While not always the best fit in Boston, the Celtics have seemingly always had a franchise-caliber point guard since the 2006 season.
Whether in be Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, or Kemba Walker, the team seems to always be set at the primary ball-handler position. That being said, which one would best fit the 2019 Boston Celtics lineup?
I was scrolling through Facebook on Sunday when I came across a “Start, Bench, Cut, and Trade for Picks” graphic that featured these four Celtics point guards, and it got me thinking.
Assuming all of these players are 100 percent healthy and in their prime, who would be best suited to bring the Celtics their 18th championship?
Here’s the most reasonable options for start, bench, cut, and trade for picks:
Trade for Picks: Kyrie Irving
Say what you want about Kyrie Irving’s leadership skills or lack thereof, but the guy is still one of the three to five best point guards in the league. He is one of the best ball-handlers the game has ever seen with some of the slickest dribble moves around.
From purely a talent standpoint, Irving would also generate the best return, whether it be draft capital, role players on cheaper contracts, or other assets.
Irving, despite averaging a career-high in assists (6.9) in 2018, takes too many shots away from players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, as was seen on full display last season. It just wasn’t a good marriage and the Celtics are, evidently, better off without him.
Cut: Kemba Walker
This one might catch a lot of flack, but hear me out.
From a leadership standpoint, specifically from a veteran, one could argue that Walker is the best of the bunch. Given the fact that the team around him is otherwise young, it makes sense to have a ball-handler that is well-respected and willing to take a backseat while the likes of Tatum and Brown get their shots up.
However, on a maximum contract, you’d want someone more willing to take the game over, much like Tatum will be once he gets his next contract.
As for why I’d pick Kemba Walker to get “cut” in this hypothetical, it’s nothing personal. Walker in Boston has been a good marriage to this point, but the now-30-year-old has had countless knee procedures and missed time this year due to problems with his knee. An undersized guard with knee issues should always raise concerns as he gets older, which is why Walker might end up as a poor contract choice by Danny Ainge when all is said and done.
Bench: Isaiah Thomas
I always felt like the 5-foot-9 point guard would be at his best in the sixth-man role. While he was incredibly successful as a starter, even leading the team to the Conference Finals in 2016, his liability on defense was always a major concern.
How would he guard John Wall? Kyrie Irving? Rajon Rondo?
It worked, don’t get me wrong, but being an explosive scorer off the bench always seemed to be what he was destined to do. Furthermore, it wouldn’t have to impact his minutes too much as Jason Terry made a living as the sixth man in Dallas whilst continuing to log north of 30 minutes a night.
The 2019 Celtics have continuously had questions surrounding their ability to score when the starters sit. Adding a prime, healthy Isaiah Thomas to the fray would address that concern.
Start: Rajon Rondo
Rondo, without a doubt, is the most limited of these four. However, he provided a spark on both sides of the floor, even showing a willingness and ability to score at times.
However, what the Celtics need in 2019 is a guard that can play defense but also facilitate and get the ball to the likes of Tatum, Brown, and Hayward. Rondo also always flourished when given a capable player at the five and having guys like Robert Williams III, Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Grant Williams at his disposal in the pick-and-roll could open the door for a lot of high assist totals.
Rondo averaged north of eight assists and had a defensive rating of 101 during his tenure in Boston, and that’s exactly what this team needs. The lone drawback is Rondo is a ball-dominant guard and Tatum seems best in isolation. However, he needs a guard that is willing to give him the ball and get out of the way, something Rondo was always willing to do.