The Boston Celtics should be dark horses for the NBA Finals this season. However, due to a slow start, injuries, and players going into the league’s protocol the team is currently flirting with a .500 record. Brad Stevens has been rumored to be making calls to various teams including two major sellers this season. Both the Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers have come out willing to trade some of their major players for the right price. Other teams have role players that they are willing to move as well.
Lillard Wants Out?
There have been rumblings around the league that superstar Damian Lillard is very unhappy with the team’s current roster. Last week, Lillard and some players from the Celtics had a phone call about a possible team-up. Meaning that Lillard could have been interested in being traded to Boston. Lillard would be the ideal fit for Boston alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The guard publicly said he wanted to play with Brown, who is a defensive-minded superstar.
Trading for Lillard would dry out the Celtics bench, and draft capital. Portland still has the mindset that they will not trade their superstar, as the team told Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers that Lillard was off the market during the Ben Simmons trade talks. Lillard might not want to move to Philadelphia, but could be more interested in Boston and what they have in Brown and Tatum.
To get Lillard, the team would have to part with Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Josh Richardson, two unprotected first-round picks and a projected lottery pick along with both of their remaining trade exceptions from this offseason. This trade would be a haul, but Lillard is the type of game-changing player that would boost the team into real contenders. The team might lose valuable pieces, but that is where Stevens needs to find other trade partners to fill those holes.
Finding a Third Big
Jusuf Nurkic could be an interesting trade piece for this Boston squad. Nurkic is a big body center, who overpowers defenders in the post. A post-dominant center is an out-of-style archetype for the NBA, but Nurkic has been able to stay in the league because of his outstanding play. A tremendous rebounder, and physically both defensively and offensively his presence for the team would be beneficial against bigger lineups. A physical bruiser against players such as Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo would help the team make a run for the Finals.
Defensive Wings for the Bench
Outside of Lillard, the biggest target that Stevens should go for is defensive forward Robert Covington. However, he has been struggling this season offensively, shooting 38 percent from the field, and 33 percent from deep. The forward would not be used for his offensive talents though, as he would be needed for his defensive talents. Covington is an elite defender and is able to guard most positions in the NBA. A gritty defender who always has a hand upon a shot and fights for the ball. The forward would be a very cheap option to help bolster the Celtic rotation. Richardson has been good for the team but is not a reliable defender off the bench. Covington can be the anchor of the defense to which the team lacks.
One of the Celtic’s biggest flaws is consistent scoring off the bench. The Trail Blazers have two guards that can be electric on the court offensively. Lillard and CJ McCollum are the starting guards that contribute the most, but behind them are Dennis Smith and Norman Powell. Smith has had a rough start to his career but has shown the potential to be a great player in the league. An athletic point guard, who can score at the rim is the type of player that Boston is missing. Smith has bounced across the league before landing in Portland. Averaging 5.8 points, 3.1 assists per game on 42 percent from the field.
In the month of December, Smith is averaging 12.6 points, 5.2 assists on 45 percent from the field. Due to a minute increase, the young point guard has shown that he can be a valuable piece to a contender off the bench with his production. Smith would be a fantastic option off the bench as a playmaker and scoring option. Powell last season was traded to the Trail Blazers from the Toronto Raptors. In an attempt to keep Lillard happy, the team added a few role players.
Unfortunately, the team is still struggling and looking to sell their role players for additional picks or to upgrade. Powell, this season is averaging 18.1 points per game on 46 percent from the field, and 41 percent from deep. Even with the guard playing extremely well, he has not helped the Trail Blazers take another step forward. For Boston, he will be the much-needed scorer around the perimeter. This acquisition will help ease the load up for both Brown and Tatum offensively. Boston is very streaky shooting the ball from the three, the team is in need of a reliable shooter and Powell fits that description.
Follow John Devereaux on Twitter @NBADevereaux
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images