The Boston Celtics have been very disappointing this season. Former contenders for the NBA Finals, the team is now struggling to get above .500. With a record of 23-25 heading into Friday night, the Celtics finds themselves just barely clinging onto a playoff spot.
With the trade deadline and buyout market officially over, should the Boston Celtics tank the remainder of the season?
The talent on the team suggests the answer should be an easy “no.” However, even talent can fall apart in a season. We have seen countless stars fail in their season goals. Take the Los Angeles Lakers, for example, when in 2004 when the team acquired older All-Stars in Karl Malone and Gary Payton. That squad lost to a very unique superstar-less team in Detroit.
Teams having down years is not uncommon. The deal with the Celtics this season is that the youngsters took a step back on the defensive end. Last season, when the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals, they had one of the best defenses. They held the fourth-best field percentage allowed. They also were in the top half of the league in steals, points, and forced turnovers. The Celtics were a gritty team, too, as players would hustle on loose balls and play at a high pace.
This year’s Celtics team took a step back. The team is currently 16th in points allowed and 19th in three-point percentage allowed. These two categories especially have been frustrating to watch in the eyes of a common fan. The gritty defense from past years have been reduced to league average. It is inexcusable for this team to lose games and show no effort when on the court. This team is built to win with two superstars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In respect to these two, they are not the problem. Other players lack the effort and consistency to contend.
Revitalizing the bench
Danny Ainge made some roster moves to help bolster the bench. However, with great intentions can come mistakes. Trading away Daniel Theis for Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet was a huge mistake. Wagner and Kornet can shoot very well, but both of their defensive and rebounding skills are detrimental to the team. Robert Williams should have been starting over a month ago, but Theis should have stayed with the team as the bench center. His energy and locker room presence was amongst the best.
If the team had to trade away another piece along with Javonte Green, it should have been veteran Tristan Thompson. Thompson, along with Jeff Teague, came to the Celtics this past offseason. However, both have ultimately disappointed.
Ainge also traded for shooting guard Evan Fournier, who was averaging 19 points for the Orlando Magic. This trade was a breath of fresh air. Ainge finally went out and traded for a valuable bench piece and possible starter. However, this trade could bite the team in the long run. Fournier is an unrestricted free agent and could leave in the offseason. Although the team gave up two second-round picks, those selections could have been used for a future trade. The trade will fail for this season as Ainge was unable to acquire another major piece for the team.
Although on paper the Celtics have gotten better with veterans on the bench, their problems have not been solved.
Tanking for a youngster
Defense alone is bringing the team down. If the players are tired or unmotivated to fight for a Finals run, they should look into tanking for a top-10 pick. This would not be a setback for them but rather allow the team to rest up for the season ahead. Tanking would also allow the team to draft within the lottery. This year’s draft class is projected to be one of the best in the past years. There is plenty of potential through the lottery with many versatile wing players.
The Celtics could use another wing to replace Gordon Hayward. Hayward’s absence is seemingly looking greater than many had projected. If the team could get a well-rounded wing like Hayward in the draft, they could see a resurgence. Although it would be unlikely, a rookie could make such an impact right away. The rookie would be behind Tatum and Brown, and as long as the player can produce, the temporary tank would be a success.
With that in mind, it remains unlikely that the Celtics tank the remainder of the season. The team is way too talented to give up on the goal at hand. But with the defense struggling this season, it is doubtful Boston will reach its recent heights or even reach the second round of the playoffs.
Follow John Devereaux on Twitter @NBADevereaux
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