By Andy Hay (Sports Correspondent).
Boston sports fans are certainly enjoying the Celtics recent success. With injuries to starting shooting guard, Avery Bradley, and key role player, Jaylen Brown, all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas has stepped up and helped the Celtics win nine of their last ten games. Although Isaiah has been the main contributor scoring 20+ points in 40 consecutive games, center Al Horford has been consistent night in and night out, and forward Jae Crowder is top five in the entire league in three point shooting percentage.
Despite being in first place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 37-19, Boston knows they lack one essential attribute, a rebounding big man. Thus far, Horford racks in just 6.7 rebounds per game and has acted as more of a stretch-five, spending a lot of time beyond the arc. With the trade deadline nearing, Danny Ainge said to Toucher and Rich Radio, “We’re looking for rim-protection at the trade deadline, plain and simple.” Isaiah could definitely benefit with a go-to big man on the floor alongside him.
Names that have been brought up for Celtics targets at the deadline include Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, Demarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, and Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. But come on, let’s be realistic. Butler, Cousins, and George are three elite players in the NBA and come at an extremely high price. However, the Celtics do have a stockpile of draft picks and some solid players to offer, including the Brooklyn Nets first rounder, which very well could be the first overall pick.
More recently, there have been talks about the attempt to bring the Detroit Pistons’ star center, Andre Drummond, to Boston. Drummond has been in the top five in rebounding in each of the past four seasons and, this year, he brings down nearly 14 rebounds each game. Sharon High School junior, Jimmy Fitzhenry, stated, “Drummond would be an ideal addition to the team. His rebounding is unbelievable and his capability to bring energy to the team would help us greatly.” The former UConn sensation has lots of upsides, but one downside about Drummond is his free throw shooting. Regardless, like Fitzhenry said, his rebounding takes care of one of the Celtics’ main needs.
The 17 time champs would have to give up a great amount to get any elite player. Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, and Terry Rozier are the names that are frequently mentioned when discussing who the Celts would need to let go of. Bradley and Crowder are two solid starters and Olynyk, Smart, and Rozier all receive key minutes each night. Smart is having arguably his best season yet and has showed multiple strong performances as of late, while Rozier has proved to be one of the better rebounding guards across the league. Also, former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk has really improved his three point shooting this year, shooting 37% from behind the arc and ranking 4th in three point percentage among all power forwards and centers in the Eastern Conference. Letting go of any of these players, as well as the Brooklyn pick, would certainly be tough.
Celtics Nation hopes to make a deal while also maintaining the treasure chest of assets they have acquired over the years. C’s fans already received one heartbreak this year after not being able to bring all-star starter Kevin Durant to Beantown, even with the help of Tom Brady. The success the team has had this season is certainly remarkable, but the rim protection problem has not yet been solved. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics pull off a miracle of a trade at the deadline and if their success continues past the all-star break.