Now I don't expect a team with a 37-20 record to shake up the roster without it being for a superstar, especially when you're heading into the break on a roll winning 11 of your last 13. This team is good, and they have a good reason to not want to mess with that chemistry in the middle of the season, but the fact remains that the Celtics sit at 28th in the league in rebounding and are the 20th ranked defense - a far fall from grace from being 6th in rebounding last season and the 4th ranked defense in the NBA. The Celtics have made up the difference by marching out a highly potent offense this year (6th in the league), but there's no reason they can't maintain that and shore up the defense/boards as well. Even though they missed out at trading for some help there's still a handful of players that could be acquired before March 1st (the playoff eligibility waiver deadline). Most of these players were either bought out or waived yesterday by teams that either aren't contending or didn't see them as a viable fit. Ainge has been adamant that he's only looking to add someone who who could not only help in those areas but fit the Celtics system as well. Let's take a look at some of the best options:
A 25-year old 6'9 power forward Jones was a casualty of the DeMarcus Cousins deal to the Pelicans, who decided to waive him so he could get playing time elsewhere. He's a young kid so there's plenty of room to grow but he's got some playoff experience as he played a key role on the Houston Rockets team that went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015. His career average is 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, and his career rebounding percentage is 13.1 - that's better than anybody in the Celtics rotation this year. The help he would provide on the defensive boards goes a long way to shoring up second chance opportunities for opponents, but beyond that Jones' trademark is his tenacious defense. As I write this I'm getting more angry that Ainge didn't send a second round pick to New Orleans for Jones yesterday. He has been having a rough year shooting from the outside this season (25.3%) in New Orleans but he's shown in the past that he can hit more consistently from the outside - probably very high on the list regarding fitting the Celtics offense and spacing the floor. That's a lot of check marks in areas of need and there's one very important aspect to the Celtics getting Jones - the interest is mutual:
According to @stevekylerNBA, Terrence Jones is interested in joining #Celtics. Again, C's have $2.5M to offer. Jones: 11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG.— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) February 24, 2017
With the Houston Rockets, his former team, the only contending team that can outbid the Celtics on Jones but it seems unlikely he'd return to a team that benched him last year in favor of Donatas Motiejunas and thus costing him A LOT of money on the open market last offseason. The chances are that Danny has a good shot to reel him in, and he'd be my first choice; furthermore, he's a great candidate for one of those Ainge signature multi-year deals at the end of the season.
Here's a guy I talked extensively about yesterday just before he was sent to Philadelphia from Dallas in the deal for Nerlens Noel. It was a bit of a surprise as he didn't need to be included in the trade, as a deal of Noel for Justin Anderson and a 1st-rounder works on its own and Bogut was essentially a salary dump. Again, I wonder why Ainge wasn't in on dealing a pick for Bogut as he's another great fit for a playoff-bound team that hopes to reach the Eastern Conference finals. Bogut is a playoff sage as he's been to the finals the past two seasons with the Golden State Warriors and played a key role as a defensive anchor for them both times. At 7'0 he allows Al Horford to play the 4 and is still a great shot-blocker at age 32. He was a menace to LeBron James and the Cavs both years and he really locks in when the stakes go up - he averaged 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes in the playoffs for the Warriors last season and 2.8 the year before that. This year he's averaged 8.3 rebonds per game in just over 22 minutes a game, although he's missed significant time this season. That right there is the biggest knock on Bogut as injuries have hampered him his entire career, but for a stretch run on a young team that could use both his rebounding, defense, and veteran presence? It's a no-brainer. Another issue with Bogut is that the money the Celtics can offer may not trump him joining more of a sure thing to reach the finals in Cleveland, or even his former team which can somehow acquire him via a loophole in the CBA:
Here's the loophole in the CBA that could allow Andrew Bogut to sign with the Golden State Warriors https://t.co/ELpiz2EsAj pic.twitter.com/ZyXGwLFIYu— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) February 24, 2017
Now there's a name I wouldn't have expected to see here yesterday morning but here we are. Sullinger was traded yesterday from the Toronto Raptors to Phoenix and the Suns plan on buying him out of his current 1-year deal. Sullinger missed the first half of this season with a foot injury and only played in a total of 11 games, but apparently he underwhelmed the Raps in those games enough for them to acquire Serge Ibaka and then deal him to Phoenix for veteran swingman P.J. Tucker. The main reason why Sullinger might be in Ainge's plans now is that he's obviously very familiar with both Brad Stevens system and many of the players on the Celtics. He's a terrific rebounder, we know this, but he's not quite the same presence on defense the other two options would provide. Last season he average just over 10 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes a game for Boston so he was productive, although I still have nightmares of him bricking thee-pointers and me screaming.
This is obviously a wild-card and by most of the accounts I've heard that the Celtics weren't entirely impressed with him when he worked out for them a few weeks back, but that could be totally fabricated. Sanders hasn't played an NBA game in over two years, after having a mess of a situation in Milwaukee and being bought out back in 2015 after telling the Bucks he didn't want to play basketball anymore. Well it seems as if Sanders has sorted his life out and is on the trail for an NBA comeback. He's worked out for several teams, most recently the Cavaliers earlier this week, and says he is committed to ball again. He's intriguing because in his short time in the NBA he was an athletic specimen on the defensive side of the ball. In his best season he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and a ridiculous 2.8 blocks in 27 minutes a game. He's certainly a presence in the paint, but it remains to be seen if Sanders still obtains that freakish ability on the court. While he can scored a little around the bucket Sanders can't shoot at all, and his career average at the free-throw line is a meager 55%. Taking on a guy who might do a couple things well but most certainly won't fit in with coach Brad's plans seems like a long-shot to me. I'd rather give Jordan Mickey some run than sign Sanders who'd likely be relegated to the end of the bench on any contending team. If you ask me he's better off catching on with a borderline playoff team where he might be able to see the floor more.
So although the Celtics didn't make a trade at the deadline they aren't necessarily done making moves. I think it's important not only to fill in some holes and help bolster the roster, but adding to an already good team sends the message that we're getting you help because we think you guys have a shot. Both Washington and Toronto added pieces yesterday to help their teams, and even Cleveland made a deal last month to add some shooting in Kyle Korver. The Celtics shouldn't make a move just because those other teams did, but bringing in somebody to help out on the boards and add some depth to the front line is a necessity for a deep playoff run as I see it.
Photo Credit :
Bogut - USA TODAY Sports
Sullinger - Bernard Weil/Toronto Star
Sanders - Calvin Mattheis/ Milwaukee Sentinel
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 2/24/2017 12:38:00 PM Tweet Edit