Celtics and Trader Brad Very Active at Deadline

Now 56 games into the Celtics season, it’s been an up and down battle. There have been stretches thanks to injuries and COVID that have produced some terrible basketball and some other stretches, like the past few weeks, where the Celtics have played extremely well overall. Sitting in 7th in the Eastern Conference, the green would surely like to continue their run of successful play and move up in the standings down the stretch. They are just 1 game back of the Toronto Raptors, 2 games back of the new-look Philadelphia 76ers and only 5 games back from 1st in the conference. With all of that in mind, GM Brad Stevens went to work before Thursday’s trade deadline and made some significant deals that greatly impact the Celtics roster.

In 2 separate trades, the Celtics brought back fan favorite C Daniel Theis and brought in G Derrick White. Theis was brought to Boston in order to beef up the solid interior play of the Celtics and White will get plenty of playing time at the different guard spots, particularly point guard given his great assist-to-turnover ratio and perimeter defense, which fit the Celtics really well. Stevens was not afraid to shake up the team and sent Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to the San Antonio Spurs in the White deal and Enes Freedom, Bruno Fernando and Dennis Schroder to the Houston Rockets in the Theis deal. The mass exodus from Boston leaves only 8 players on the roster as of Friday morning, forcing Stevens to bring in 2 players, either those on two way deals or by signing two players to reach the minimum of 10 before their home game with the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

Overall, Stevens dumped some expiring contracts and some underperforming bench players to improve the roster. He cut bait with Langford, who had a lot of expectations when he was drafted 14th overall in 2019 by Danny Ainge, but has yet to grow into a decent NBA player and hasn’t been good enough to get any consistent minutes. Stevens has shown a willingness to move on if something isn’t working and this was a great example. With an eye toward staying competitive, but also remaining under the luxury tax, to me Stevens had a very successful trade deadline. White is under control until 2025 and is instantly a better fit for the Celtics than Schroder given his skill as a facilitator and Theis is better than Freedom and Fernando combined, providing more offense and solid defense alongside the strong core already on the team in Robert Williams III and Al Horford. Stevens addressed some needs in two effective trades without hamstringing the team in the future.

Now it’s time for the Celtics to really gel and build on their 6-game win streak. While it will take a bit for White to get comfortable with his new teammates, he can contribute day 1. Unlike White, there is hope that Theis can jump back in and pick up where he left off in his last stint with Boston. The Celtics now have 26-games to show us if a deep playoff run is possible in 2022.

Trader Brad Strikes Again

To say this offseason has been eventful for the Boston Celtics is an understatement. Beginning with the surprising promotion of Brad Stevens to GM following the retirement of Danny Ainge, there has been a roster rebuild and restructure including several trades and player moves. While there is obviously still time to make more changes, it’s time to take a glance at the new-look Celtics roster.

Guards

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The group of guards and guard depth looks quite different for the Celtics going into the 2021 season. The first big move of the offseason was to unload Kemba Walker’s salary with a 1st and 2nd round pick for Al Horford and Moses Brown. While it saved salary, it opened up a glaring hole at point guard. It appeared they were considering a PG replacement by bringing in fan favorite Kris Dunn, only to trade him away for Juan Hermangomez. The PG move in the middle of trading for and trading away Dunn was free agent Dennis Schroder. We all know the story by now, but Schroder bet on himself and turned down a big extension from the Los Angeles Lakers only to find no market and sign for peanuts in comparison with the Celtics. The value is definitely there for the almost 28-yr old PG.

As often as Walker was injured, they got worse at the PG this offseason. I anticipate they will use Schroder, along with Payton Pritchard as a ball handler, with some Marcus Smart mixed in. Pritchard could very well take the next step and be a strong NBA PG, but he’s yet mostly unproven and other than Summer League and Pro-Am games, hasn’t consistently shown he can handle NBA competition.

As far as the SG is concerned, the Celtics lost Evan Fournier and brought in Josh Richardson, which depending on which you prefer, is either a wash or a slight downgrade. Fournier didn’t play a ton last year for the Cs and appeared in just 42 games combined with Orlando, but he had his best year shooting the 3 (41%). Richardson is not as strong of a shooter in general and gives up 2 inches on Fournier. All-in-all, I think this group has gotten slightly worse, but with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart untouched as the top guards, I’m not sure the difference is significant enough.

