puzzle all together to come out on top in the East? Well, Danny Ainge has already made his mind up on at least one player he’s targeting: Pacers center Myles Turner.
Turner’s contract makes a hell of a lot more sense than other available trade pieces, especially knowing the Celtics have to give Tatum the max next season and they just paid Kemba big money. But the lingering question is what else would the Celtics package together to make this deal happen? Perhaps another big to compensate for the loss of Turner with a player like Kanter or Theis. Maybe including one or two of the players they drafted from last season: Carson Edwards or Grant Williams. On the other hand, Oladpio has mentioned before that he wants out and he could be another player included in the package. In that case, the Celtics would have to trade a player like Kemba or even Brown to have the cap space to do so.
So what should good ole Danny do to keep Brad Stevens’ job after next season and bring Beantown another O’Brien trophy? Two things have to happen to just make it out of the East with teams like Milwaukee, Miami, and Brooklyn, especially with Kyrie and KD coming back.
First, making room to sign a veteran. If all these trade rumors are a hoax or if they fall through, the top priority should be to sign a free agent vet that knows what it takes to win and has that winning mentality they desperately need down the stretch. Miami did this by signing Andre Iguodala and trading for Jae Crowder. Iguodala is a former Finals MVP and has always stepped up when he needed to. In the Celtics case, Brad Wannamaker is their oldest player at 31 and has only played 20 total playoff games, not starting in a single one. Affordable free agents are hard to come by in this day and age, especially for the little room Boston has, but a player such as Marco Belinelli that’s won a championship or Kyle Korver who’s been in the playoffs 14 out of his 17 seasons would be more valuable than holding on-to bench players like Semi Ojeleye or Tremont Waters.
Second, trading away their draft picks. Unless they see a ton of promise in one of the players that are left with their 14th selection comes or they can trade up in the draft, bringing on three more rookies will not change anything in the near future and the time to win is now. Ainge’s philosophy to build his players from the core and trade guys with lingering injuries will always make them a plus .500 team, but it won’t give them their 18th ring. They are a win now team and fans would rather see them win a few trophies in the next five seasons than to finish a high seed and go nowhere in the playoffs for the next ten.
Lastly, my “best case” scenario that I’d love to see happen, starting with the draft. If the Celtics hold on to their picks until their 14th selection comes around, the only way I’d keep it is if Devin Vassel is still available. They are in need of a “three and D” type of wing player to compensate when Jaylen Brown is off the floor. This kid has a high ceiling and a lot of potential to be an asset on a winning team, with comparisons to that of Klay Thompson by his head coach Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. For the other two picks, I’d package them in a trade with Gordon Hayward. A trade that probably won’t happen, but I think would be a win-win is trading Hayward and one of the two picks (26 & 30) along with Semi Ojeleye or Tremont Waters to the Detroit Pistons for Blake Griffin and Christian Wood.