May 28, 2024

Finding the missing piece: Three trades the Celtics could make for a wing before the deadline

Heading into the 2023 offseason, the Celtics appeared well-equipped at the guard position and strengthened at center with the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis. The glaring gap in their roster, however, was a proficient wing defender with shooting ability.

Unexpectedly, Brad Stevens traded center Robert Williams and point guard Malcolm Brogdon for Jrue Holiday, creating a sudden need for depth at every position on the bench. In prior articles, I’ve explored potential targets for guards and big men, and now I’ll delve into potential wing players.

The departure of Grant Williams in the previous offseason was a setback for Boston, impacting their defensive versatility, shooting, grit, and physicality. While not flawless, Grant Williams brought a disruptive element to games and maintained a 40% three-point conversion rate.

Finding a direct replacement for Williams within the constraints of the team’s limited trade resources is a challenge. However, there are a few players who could fill a similar albeit more restricted role, providing the Celtics with the much-needed hustle and energy.

You might be wondering about Lamar Stevens or Oshae Brissett. Although both are solid defenders, their inconsistency in shooting has made Joe Mazzulla hesitant to rely on them for significant minutes. It appears Mazzulla might be content with Sam Hauser taking on the bulk of the backup wing minutes or is possibly waiting for a more optimal solution.

While it remains uncertain if Stevens will pursue a forward in the trade market, there is a belief that he has one move left before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. This potential trade could involve acquiring one of the following players to address the Celtics’ bench needs.

Starting off hot:

BOS receives: Naji Marshall

NOP receives: second-round compensation

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics

The New Orleans Pelicans boast a roster filled with versatile players, particularly in the wing positions. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy III, and Herb Jones all possess the ability to play either wing or forward. Additionally, Dyson Daniels, a substantial guard in their reserve unit, is making a name for himself, and rookie shooting guard Jordan Hawkins has shown promise early in the season. The Pelicans’ bench is crowded with a combination of defensive prowess and sharpshooting.

Despite injuries to players ahead of him in the rotation, Marshall is seeing fewer minutes this season compared to the previous one. Moreover, he is in the final year of his contract, raising the possibility of the Pelicans trading him if they believe he won’t re-sign. Marshall’s $1.9 million deal conveniently fits into the $6.2 million Grant Williams traded player exception.

However, any move involving Marshall may need to be part of a more extensive deal. The Pelicans are likely seeking a quality center on the trade market, which Boston currently lacks. Trading Marshall before exploring larger transactions might be unwise, but Boston’s second-round draft picks could potentially facilitate a more significant move. With several second-rounders, including one likely to fall in the 33-38 range, Boston has assets to offer.

If traded, Marshall could serve as an alternative to Hauser in the rotation, providing additional hustle and scrappiness to the bench unit. Described as a “junkyard dog” by Pelicans center Larry Nance Jr., Marshall is known for making hustle plays and taking pride in his defensive contributions. While he hasn’t matched Hauser’s shooting efficiency in recent years, Marshall is currently shooting at a commendable 43% from three-point range this season. Considering his defensive abilities as a wing stopper, he could become a valuable contributor in Boston, especially in playoff scenarios.

However, acquiring promising young players from successful teams is a challenging task. Moving on to the next consideration, let’s explore a veteran on a team that may not be performing as well.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics

BOS receives: Torrey Craig

CHI receives: One second-round pick

Chicago signed the 32-year-old Craig during the summer with the aim of enhancing their on-ball defense. Craig, standing at 6’7″, is known for his intelligence and physicality on defense, capable of handling challenging assignments and switching onto larger opponents. He plays a significant role in the Bulls’ rotation, averaging 21 minutes per game. However, if the Bulls decide to undergo a major restructuring, it’s likely that everyone except Patrick Williams, Coby White, and rookie Julian Phillips could be available for trade.

Craig’s defensive skills could provide Boston with the opportunity to field lineups featuring exclusively strong defenders throughout entire games. While Hauser has performed well in isolation, opposing teams have found ways to exploit him in screening actions, particularly in playoff scenarios. Craig’s presence would eliminate that vulnerability for Boston. Additionally, Craig’s respectable three-point shooting percentage (37%) adds another dimension to his offensive contribution.

Moving on to the next player:

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics

BOS receives: Lonnie Walker IV

BRK receives: second-round picks

The repetition of these trade scenarios is noticeable, mainly due to Boston’s limited pool of assets. Given the team’s resource constraints, acquiring players through the Traded Player Exception (TPE) wouldn’t result in excessive luxury tax penalties. Take Kemba Walker, for instance, who is on a one-year deal worth $2 million. Presumably, he signed with Brooklyn at a lower salary to enhance his value and secure a more lucrative contract in the upcoming offseason. Walker, an agile shooting guard with improved defensive skills and an impressive three-point shooting percentage (46%), could potentially fill a versatile backup-wing role, akin to Bruce Brown’s role in Denver last season. His notable performance in the playoffs against the Warriors adds to his appeal.

However, it might be wishful thinking to expect Brooklyn to part ways with the 24-year-old, averaging over 14 points per game this season. The likelihood of a trade hinges on Brooklyn’s plans for Walker in the offseason—whether they intend to re-sign him or view his current deal as an opportunity to showcase his skills and trade him for assets during the season. Considering their surplus of young wings, Brooklyn might opt to shuffle assets, especially if they encounter challenges in the upcoming tough schedule.

Among potential wing trades for the Celtics, Walker stands out as a favorite, given Boston’s need for an athletic player of his caliber. While other options like Jae’Sean Tate, a versatile wing defender with a solid shooting season, are enticing, their acquisition poses challenges due to the Celtics’ limited tools this season. Tate’s salary slightly exceeds the TPE value, making it necessary to involve multiple rotation players in the trade.

Despite rumors linking the Celtics to John Konchar of the Grizzlies, the writer dismisses him as an ideal fit for the team. Konchar’s limitations in defense and shooting, coupled with the presence of players like Svi Mykhailiuk and Lamar Stevens, make his potential role uncertain. The argument against Konchar emphasizes the principle that in the NBA, the value you receive often aligns with what you invest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *