As the change deadline approaches, the celts have good reasons to feel confident. they lead the nba With a 35-14 record, we’re looking for the team’s highest single-season winning percentage in more than a decade. They own the best net rating in the league at plus-5.9. They’ve performed at an even higher level against opponents with top-10 net ratings, amassing a league-best 10-3 record against such foes while hitting them for 9.0 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleanup. glass. Boston’s roster, loaded with players who can help on both ends of the floor, doesn’t necessarily need a lot of work.
Still, like any team, the Celtics will have a lot to consider coming February 1. 9 term. Here are three big questions that will shape what Brad Stevens does.
1. Is there the right big operation?
The Celtics don’t need to make a big trade. They have a talented group that is a good fit on and off the court. Earlier this season, malcolm brogdon he told several teammates that they should appreciate the tightness of his locker room. Stevens will not overlook the team’s chemistry. Boston spent years searching for a mix that would work.
Still, if the right player is available at the right price, the Celtics could create a trade package that includes multiple first-round picks, but the team can’t include either a 2023 first-round pick (they don’t have one anymore) or a 2024 first-round pick (due to Stepien’s Rule, which requires teams to control at least one first-round pick every two years).
For a big trade like that, the Celtics would ideally want someone talented enough to slip into their closing lineup and young enough to complement jayson tatum Y jaylen brown in the years to come. The difficulty there? It would take a great player to fit that description. In most cases, the Celtics’ closing lineup will include Tatum, Brown, smart marcus and two of the following: Al-Horford, roberto williams, white derrick and Brogdon. Could the Celtics find someone to not only break that lineup but also be a part of it going forward?
Maybe a big, athletic power forward to take Horford’s place next to Williams? Or a guard to serve as an upgrade to Smart, White, and/or Brogdon? Potentially, but those types of players are rarely available, and when they are, the competition to acquire them is fierce.
In this market, think OG Anunoby guys. For various reasons, that particular goal feels highly unlikely. Tea raptors value it. If they move it, they will reportedly ask for a large return. Even on the Celtics’ side, such a trade probably wouldn’t be an automatic yes. They’d have to weigh how much Anunoby would help, plus the added cost of acquiring him — the inability to use those future first-round picks down the road, and whatever else they need to trade.
Still, any time Anunoby or someone else of his caliber becomes available, the Celtics should weigh the merits of a search. They don’t control all of their first-round picks after moving their 2023 pick in the Brogdon deal, but Boston has enough future draft capital to get into those kinds of talks for certain impact players.
That type of trade does not need to come in the next two weeks. It probably won’t. The Celtics are comfortable with the roster they have. He is one of the favorites, if not the favorite, to win the championship, which would be the franchise’s 18th and would break a tie with the lakers the most in NBA history. The Celtics will have more flexibility to move first-round picks once the offseason hits and they get rid of the Stepien Rule.
2. Will the Celtics get more help up front?
The Celtics are more likely to acquire another backup big man, as they’ve been scouting the market for attacking options since early in the season, according to league sources who were given anonymity to speak freely.
At the time, interim coach Joe Mazzulla was still trying to figure out his team’s core rotation in the absence of Robert Williams. The situation was so shaky that during the first game of the season, Mazzulla called up Noah Vonleh, later traded in a salary dump, as the first big man off the bench. I take luke kornett one more week to emerge as the Celtics’ regular option behind Williams and Horford.
Kornet has been solid. The Celtics have held opponents to just 105.8 points per 100 possessions during their time on the floor, brilliant defensive efficiency. They don’t necessarily need to point to anyone else in that location. If they’re fully healthy during the playoffs, minutes will be slim, maybe even non-existent, behind Horford and Williams. Those guys will start together. Mazzulla can stagger his playing time throughout each game. The team’s third center back last season, Daniel Teis, he racked up eight DNP-CDs during Boston’s playoff run despite Williams’ injury problems at the time. Theis also had six additional playoff games with less than 10 minutes played. Kornet has played like he could handle such a load.
Still, the Celtics know Williams’ injury history and Horford’s age, 36. If either needs to miss games at the wrong time, Boston’s backup center will become a major player in the team’s playoff run. Theis started five playoff games last season. The Celtics are more willing to play small lineups now, but they still know the importance of their third big man. That’s why Jakob Poeltlwho the athleticCharania’s Shams was recently reported as a Boston target, likely to remain tied to the Celtics as the trade deadline approaches.
League sources outside the Boston organization downplayed the possibility of a Poeltl acquisition, noting that if the Spurs trade him, the impending free agent would make more sense somewhere he’s a better fit for the long haul. With Horford and Williams each signed through at least the 2024-25 season, Boston likely won’t have the room to commit to Poeltl as a starter on a big long-term deal.
Aside from adding someone like Poeltl, the Celtics’ front office might still want to give Mazzulla another type of backup big man to use come playoff time. Kornet, for all of his strengths around the rim, isn’t the most versatile defender. Around the league, players like mason plumleePJ Washington and Jae Sean Tate could be available. A couple of those guys aren’t necessarily natural centers, but they would help the Celtics play a different style than Kornet. Combining the contracts of danilo gallinari Y justin jackson, the Celtics could absorb more than $9 million in return salaries in a deal without touching anyone in their current rotation. Also have payton pritchardwho has sparked interest as a potential business token if the right target emerges.
Still, realistically, the Celtics aren’t going to give any backup much playing time in the playoffs anyway. If their third big man becomes an important player during the postseason, that means something went wrong with Williams or Horford.
3. Could the Celtics look at wing depth?
If the Celtics have another need at the back of their list, it could be wing depth after sam hauserThe difficult stretch of the last months. The 6-foot-8 wing recently received two DNP-CDs, his first of the season, while shooting 28.3 percent from 3-point range in December and 29.0 percent so far in January. He shot 47.9 percent from deep in 22 appearances before December.
Still, if they’re healthy through the postseason, the Celtics won’t necessarily need someone in Hauser’s place. White, Brogdon and grant williams It will probably absorb all of the perimeter bank’s minutes then, and maybe all of the bank’s minutes altogether. Even if a starter loses time, the Celtics could simply shorten his rotation, giving those three more minutes rather than adding someone else to the mix. If Boston looks to add help on the wing, Jalen McDaniels It might make sense, but the Celtics wouldn’t have many, if any, playoff minutes for him. As the deadline approaches, they find themselves in the envious position of knowing that they don’t need much.
(Top photo by Jakob Poeltl: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)