DeAngelis: Boston Celtics Need to Make a Trade if They Want to Compete in NBA Finalsby Paul DeAngelis January 17, 2020 0 comments
In the past month, the flaws surrounding the Boston Celtics have become more noticeable. The Celtics have won only two of their last four games, losing to the underwhelming Detroit Pistons (at home) and Washington Wizards in the process. While they still post a very good 27-12 record and sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, it is becoming more evident that they will not be able to seriously compete for an NBA Finals berth with their current roster.
The Celtics have three main weaknesses: inconsistency, a lack of bench scoring, and rebounding. Although players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward are having productive seasons, the same issues are still present in their games. One game, any one of these players can be great, but the following game, any one of them could be inefficient. The inefficiency of the Celtics’ top scorers was on display in losses to the Wizards, Pistons, and Spurs.
In games where Tatum, Brown, or Hayward aren’t performing well, the Celtics struggle to score and struggle to win. This, however, is not a problem that only applies to them. On all great NBA teams throughout history, there have been certain games where top players did not play well. However, part of the reason these teams were so successful is because they had a plethora of role players who could come off the bench and step up when the team needed them to.
The Celtics’ top bench scorer is Marcus Smart (9.5 points per game). This is not ideal considering he is known as a defensive specialist who is inconsistent and mediocre offensively. Center Enes Kanter (9.2 points per game) is a player who could be a great weapon off the bench but doesn’t receive the amount of playing time that he should. The rest of the Celtics’ bench is comprised of younger, less-experienced players including Brad Wanamaker, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, and Semi Ojeleye.
Wanamaker hasn’t been bad, but he is only in his second season in the NBA and played very little last year. Edwards, Langford, and Williams are all rookies who have showed glimpses of their talent but are clearly unable to be key role players on a championship team just yet. Ojeleye may be the least talented player in the league but continues to get playing time because he played good defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo one time.
This Celtics bench is simply not where it needs to be if they want to win or even make the Finals of the Eastern Conference.
Finally, rebounding is something that has plagued the Celtics for years and has arguably gotten worse this season. Kanter is a very talented rebounder, but as mentioned before, he does not get the playing time he deserves. Kanter is often left on the bench during long, important stretches during which the team struggles to box out and gives up too many offensive boards. Starting center Daniel Theis isn’t bad, but at only 6-foot-8 and not particularly athletic, he is too small to rebound well. In countless games, the Celtics have lost because they were giving up a lot of second-chance points from their inability to rebound.
The Celtics definitely need to strengthen their team if they want to overcome the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. First of all, they need to trade for a bench scorer. With Marcus Morris leaving in free agency last summer, the Celtics no longer have a player who can come off the bench and consistently knock down shots. They desperately need a veteran who can pose a threat off of the bench, hit some three-pointers, and give their starters some help. Some of the players that have been linked to the Celtics are Wizards big-man Davis Bertans and Pistons shooting guard Luke Kennard.
The Celtics should also look into strengthening their frontcourt via the buyout market. Tristan Thompson, the starting center for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been brought up as a rumored target for the Celtics. If he is to get bought out by Cleveland, which is a possibility, the Celtics should aggressively look to bring him in. Thompson is a fantastic rebounder and his strength defensively will give Brad Stevens more of a reason to play him in close, late-game situations. Either way, whether it’s Thompson, one of the mentioned bench scorers, or somebody else, the Celtics need to do something.