Forwards

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Where I think the Celtics improved this offseason is in the small/power forward spots. The Cs parted ways with Tristan Thompson after the season, who was mostly a flop during his tenure with the franchise. Brad brought in 2 really interesting pieces to fill out the forward depth. Bruno Fernando is an interesting wild card that I think could be fun to watch. He’s not going to score a ton, but could give you a spark off the bench as a small center or power forward.

Most recently Brad traded away Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards to bolster this group by bringing in Juan Hernangomez. Brad dealt from a position of depth and excess to add to a position of need and Hernangomez should add depth at the 4 as a 6’9″ body who can shoot a bit when called upon. He’s not going to wow anyone or put up huge numbers, but he is a solid piece off the bench. He joins Grant Williams and Jabari Parker in the power forward group and becomes, with Fernando, the tallest of that group. I definitely think the Cs got better in their forward depth.

Centers

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For my money, this is by far the best improvement on the roster. Lacking any real center depth last year, the Cs need support behind the newly resigned Robert Williams III. The Celtics did just that by bringing back fan favorites Al Horford and Enes Kanter to stuff the paint and mentor Williams. Horford is 35 and how much he has left in the tank is TBD, but Kanter is a great change of pace off the bench. They both love being in Boston and at very least, it’s age and experience depth which can be super valuable.

On top of those two, Brad let Tacko Fall go and brought in another 7-footer in Luke Kornet. As sad as it was to watch Fall leave the Celtics, Kornet is probably an upgrade. The question becomes who actually ends up on the final roster and if all 4 guys have roster spots.

Overall

While it’s a bit difficult to see the final layout of the roster, especially considering I wouldn’t be shocked if trader Brad is still looking for deals, but I think overall the depth on this team is stronger than it was last year. There are still plenty of questions on the starting lineup and I think there are definitely drop-offs in talent in the backcourt, but improvements in the frontcourt. Let’s see what this team looks like when the season tips off in just under 7 weeks.

Trader Brad: The Beginning of the Stevens Era

The move to hire Brad Stevens as the next Boston Celtics GM was a surprise. Danny Ainge stepping away at the beginning of June wasn’t too surprising, but promoting the 44-year old Indiana-native to that role opened up a ton of questions about his experience and ability to jump into that role when the roster needed some work right away. Now two months into his job, he’s been active on the trade market and appears to be working toward a larger vision with more moves in the pipeline.

After 6 years as an assistant coach at Butler, Stevens took over the head coaching role in 2007. He was successful at getting the most out of his players at a strong mid-major college program with two back-to-back NCAA Finals appearances (2010 lost to Duke and 2011 lost to UConn) which led to NBA teams sniffing around. In 2013, the Celtics convinced him to leave the college coaching life in his home state and take over one of the most successful NBA franchises in history.

In his 8 years at the helm of the Celtics, Stevens had a .557 winning percentage and won NBA Coach of the Month three times. He took the Celtics into the playoffs in 7 of his 8 years and to the conference finals three times, but couldn’t break through for a title. After a disappointing 2020-2021 season, the critics were calling for his job and wondering if he could take the next step. Then Danny Ainge stepped aside.

After hiring Ime Udoka as the next Celtic’s head coach, Brad Stevens got to work on the roster. He started by trading former UConn star G Kemba Walker and the 16th pick in this year’s draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Celtics fan-favorite C/F Al Hortford, C Moses Brown and a 2023 second round pick. The Celtics needed to move on from Walker, but the trade got mixed reviews despite being primarily a salary dump. Celtics fans liked the idea of having Horford back, but what does he have left in the tank? Moses Brown would be a nice pickup, but has already been shipped off as part of another trading frenzy.

Next, Brad shipped out mostly disappointing C/PF Tristan Thompson for Providence product and long-time crush of Celtics fans G Kris Dunn, C Bruno Fernando, and a 2nd round 2023 pick from the Atlanta Hawks. Then he flipped the previously traded for C Moses Brown to the Dallas Mavericks for veteran G Josh Richardson.

There are a lot of rumors floating around that Brad is far from done. Even though Celtics fans have wanted to see Kris Dunn in the green since he was drafted two spots behind Jaylen Brown in 2016, Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach has been reporting that the Cs are looking to move Kris Dunn to save some cap space just days after he was shipped to Boston. The other rumors surround a bunch of former C’s players and potential returns. I’m guessing Stevens is on the phone non-stop at this point trying to make a few more moves to free up some cap room to replace G/F Evan Fournier.

Only time will tell what Stevens will be like as a GM, but he’s started with a lot of trade activity and more to come. He’s certainly not afraid to make a move.