How the Pacers Offseason Moves Could Help or Hurt the Celtics
NBA executives and front offices are scrambling to find free agents to fill roster needs. This is set to be one of the most exciting free agency/trade periods in recent history, with the NBA virtually wide open after the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The end of the Warriors dynasty opens the door for teams like the Lakers, Bucks and 76ers to make a legitimate run at an NBA title. The Pacers and Celtics are two teams on the outside of the favorites, that would like to be in the conversation.
Both teams are losing significant pieces to free agency, that frees up cap room and roster spots to target highly touted free agents. The moves these teams make could end up directly impacting each other, due to their needs being so similar. Since the Celtics and Pacers are the two contenders in the east that can put together the most attractive pitches, there could end up being a conflict between the two clubs.
Hurt: Competition in the Point Guard Market
There’s no surprise here. Both teams are in desperate need of a floor general after losing there top two point guards in the offseason. The Pacers are expected to move on from Corey Joseph and Darren Collison, and it has been reported that Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier both intend to test free agency.
There are a few theories out there that people believe the on how the teams plan on filling the need, but after both teams missed out on Mike Conley, there are only a few more true difference makers left on the market.
D’Angelo Russell is one of those players. D-Lo is expected to leave the Nets after it was reported they are making a run at Kyrie Irving, and both the Celtics and the Pacers are expected to make a push for the Most-Improved Player candidate.
Russell is a Restricted-Free Agent, which means whoever wants to sign him must present an offer sheet that Brooklyn will have the option to match. This factor could either help or hurt BOS/IND if the Nets intend on keeping Russell, which could happen if their plans to sign two superstars falls through. For example if the Nets sign Irving and miss out on Durant, they still have the cap room to match an offer sheet and re-sign Russell.
The Pacers were also rumored to be interested in Ricky Rubio, after his disappointing two season in Utah. Other options for the Pacers include Terry Rozier or even Kemba Walker.
The Celtics, however, addressed the point guard position in the draft last night, taking Indiana’s Romeo Langford with the 14th pick and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards with the 33rd pick. If the Celtics miss out on D-Lo, the team could stay quiet in the point guard race, going for depth. One move that has been rumored is a potential signing of former fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas.
Help: Replacing Al Horford
Earlier this week Al Horford declined his player option to rejoin the Celtics, and after free agency talks went south, it was reported that he intends to sign with another team. Not only are the Celtics losing Horford, but they also traded Aron Baynes and are expected to lose Marcus Morris and Daniel Theis in free agency, leaving a massive hole in their front court rotation. Former first round pick Robert Williams, Semi Ojeleye, and Guerschon Yabusele are now the only front court players on the Celtics roster. The question becomes; How will Danny Ainge address this need in the offseason?
Well, the answer may lie in Indianapolis. The Pacers have two rising stars in Domantis Sabonis and Myles Turner, but the problem is, the two cannot play together. The Pacers tried everything to increase production with those two on the floor together, but saw limited progress at best. This conflict has led most to believe that the Pacers are looking to off-load one of their young big men.
This rumor was somewhat confirmed last night, after the Pacers drafted forward Goga Bitzade and traded for SF/PF TJ Warren.
If this report is true and the Pacers are actively shopping Sabonis/Turner, Danny Ainge better be on the phone with Kevin Pritchard early and often. Landing either of those big men would fill a desperate need for the Celtics.
Other options for the Celtics include signing Nikola Vucevic in free agency or trading for Clint Capela, who is rumored to be on the trade block.
Staying Competitive in the Eastern Conference
As mentioned previously, this could end up being one of the most competitive seasons in NBA history after the demise of the Warriors dynasty. Although there are clear-cut favorites and contenders, the Celtics and Pacers want to remain in the conversation. Even though both clubs have great pieces already in place, they are nowhere near armed and dangerous enough to make a finals run.
The Pacers have Victor Oladipo – coming back from injury – and two great front court players, but lack the depth to be a legit contender. Pritchard definitely has some work to do in order to stay in the top 8 teams in the Eastern Conference.
Even after losing Irving and Horford, the Celtics still have a solid core of talent to build around. A top 3 of Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will get you in the playoffs, but not into the finals. Ainge has done a great job of acquiring draft picks and assets, but now he has to do something with them.
The only things standing in the way of the Celtics is the hesitance of Danny Ainge. He not only lost out on Anthony Davis, he lost on Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin and other players because he was reluctant to pull the trigger and seperate from his precious assets.
It’s becoming clear that he has to be willing to move one of his young players in order to make the Celtics a legit trade partner. Hopefully this is the offseason where he makes the big move Celtics fans have all been waiting for.