Celtics trade targets: Big men C’s could pursue ahead of deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Do the Celtics need another big man?
We’ve spent the better part of the past four months asking this question. Actually, it feels like we’ve spent the better part of the past four YEARS asking this question given the perpetual health concerns with Boston’s frontcourt.
And we’re absolutely guilty of wondering out loud if the Celtics could benefit from an additional big body this year, even if just to navigate the rigors of the regular season and properly pace Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.
But then you look up and we’re 50 games into the season. You can almost see the 2024 playoffs in the offing. Yet the question lingers in the final countdown to Thursday’s trade deadline.
Sixty percent of the NBA season is in the rearview mirror and the Celtics have been content to let Luke Kornet and Neemias Queta provide center depth. They’ve done an admirable job, maybe even enough for Queta to get added to the parent roster depending on how Boston’s deadline maneuvering plays out.
There are still five back-to-backs remaining on the schedule, and a 27-games-in-52-day stretch following the All-Star break. Could some additional big man depth help Boston navigate that? Sure. And yet the need to add a big doesn’t seem as hefty as all the chatter about it.
The Horford and Porzingis tandem has missed a combined 23 games this season and the Celtics are still five games up on their nearest rival in the East.
We’ve most certainly spent past trade deadlines shaking our head like a petulant toddler while refusing to even entertain the notion of adding Drummond. We’re slightly less adverse this time around. Slightly.
Maybe it’s because Boston has the Grant Williams traded player exception that could easily absorb Drummond’s $3.4 million salary. Maybe it’s because Boston’s rebounding woes have been accentuated in recent games (though we’d be ignoring the fact that Boston ranks seventh in defensive rebound percentage for the season and fifth in total rebound rate). Maybe it’s because there’s not a lot of other options that make sense in a league with more buyers than sellers.
So we’ll ignore the fact that Drummond’s teams are 2-16 in playoff games and that he’s never advanced beyond the first round (that’s not all on him, obviously). We’ll ignore the fact that you can’t play him in the final quarter of a close game because of his free-throw woes (the Celtics literally went Hack-a-Drummond trying to run up the score on the Bulls during the in-season tournament).
If you just want a veteran big who will likely be OK with a limited role and whose sole purpose is cleaning the glass, then Drummond, at a low draft-pick cost, is perfectly fine.
Now, we’d prefer the acquisition come as a bolder roll of the dice that includes trying to pry out Alex Caruso, but a smaller splash using the Grant Williams Gift Card provides a depth piece that quiets the, “Do they need another big!?” chatter through the buyout deadline.
The Hornets are one of the few surefire sellers in the NBA, having already sent old friend Terry Rozier to Miami. So it’s only natural to ponder their depth bigs.
Richards is in the first year of a modest three-year, $15 million deal that gives you a depth option right before the new cap penalties make it difficult to add anything beyond minimum-salary depth. He fits into the TPE. He has good size (7 feet) and is a low usage/high efficiency player who won’t stretch the floor but can finish around the basket. Richards is not a ball-mover and his turnover rate is concerning, but he’s a decent rebounder and blocks shots.
If the cost is, say, a couple second-round picks, then you’re essentially turning dice rolls into a more known option. Richards is still only 26. We’re not certain he moves the needle but he would add depth at the thinnest spot on the team and is unlikely to rock the boat.
We’ll keep this brief because this isn’t the first time Olynyk’s name has come up over the past two deadlines. Olynyk’s $12.2 million salary makes it very difficult to craft a trade without sending out Payton Pritchard and basically everyone at the end of the bench (in addition to whatever draft ransom Danny Ainge requests as well). You’re almost better off crossing your fingers on a buyout — and even that feels unlikely, at least until Ainge tries to get something of value for the free-agent-to-be.
Can we interest you in a Omer Yurtseven? How about a Yurtseven/Kris Dunn combo? That feels like the more available move and, again, we’re not really sure how much that moves the needle for the Celtics in their title quest.
Ultimately, you’re left exploring those sorts of minor moves for veteran players. Do you roll the dice on reacquiring Danilo Gallinari? He’s played well in a handful of games with Detroit but his salary is cumbersome. Would the Pelicans move Cody Zeller given his limited role? There are too many teams that feel like they are in the mix with the play-in to snag a veteran big.
And, even if you do, there’s no guarantee that any of those players can give you anything more than you’re already getting from Kornet and Queta.
Which is why, invariably, you find Drummond at the top of a list that we’ve fought to keep him off of in the past. Big-man depth would be a luxury, but a defensive-minded perimeter player still feels like a better playoff resource for the Celtics than a third or fourth big man.
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