In order to add a C, Boston will have to say goodbye to at least one T
One constant complaint I always hear when we report on the Celtics interest in anyone that isn't a big man from Celtics nation is "Waht is Ainge doing? We NEED a big man!" I have to give Danny some credit here in that he was a bit ahead of the curve on realizing the league was heading away from big line-ups. People would complain about him drafting another guard and then another guard. Had Rondo and used his #6 pick on Marcus Smart. Then traded for Isaiah. Then drafted Rozier. And RJ Hunter. And Romeo, Carsen and Tremont. And Nesmith, Pritchard and Desmond Bane. I'm likely missing some, but you get the point.
With the news this evening that Lamarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs will be parting ways there are more calls for the Celtics to add a center. First it was Andre Drummond, then DeMarcus Cousins, and now we have Aldridge. You can add Nikola Vucevic to the "Sought after Centers by Celtics Fans" (say that 5 times fast) list if you like, but unlike the other three, Vucevic has 3-point range is an All-Star. Also of importance is the fact that the Magic are adamant they won't trade their lone star.
According to Brian Windhorst the Cavs don't want much for Drummond. A 2nd round pick and expiring contracts would get it done. Unfortunately the Celtics don't have the expiring contracts to make a trade work. And their "super valuable" TPE isn't big enough to land Drummond, and you can't add players to make up the difference in salary, so the Celtics for all intent and purposes can only add Drummond if he's bought out and chooses Boston.
As you can see this TPE isn't all that valuable after all. It isn't nothing, but neither are 2nd rounders. So let's say the Celtics do sign Cousins or Drummond if he's bought out (and chooses Boston over Brooklyn, Los Angeles, etc.). Or say they trade for Aldridge. Or even throw a huge offer of multiple 1sts and Smart or Pritchard for Vucevic. Then you have four centers in a league where you can only play one at a time. Maybe two for some stretches if at least one has 3-point range and one is has the speed of a guard.
Yeah but those 2 future 2nds BOS got for Bane are going to be great... Oh wait I think we traded both to CHA w/ Hayward to get a TPE.
Well the player we get for the TPE will be great...Oh wait the TPE alone has no value & u want a young player w/ it? How about Bane?...Oh wait... https://t.co/Lhgx3jYhhC
There's just too much defensive switching in today's game to be able to play two big men. The other team will eat you alive as and have their smaller guys blow by your bigs. The Celtics best line-up during last year's playoffs was one they barely were able to use due to Gordon Hayward's injury. But it was Kemba and Smart at the guards and a front court of Jaylen Tatum and Hayward. So no bigs.
If you insist the Celtics need to add a big you're still living in the Sega Genesis Bulls vs Lakers day. Today's NBA is more like NBA Jam with drives and 3's. And if you played NBA Jam back in the day you knew that the combo of Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin was one of the best.
But let's say Brad Stevens goes against the current NBA and tries to win playing two bigs for half the game. That's 72 minutes. Now split up 72 minutes between four guys. You can't. It's hard enough to do with 3 bigs. So if you think Triple T (Time Lord, Tristan & Theis) is the problem with this year's Celtics and want another big, one must also be on their way out.
And it's not even as easy as picking just any one. You can get away with one big that doesn't have 3 point range, but you certainly can't play two of them that don't have that range together. None of the potentially attainable bigs in Cousins, Drummond, Or Aldridge have 3 point range. Neither does Tristan. So you'd have to get rid of Time Lord or Tristan and keep Theis. Problem is where you might be able to get away with line-ups like Time Lord and Theis or Tristan and Theis, you can't just add a Drummond, Boogie, Aldridge or even Vuc in place of one of them, since they are all slower than the 3 bigs the Celtics currently have.
Long story short, you almost have to get rid of Tristan Thompson if you add a center. The only it would work to keep Thompson is if you were getting rid of BOTH Time Lord and Theis. And I'm pretty sure that Time Lord wouldn't work next to all those centers either. So you couldn't keep Time Lord with two other bigs. Theis can play next to another big for stints if the other big is super athletic like Time Lord, but none of these centers are. So in the end if you added any of these guys, one of the T's would have to go and the other would either ride the pine or go as well.
It's always easy to say you want to add people, but harder to figure out the minutes afterwards. Judging by Danny Ainge's lack of interest in the last center Celtics fans were clamoring for in Myles Turner, I'm pretty sure he barely has any interest in Drummond or Aldridge and likley none in Boogie. Plus these guys wouldn't sign here to play 16 mins a game if that. Maybe Aldridge if we were the 2008 Celtics, but we aren't a top contender.
