Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Boston Celtics are trying to swing a deal for a superstar.
For the past couple of years we’ve heard plenty of rumors about Kings Center DeMarcus Cousins, Sixers forward Jahlil Okafor, Sixers Center and hometown product, Nerlens Noel, and over the summer there were the rumors of Bulls Forward Jimmy Butler being traded to the Green. As you already know by now, none of those deals came to fruition. Celtics GM Danny Ainge allegedly had a deal lined up for Butler at the draft, got cold feet, kept the pick and drafted Cal Forward, Jaylen Brown (I was not happy with that pick at the time). So who has Trader Danny set his sights on now?
Golden State shooting guard, Klay Thompson.
Okay, sounds good. What would the Celtics have to send to the Bay?
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and the 2017 swap pick from Brooklyn.
Hmmm….no thanks. Slowly step away from the table.
Now, I’m not saying ‘no’ because I’m one of these crazy Green Teamers who wants to build a statue of Brad Stevens next to Red Auerbach’s before he’s won a playoff series, and it’s not because I believe that Bradley and Crowder are the ‘best playahs evahh’ and that Banner 18 is right around the corner. I’m saying no because although the Celtics could vastly improve their perimeter shooting- heck, their shooting in general- there are more pressing areas of need.
The Celtics’ lack of outside shooting is apparent, and Thompson would help that significantly. But the Boston Brick Party wouldn’t be as big of a problem if they had some size. Quality size. The Celtics are one of the smallest teams in the league and their bigs- Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk- are not nearly good enough. That trio is largely responsible for the Celtics giving up 15 offensive rebounds a night, and rim protection is non existent. Trading for a legitimate big man to sweep the glass isn’t just a necessity, it’s mandatory. Al Horford is a nice player, but he’s not enough. You can’t score, or play the running style of play that Stevens would prefer they play, if you don’t have the ball…and you’ll never have the ball if you can’t rebound. Giving a team an extra 10 or more possessions a game is a killer.
Let’s take a closer look at Klay: His numbers this season are way down from his standards (18.8 PPG, 45.7 FG%, 31.9 3PT %) but that’s due in large part to the addition of Kevin Durant. You knew that one of these guys was going to have to fall on the sword and lose some touches. It certainly wasn’t going to be Durant or Curry, and Draymond Green (averaging 10/10/7) does more than Klay does. Only in today’s NBA could you average almost 20 PPG and be the odd man out. Remember, you play the game with one basketball.
There’s something else to consider here: if this deal were to go down, the Warriors become an even more dangerous wagon than they were a year ago. Why did the Golden State Warriors lose to Cleveland last June? Because they had nobody to guard LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. Draymond did all he could against James, but if the Warriors had someone like Crowder to give them 15-20 minutes a night and spell Green, he would be able to stay fresher on both ends. The addition of Avery Bradley is significant for obvious reasons. Did anybody see Curry guard Kyrie in the Finals? Yeah, me neither. He couldn’t. It got to a point where I don’t think he could have guarded my aunt; it was painful to watch, and his offense definitely suffered. With Bradley on board, he can do Curry’s dirty work and guard guys like Irving, Westbrook and Lillard. Can you imagine a fresh Stephen Curry come June? Look out…
Oh, almost forgot….the Warriors would then hold a top 10 pick in the draft next summer and add the rim protector that they need. That is scary for the rest of the league. Golden State is already loaded, why help them out?
No deal appears imminent, and head coach Steve Kerr threw cold water on the rumor right away. “I think our guys know that most of that stuff is almost always just BS,” Kerr said. “If that became a story, I would probably talk to Klay. But I didn’t know it was a story until just now. I’ll go home, get on the Internet and decide whether to call Klay or not. There’s a lot of fake news.” That’s a lot of sarcasm. He’s not on the block.
I hate to be the guy to pee in everyone’s green milkshake, but it’s time for Celtics fans to face the facts: this team is NOT winning the NBA Championship this year, and likely not the following two or three years. So there’s no reason to trade half of your core for Klay Thompson. Don’t forget, next summer Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko come off the books (again), which will allow Ainge to pursue another max free agent. Until then, Ainge needs to use his assets wisely, and trade for a legitimate big man. You could try the Jahlil Okafor route again, although he doesn’t have much of a face-up game, is an average rebounder and can’t guard his shadow. New Orleans Center Anthony Davis has been rumored to be available, though I sincerely doubt that there’s anything to that rumor. Even if he were, it would take a Godfather offer to land him and the Celtics don’t have enough assets. But there is one guy who will likely be available and someone that Ainge should pursue: Boogie Cousins.
I understand that Brad Stevens wants to coach a bunch of hard-nosed, defensive players who can guard multiple positions, but he can’t go through his whole tenure without taking a chance on someone, either. This isn’t college, Brad; you need stars to win in this league. Even Pitino knew this. Sooner or later, the Celtics have to roll the dice on a knucklehead. DeMarcus Cousins is that knucklehead. Boogie is averaging 27 and 9 on a lousy team, but would flourish in Boston and immediately give the Celtics the most dominant center in the Eastern Conference. Depending on what you give up, you could still have Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and cap flexibility for next summer to add another piece. Even if it costs you Crowder, what did you draft Jaylen Brown for? They play the same position! If the Celtics’ brass is as high on Brown as they say they are, you have his replacement waiting in the wings. As far as the whole chemistry thing…ask the Bulls how things worked out with that ‘cancer’ Dennis Rodman in the 1990s. All they did was win three straight titles. And let’s be honest, it’s not like the Celtics are a championship team. They’re not. So what do they have to lose?
I would be very surprised if the Warriors are serious about parting with Klay, but even if they are, I’d walk away. Small ball is in vogue right now, but a great big man can still be the backbone of a championship team. Let’s get a big guy who can box out and rebound, and go from there. Show of hands: who else is tired of seeing the Celtics’ big guys get outrebounded by 6’5” guards? Me too.