This season of Celtics basketball has been hard to watch.
The Celtics are currently 17-19, good for ninth in the Eastern Conference. That record is frustrating in its own right, but when you look into the ways that the Celtics have lost makes it even more mind-boggling. In Wednesday’s game vs. the Clippers, the Celtics shot 4-42 from three, good for the second-worst single-game percentage in NBA history.
Poor shooting has been a theme this season, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are shooting 41% and 44% from the field, both are career lows. The Marcus Smart point guard experiment hasn’t worked, as his poor shot selection has only gotten worse without the presence of a true point guard. Only Grant Williams is averaging better than 40% from three, and scoring when Tatum and Brown aren’t on the floor is as worse as it’s even been, though the addition of Dennis Schroder has helped in that aspect.
Something needs to change for the Celtics if they want to be successful and make some noise in the playoffs. They are no longer the scrappy underdog that was one win away from the NBA finals in 2018, they need to take steps to become a true powerhouse in the East. The biggest issue with the Celtics has been their complacency, as ever since they traded for Kyrie Irving, they have seemed hesitant to make a game-changing move. Major moves don’t come without risk, as we saw what happened with Irving, but sometimes you need to take big-time risks to reap the rewards. Some of the following trade ideas are very minimal, and some of them could change the NBA landscape. One thing is for sure, the Celtics need to do something because they can’t just sit out another trade deadline.
Option 1: Pack it in
Celtics recieve: Bones Hyland and Nuggets 2022 First Round Pick
Nuggets receive: Dennis Schroder
Dennis Schroder is going to have a lot of interest around the trade deadline, as he’s on an expiring deal getting paid only $5.9 Million. This means that a lot of teams are going to want Schroder, who is currently averaging 16 points a game for the Celtics, good for 3rd on the team behind Tatum and Brown. One of the teams that could potentially show interest is the Denver Nuggets. While reigning MVP yet somehow still underrated center Nikola Jokic is keeping the Nuggets afloat. Injuries have destroyed Denver this season, who currently sits 5th in the Western Conference. With Jamal Murray still out recovering from a torn ACL and Michael Porter Jr. out for the year. The Nuggets need the scoring output that Schroder brings. In return, the Celtics get Bones Hyland, the 27th pick in this year’s draft, who has shown some upside for the Nuggets, averaging 8.5 points in only 16 minutes a game. While Schroder is no doubt a better player than Hyland right now, Brad Stevens might decide that a lottery pick is the best route for the Celtics this season after an unimpressive start, and as the 10th seed, a lottery pick is looking more and more likely. Throw in a first-round pick from the Nuggets and the Celtics are in good shape come draft season.
Option 2: Celtics go for a true point guard
Celtics receive: Spencer Dinwiddie
Wizards receive: Josh Richardson, Grant Williams, 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected)
I was optimistic going into this season about the prospects of Marcus Smart taking the reins as the starting Point Guard. This could have allowed him to not take as many of the bad shots that he’s known for and focus on facilitating for Brown and Tatum. This hasn’t worked, as Smart’s assists numbers have barely seen improvement, and his shooting percentage is the worst since his second year in the league. My first choice in this article would have been Ricky Rubio, but since he’s currently out for the season, my eyes turn to Spencer Dinwiddie of the Washington Wizards. At first glance, Dinwiddie doesn’t seem like a big upgrade to Smart, as they both average the same amount of assists. When looking deeper in the numbers though, it shows Dinwiddie’s value as a playmaker. Dinwiddie’s assist percentage is around 27% compared to Smart’s 23%. Dinwiddie is also a lot more careful with the basketball, with his turnover percentage only at 12%, while Smart is hovering around 15%. Getting rid of Schroder and Richardson’s points may be an adjustment at first, but Dinwiddie is more than capable of scoring the basketball, averaging 13 points a game, and has scored 20 or more points 7 times this season. Having Dinwiddie out there doing the majority of the playmaking will also allow Tatum and Brown to do what they do best, scoring the basketball.
Option 3: Ben Simmons finally gets traded
Celtics receive: Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond
76ers receive: Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Juancho Hermagomez, 2023 first-round pick
Lower your pitchforks for a second.
Contrary to what all of the memes say, Ben Simmons can still provide immense value to a team. He can’t shoot, we know that, but he’s still one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. With Simmons, the Celtics could seemingly guard all five positions on the court with pretty much effortless switchability. On the offensive side, there would be no more questions about a playmaker as Simmons has spent each season in his career top 20 in assists. Simmons also could make the Celtics one of the best teams in the league in transition. I’m already dreaming of a fast break with Simmons, Tatum, and Brown. Simmons could be allowed to create for Tatum and Brown, who have struggled this season trying to balance scorer and playmaker roles. And for everybody staying on the point about how Simmons can’t shoot the ball, can the Celtics really get worse than 4-42 from three? Smart and Williams are two guys that are hard to give up, but it’s needed to afford Simmons’ contract. Nesmith is a young player with upside as a 2-way player, but he has fallen out of favor with Ime Udoka, so he’s expendable in this situation. Adding Drummond to the team solves the hole that losing Williams would bring, and with an expiring contract, Boston can cut ties with him at the end of the season. This trade definitely comes with risk, but the potential reward could be a championship-level Big 3 for years to come.
Option 4: The Celtics go all in
Celtics receive: Damian Lillard
Trailblazers receive: Jaylen Brown, Dennis Schroder, Grant Williams, 2022 and 2023 first-round picks
Let’s get a little crazy here
Now there’s no word that Damian Lillard wants out of Portland, though there have been years of speculation about it. Let’s say hypothetically that Lillard would be open to a trade, the Celtics should do everything they can in order to get Lillard in Boston. Getting rid of Brown would be a tough pill to swallow for Celtics fans, as Brown has blossomed into a star before our eyes. As tough as losing Brown could be, the Celtics need to take a risk in order to reach the next level. The Lakers did it with Anthony Davis, the Clippers did it with Kawhi, and the Nets did it with James Harden. With Lillard, you have the chance to get one of the most dynamic point guards of the past 20 years, a chance that Brad Stevens should jump at. The offensive abilities of Lillard and Jayson Tatum together could give opposing coaches nightmares. Lillard doubles as a playmaker as well, as his 7 assists per game put him at 9th in the league this season. Defensively he is more than capable of holding his own, and keeping Smart will allow Lillard not to shoulder all of the burden defensively. The only potential problem is that Lillard is 31, and the window of his prime may be closing soon. This is a player however who can walk in the gym and score 50 points at any time, and someone who wants to win a championship. Pairing him with another star like Tatum would create the best offensive duo in the NBA, and a Celtics team that can easily make a run at the finals.