I’m not happy with Gordon Hayward either, but it’s not all his fault
Marcus Smart encouraging Gordon Hayward after devastating missed layup
Gordon Hayward missed the bunny on Saturday night that would have made it a three-point game with around 35 seconds left against the Phoenix Suns. He probably should’ve dunked it like he has hundreds of times before. Has his foot been acting up again? Does he have alley-oop PTSD?
Even if he makes the layup, there’s no guarantee the Boston Celtics win the game. The defense has been abysmal over the last three games (122.3 opponent’s PPG). To say the Celtics were going to get a must-have stop would be pretty optimistic at this point in the season.
The problem isn’t one missed shot in a game by a player that hasn’t lived up to expectations during his contract in Boston. It’s not his fault that he has the contract most desirable to trade on the team. It’s easy for the Twitter world to target one play or player, but the issues run deeper than just Hayward.
He has had some ups and downs this season, but he has been pretty solid overall. He’s finding a way to play with the Jay’s, and the Jay’s are finding ways to play with him. Trading Hayward may be the only way to significantly change the team, but the top seven players in the rotation have only played five games together this season.
Gordon Hayward is really getting crushed tonight, so it's probably worth pointing out that the guy is averaging 16, 6 and 4 on 51 percent shooting, and has a +6.5 net rating that's the same as Kemba's and better than Jaylen's and Smart's.
The Celtics have been battling injuries which have been a factor in this latest 2-6 stretch. Even Jayson Tatum, who never misses games, took a game off to manage some knee soreness.
Are the Celtics just amidst a January swoon? Are they closer to December Celtics than January Celtics? It’s tough to know right now, and with the February 6th trade deadline coming fast, Danny Ainge and company need to figure it out before it’s too late.
How can Brad Stevens help? He’s trying to mix and match lineups while the team manages injuries. It’s hard to make lemonade sometimes even when you’re given a bunch of lemons. Brad tries to keep a starter or two on the floor when playing his inexperienced bench players. It makes sense to have an experienced scorer to carry the load during those stretches, but it’s difficult to succeed when the other players on the court are barely capable.
There’s not much Brad can do when multiple starters are down, but having any variation of Brad Wanamaker, Tremont Waters, Javonte Green, Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams on the floor together is not going to net positive results consistently. Don’t get me wrong, I like all those players for different reasons, but having three or four of them on the floor together just won’t cut it.
I sometimes wish Brad would hold the team more accountable for questionable play on the offensive end. There are times when the ball stops moving and everyone is watching one of the better scorers on the team in isolation. That isn’t going to work consistently. But after last night’s game, Brad was focused on the defense. And he’s right. The current team has the ability to play good defense, they just need to refocus on the details.
Even though it has been tough to watch this skid, Brad remains optimistic and plans to use these couple of weeks as motivation.
Brad Stevens on Boston’s skid:
"This will be a good stretch when we look back on it because it will force improvement. It’ll force urgency on every detail … These are never fun to go through. It sucks. But this is usually what you look back on and say it was a springboard.”
Will a trade automatically get this team on the right track? It’d be silly to think that way and rely on something like that, but Danny needs to consider some sort of shake up.
The Celtics' best players have been mostly good. The Celtics wasted a 40-point effort from Kemba Walker this past week. Marcus Smart’s team record 11 three-pointers and career-high 37 points were squandered last night. Hayward shot 11-for-15 for 25 points just two nights ago. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been borderline All-Stars all season, boasting a leap in their development that will make even the biggest Celtics’ honks blush. So, how do the Celtics fix this?
Marcus Smart is the only player in NBA history to have 10+ 3's, 8+ ast and 4+ stl in a game.
Getting healthy will help. Aside some lingering bumps and bruises and day-to-day statuses, Robert Williams is the only player with a long term diagnosis as he’s rehabilitating his hip. Some will say the Celtics need big man help, but the help may already be on the roster. It could be silly to bank on it, though. Who knows if/when Williams will be back and how effective will he be. Timelord has yet to hit stride on his NBA career and he’s averaging just 14 minutes per game this season so he’s no guarantee to be the savior.
Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have their negatives, but as a two-headed monster, they get the job done. I like what each can bring in their 20-24 minutes per night, but is there an upgrade on another NBA roster? Probably, but at what cost? The buyout market might make the most sense for another depth big man because the Celtics bigs have been fine overall. One concern is how small the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers make the Celtics best five look. More size would help, but there could be bigger issues.
As mentioned previously, the Celtics second unit doesn’t own any household names. And when the injuries thin out the rotation even further, Brad is forced to play multiple G-Leaguers at a time. The starters aren’t the problem; it’s the second unit. If Danny is going to add, it needs to be someone to help on the bench. They need help with their second wave to sustain leads or even close a gap if they get hot.
Outside of the Celtics’ five best players, Semi Ojeleye leads the team with 21 made 3-pointers. That’s not even two ridiculous Smart nights. The supporting cast is shooting less than 30 percent from deep.
Sharpshooters like Joe Harris, JJ Redick or Davis Bertans all have the ability to shoot over 40% from three with experience coming off the bench. None of these guys will be making the All-Defensive team, but they fill a need and you aren’t going to be landing Kawhi Leonard.
The Memphis lottery pick isn’t as valuable as it once was because of Ja Morant’s and the Grizzlies’ success this season, so it should be used to entice another team at the deadline. Finding a way to match salaries with a trade partner is another hurdle, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. There are avenues on the roster to get something done.
I don’t know if the Celtics pull a trigger on a trade to bolster the roster, but I’m sure they’re entertaining a lot of options right now. I still believe the best chance to advance deep in the playoffs is with Gordon Hayward on this roster, so don’t let a bad couple of games blur the vision. A move to get a shooter on the bench so Brad doesn’t have to rely on the G-League Celtics may be all they need.
And if the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers in their next game, torch this post because the championship is back on.