How The Celtics Can Look In 2017
The Boston Celtics are the most successful team in NBA history with 17 Finals won, the last one coming in 2008. Since then the Celtics have come close to reaching success but they haven't managed to reach their ultimate goal and win a final, so, now that the Celtics are back on track and trying to get their dynasty going what can they do to improve? At the time that I'm writing this, it's just been a few hours after the Celtics have announced to trade the 1st overall pick (and most likely Markelle Fultz) to the 76ers. So, a question looms over everyone's head "What will the Celtics do?"
In my opinion the Celtics have just traded their future for the present, given that they were first in the Eastern Conference (53-29) I won't say it's a bad decision because I think that no one will disagree when I say that the Celtics are a few players away from being actual contenders as they proved it when they lost 4-1 to Cleveland in the ECF, so maybe trading away that number 1 overall pick will give them the players they need to get over the hump.
First, we'll look at the (boring) options, which involves drafting a player at number 3 overall:
Jayson Tatum (SF)
Jayson is an extremely athletic prospect, despite his height he's still a very capable playmaker, he doesn't have the best 3 point shooting and he's not the best shooter when he's got a taller player marking him, but that's something that won't happen quite often given that he's 6ft8 and that is the average height for a small forward.
However, since they drafted Jaylen Brown number 3 overall last year, I don't see them taking another small forward.
Josh Jackson (SF)
Josh Jackson, the best defender in the draft? Most pundits believe so. Another great athlete with a terrific interior and perimeter shooting for a small forward, he's had an off year when it came to shooting after the dribble and with his mid-range jumpers, however, he impressed a lot on D with a lot of blocked shots. He's also seen as one of the players with the highest basketball IQ in this draft.
I'll say it again, I don't think that the Celtics will draft a small forward, but if they do Josh Jackson is my number one.
Malik Monk (SG)
Malik Monk is seen by a lot of people as a sleeper since he's not really in the top 5 discussion, however whoever drafts Monk will get one of the best shooters in this draft, with an almost perfect jump shot, he's also a great dribbler but his height issues might let him down given that he's smaller than most shooting guards in the league however since the shooting guard position is such a big priority for this team and despite Monk being a reach at number 3 I do think he'd be a nice fit and wouldn't be surprised if they drafted him.
Personally, I don't think any of these guys make sense. SF is a position that they should address in free agency (Hayward) and a shooting guard that is mocked number 8 overall is a reach at number 3 so I don't believe they'll draft anyone with the 3rd overall pick but if they do then Monk would make the most sense because the Celtics are short on shooting guards and they just picked up a small forward last season, give time for Brown to develop and bring up Monk to the future franchise shooting guard.
Now on to the fun options! Let's run through the Celtics current squad (06/19/2017)
PG: Isaiah Thomas; Demitus Jackson; Terry Rozier.
SG: Marcus Smart; Avery Bradley (PG).
SF: Jaylen Brown; Gerald Green (SG); Jae Crowder; James Young.
PF: Tyler Zeller; Amir Johnson; Jordan Mickey.
C: Al Horford; Olynyk; Jerebko.
The first thing that comes to mind after looking at this team is how average they are at the forward and (shooting) guard positions, they're not bad, but they're not great either. Smart is okay but he's not a world-beater, same with Bradley; Brown is a future star and currently plays as a back-up for not overly impressive Jae Crowder while at that power forward position Amir Johnson is a "passable" player, definitely the best out of the 3 but still won't set the world alight.
So how can the Celtics turn this around with 2 simple changes?
1-Sign Gordon Hayward.
Hayward is the SF the Celtics need. The best player on the Utah Jazz is a free agent and he made it clear that he wants to move to a contender, and just like Lebron did with Miami, he could kickstart the Celtics title run. Hayward is a mobile player, he can play as a shooting guard or as a small forward, he's got the passing ability and the shooting ability (although his 3 point shooting needs some work) with bad rebounding skills, however he's a good defender so he doesn't compromise much on the defensive side of the court but it's in the offense where he really makes his money worth. Hayward would provide the Celtics with a steady starting shooter and someone that teams would have to scheme around, providing more openings to other players. Hayward would also be reunited with his former coach. In Butler Stevens helped Hayward as much as Hayward helped Stevens, it's a match made in heaven so if the Celtics manage to land the talented 24 year old they have a higher chance at success.
2-Trade the #3 overall pick + the 2019 provisional Lakers (Kings) picks (just acquired from Philly) + Jae Crowder + Zeller for Jimmy Butler.
For your information, the only reason why I added Zeller into the trade is that it's the only way the trade could work (with the salary cap issues) and he wouldn't be a big loss for the Celtics.
This looks like a dangerous trade but Jimmy Butler was the main reason the Bulls even made the playoffs, Butler was clutch near the end of the season and catapulted the Bulls to the eight seed passing over the Heat. This is a trade that would work for both teams, Butler is an older player and the Bulls are clearly on their way to a rebuild mode so acquiring an extra first pick for this year + a 2019 top 5 pick would not only mean they'll draft two future stars, it would also mean they hold some trade value making it possible to make some other moves, and while getting two 27 year old players (Crowder / Zeller) wouldn't help the "rebuild", it would still allow the Bulls to be a competitive side and fight for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Celtics would have a number one shooting guard. Butler is a clutch player and a good perimeter shooter, he would be a massive upgrade over Smart or Bradley and the Celtics have the cap to make the trade happen.
If both these deals happen we could see a Celtics team lining up like this:
This is just a scary prospect of a line-up. While you can find ways to stop this team their individual quality on offense is clearly better than past years meaning that most teams will have to scheme around one or two players leaving space for another talented guy to be open (I.E - double covering Thomas will leave Jimmy open while double covering Jimmy will leave Thomas open, etc) this will be key if the Celtics want to be a success in 2017/18, the players will need to share the ball and whoever has the hot hands should take the most shots. Personally, I don't see any player that wouldn't be willing to do that for the greater good of the team.
What I also like is the fact that there would still be good depth coming off the bench with Avery Bradley, Smart, Green and even Jerebko / Olynyk.
On the defensive side of the court the Celtics will also be an improved team, Jimmy is one of the best two way players in the league, and Jaylen's work can't be underestimated and with Hayward alongside him their play should be stable enough, plus with Horford being a good defensive center as well I don't see a lot of possible exploits besides Isaiah's height.
So, with their eyes set on the present will the Celtics take a step forward and sign Hayward & Butler or will they draft someone, continuing their relative success in hope of a brighter future?