As the clock counts down to the NBA’s Trade Deadline on Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. ET., let’s break down each roster of the Eastern Conference’s top contenders. Check out the breakdown of the Pacers, Heat and Raptors.
The Boston Celtics are an interesting team to watch at the trade deadline. This is a talented but somewhat undersized team, even in today’s NBA that is going with smaller lineups. Boston will bear close watching at the deadline.
Here is a look at the Celtics:
Strengths: (1) scoring of Kemba Walker, who despite being 6-foot, can get his shot off against anybody due to his quickness. (2) scoring from wing players. Besides Walker, Boston has balanced scoring, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward, averaging between 16 and 21 points per game. (3) Marcus Smart is among the NBA’s top energy players who provide a spark on both ends of the court.
Weakness: (1) interior defense. Boston has trouble defending the post. Joel Embiid, for instance, has averaged 26.6 points against the Celtics in two games and the Sixers have won a third when he was injured. Daniel Thies is an undersized five-man and Enes Kanter, while a strong offensive rebounder, is a weak interior defender. (2) Another bench scorer is needed. (3) As much as he provides on offense, Walker is a defensive liability and teams will no doubt take advantage of his work on defense in the postseason.
How they match up with the Sixers: They don’t very well. Boston has had difficulty dealing with the Sixers length and Jayson Tatum has struggled against the defense of Ben Simmons.
Biggest need at the deadline: A two-way post player, but one who specifically can play defense.
Couldn’t hurt acquiring: An extra three-point shooter.
Players who can help the Celtics at the trade deadline.
(Keep in mind, that it will be extremely difficult to acquire any of these players.)
Kevin Love, Cleveland, power forward. Love could help a number of contenders especially with his perimeter game, but acquiring him will be extremely difficult for any team. He is earning $28.7 million this year and is signed for three additional seasons for more than $90 million. Nothing is impossible, but acquiring Love at the trade deadline would be the most challenging of situations.
Andre Drummond, Detroit, center. Many expect him to opt-out of his player option for next year, despite it being for $28.7 million. If he does opt-out, then Drummond would be a deadline rental. Because of his high salary this year, Boston would likely have to be involved in a three or four-team deal to acquire him, which could be difficult. There is a feeling around the NBA that Drummond will be dealt at the trade deadline and there will be plenty of teams in competition.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland center. While the 6-9 Thompson is also undersized at center, he is a solid defensive player who has improved his offensive game. He would offer Boston toughness in the middle. Thompson is on an expiring contract so he would be a rental as well.
JJ Redick, New Orleans shooting guard. If the Sixers need shooters, then the Celtics do as well since both are shooting close to the same from beyond the arc Redick, the former Sixer, remains among the top three-point shooters in the NBA. The Pelicans likely won’t give Redick away easily since he has another year on his contract and the demand should be high. With Zion Williamson back, New Orleans may make a run at a playoff spot.
Conclusion: The way the team is constructed, the Celtics will be an Eastern Conference, contender but a key addition could make them even more formidable. It’s difficult to envision Boston lasting against bigger teams like Milwaukee and the Sixers without any additions. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge won’t give away a lot of future assets to get better now, but Boston should look to upgrade, especially in the frontcourt.