Celtics Trade Deadline Preview: The myth of Superstar-or-Bust and trading for Tobias Harris
It seems like everyone wants the Celtics to make the home run move before doing anything else. Trades involving any non-Superstars are written off by many because it would not turn the Celtics into an immediate championship contender, as if that is the new requirement for any potential move.
The fact of the matter is the Celtics are players, plural, away from competing with the likes of the Warriors, Thunder and Spurs in a seven-game series. For anyone out there waiving off potential moves because the addition does not transcend the roster all by itself, like say a trade for Kevin Love or Boogie Cousins would, you are wrong.
This upcoming trade deadline should not be treated as home-run or bust and I would caution any Celtics fans and/or writers from making it that. I assume those very same people rejecting the idea of trading for a Danilo Gallinari, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Ryan Anderson or Greg Monroe, also rejected and tore down Danny Ainge’s moves last year for Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas, who are currently the two most irreplaceable parts of this team. Apply this year’s standard to last year and you do not trade for Crowder or Thomas because you would not be capable of winning a championship with either one. So, please, enough of that.
The goal of this year is to keep pushing this organization forward. Hopefully, that involves a deep playoff run, but whether it does or not, it is important for Danny Ainge and the Celtics to lay the groundwork for making next year’s team that championship-level team. Doing so is going to absolutely involve adding players through trade or free agency this summer who are not playing in the All-Star game next week. You need those players to win. You are wrong if you think adding Love, Cousins or even Dwight Howard is going to all of a sudden turn this into a championship roster. It will not, which is why the Celtics should explore trading for Tobias Harris.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Magic are willing to listen to trade offers for the 23-year-old Harris, although they are not actively shopping him. Many feel Orlando has to do something. They are only three games back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference despite losing 15 of their last 19 games, which is to say they have a real chance at making the playoffs. Although it is unlikely they would win a playoff series, the experience for the young roster probably outweighs another lottery pick given the fact this team is already one of the youngest in the NBA with an average age of 23.8-years-old.
Assuming Orlando is truly willing to trade Harris, who they just signed to a four-year, $64 million dollar deal this past summer, it is simply about finding the right match. Is that the Celtics?
WHY THE CELTICS SHOULD TRADE FOR TOBIAS HARRIS
Harris, who will be turning 24-years-old this summer, is a 6’9 forward capable of playing both the three and the four. He is averaging 13.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 0.6 BPG. No one on the Celtics current roster is averaging 10, 7 and 2 in any three categories. Harris’ rebound total would be second on the Celtics and his blocks total would be third, which is significant because these are two categories Boston can use help in. In addition to the interior talent, he is also capable of creating his own offense, also something the Celtics currently lack.
Although he is struggling offensively this season, he has still been competent. Plus, a lot of the blame for that may be on the new coach, Scott Skiles, and the system he brought in, which may not be as good for Harris as the type of pace-and-space system Brad Stevens and the Celtics run. We saw what Harris can do on offense last season when he averaged 17.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.8 APG on 46% shooting from the field and 36% shooting from three. While he is still shooting 46% from the field this year, he is showing a poor 31% from three.
Given the fact he is only 24, it is probably worth the risk to trade for him and assume that his three-point shooting will revert back to what it was last season. If it were to, Harris is the perfect match for Stevens, which is why the Celtics were rumored to be interested in him this past summer. The remainder of Harris’ deal totals three years, $48 million. Given his age and talent, all 30 NBA teams would sign him to that contract this summer when the cap is expected to rise to $90 million.
Acquiring Harris is the perfect, next step towards building the next great Celtics team, which will hopefully be assembled in time for next season. With Thomas, Smart and Bradley at the guard positions, Crowder playing the three, and Harris playing the four (or even the five down the stretch against a team like the Warriors), the roster begins to come into form. And then maybe, just maybe, the organization would be a superstar away from competing for an NBA championship.
HOW THE TRADE OF TOBIAS HARRIS TO THE CELTICS WOULD WORK
As previously stated, the Magic are one of the youngest teams in the NBA. They also have Aaron Gordon ready to step in and start, if necessary. Additionally, they have very little money coming off the books after this season, which may limit their ability to add some experience to the roster this summer through free agency.
The Celtics, through Amir Johnson’s contract, can provide them with some potential cap relief, as his contract is non-guaranteed for next season. Also though, Johnson provides them with a seasoned and established NBA veteran. Johnson is reliable and has had a very effective season for the Celtics on both ends of the floor. The Magic could really use a player like him for their playoff push this season and next should they choose to retain him. As for the Celtics, with the recent emergence of Tyler Zeller, they can afford to let Johnson go without diminishing their chances for a successful end to this season.
Harris is making $16 million this season and Johnson $12 million, so while the Celtics could use their Tayshaun Prince trade exception to make the money work, they should instead add Jonas Jerebko to the offer, as he is making $5 million this season. Similar to Johnson, Jerebko’s contract next season is non-guaranteed. Therefore, they could use him for their playoff push this season and he would definitely help in that regard, while also having the option to decline his contract next year in order to get the extra cap space to sign potential free agents in the summer.
The Magic have no interest in getting younger next season, but they do have an interest in upgrading their roster and assets can help them do that, which the Celtics have plenty of. The perfect asset for the Magic and their philosophy is the Nets 2018 first-round pick. It allows them some time to find the right deal to cash it in on, as opposed to having only a few months like they would with the 2016 first-round picks.
As for me, I think adding Harris to this roster would be a huge first step in building a championship contender in Boston. I believe he is the perfect player for Stevens’ system, which is why I was a huge proponent of Boston trying to sign him this past summer. I believe the 2015 version of Harris was the real him, rather than this season under Coach Skiles, who has not been known for his offensive creativity. Give Stevens a 6’9 athlete who is capable of hitting nearly 40% of his three-pointers and you have the chance for something special.
Plus, not for nothing, but Harris has shown a lot of competence on defense this season and his career, so he would not be a detriment to the team on that end of the floor. He is the guy you can play multiple positions, providing tons of lineup flexibility at the end of games, which is something that has transformed teams like the Warriors and Spurs to another level this year.
With Harris, the Celtics get closer to their goal. Is he going to turn Boston into a finals contender overnight? No, but his addition will surely help the team this season and similar to how Crowder and Thomas were last year, serve as a piece to the puzzle that is the 2017 Boston Celtics.
MY INITIAL OFFER: Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and the Nets 2018 first-round pick for Tobias Harris and Dewayne Dedmon.
Photo Credit: NBA Getty Images
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