Drummond for one would expect big minutes, so if you're adding him, then Tristan is a goner and one of Time Lord or Theis is as well. If you're adding Vuc then the same thing.
There's a reason Ainge is more interested in guys like Harrison Barnes or Aaron Gordon. Also a reason those guys will cost more than a 2nd rounder or nothing to acquire. You can actually play them with anybody. I heard Sean Grande talking about how Gordon is his binky, not because he'd be a solid wing addition, but he wants to see him as a 5 on the Celtics.
I'd love Vucevic on the Celtics. I remember him being the guy I wanted the Celtics to sign when Kyrie walked. But Vuc needs to play as the lone big man, so maybe the Celtics can revisit a trade for him in the offseason when there is more ability to reconstruct your roster. And if the TPE was big enough to acquire Drummond for just a 2nd rounder, I'd say go for that if you think that's the most you can get Danny as long as you find someone willing to take back Tristan Thompson. The negative again would be that if you give Drummond major minutes you're going to either have two unhappy campers in Theis and Time Lord splitting up the scraps or one really unhappy benched big man.
It's a moot point anyway since we can't trade for Drummond. If Theis walks this summer like it seems like all Celtics free agents do of late and Tristan turns down his option year and walks, then maybe revisit Drummond in the off season.
If you asked me if I have a hunch of who Danny on the down low is trying to trade right now its Theis. I say that because often times his big trades aren't the rumored ones (Think Perkins for Jeff Green, trading for Isaiah from the Suns, trading Isaiah and a Nets pick for Kyrie). Maybe Ainge doesn’t want to lose Theis for nothing, but also imagine another team throwing a lot of money at him in free agency. And I wouldn't blame them.
The Hornets were wise to throw a lot of money at Terry Rozier and Hayward and if Theis walks his new team will be happy with their signing. He's a mobile big, who can hit the 3 and as we've seen playing next to Time Lord, Theis in that special limited group of bigs where you can also play him with another big. He's still just 28 and plays almost every night.
IF and that's a big if, the Magic were open to moving Vucevic I could see them wanting Theis and Time Lord as part of the package for him. I say package, since I've heard some people say they wouldn't include Time Lord in a deal for Vuc, but trust me if you want Vuc, it will cost a lot more than Robert Williams to get him. And that's no diss on Williams.
I'd be shocked if the Celtics added a big man and kept all the T's. The only situation I could see that happening is if one of the T's gets injured or the guy being signed knows he won't get any playing time unless at least one of the current bigs gets injured.
So the Celtics aren't upgrading the center position unless one or two T's are also on their way out. They may trade Theis and/or Thompson though. It's hard for me to gauge right now if Thompson is more likley or not to pick up his player option. Also hard for me to gauge if Danny would prefer he does or not. Can a big man in his thirties who can't hit 3's get 9 million on the free agent market? I suppose this will be determined in the playoffs depending on how far the Celtics go and how effective Thompson is.
There is likely a pretty long list of teams that would be interested in trading for Theis before the deadline. Yes I know he can walk on them come this summer, but teams want guys like Theis. Shoot teams were lining up begging the Wizards to trade Bertrans prior to last deadline for just a 1st rounder. Wizards held firm on their demand for two first rounder. On the other hand Drummond was traded for just a 2nd rounder.
If the Celtics hadn't just gone on a 4 game winning streak to end their February skid prior to the All-Star break, I could see Ainge trying to trade Theis for a 1st rounder or two and doubling down on his comments that we weren’t' a contender. That way he'd be adding some assets to use in a future deal and wouldn't have to either lose Theis for nothing this summer or pay more than he wants to for a big man in the modern NBA.
I don't think Ainge can go that route now. He's not going to make a "Take a step back" trade. Not after the 4 game winning streak and not after all the complaints that Stevens can't make it past the ECF. Maybe if the team loses all their games prior to the deadline or they suffer a major injury to one of their key guys. That last scenario felt dark to even type, but it does remind me of when people were asking "Is this 'rock bottom' for the Celtics?" after a regular season loss. I was like have you lost you minds. Rock bottom is when a Reggie Lewis dies or when Larry Bird suffers a career ending injury. It can be when KG injures his knee and you never again get to see the KG you traded for. Or when Rondo blows out his knee. Please never mention a regular season loss and rock bottom ever again.
Don't be surprised to see the Celtics actually pull the trigger on someone like Harrison Barnes, but also see Theis traded. Maybe he's part of the deal for Barnes. Maybe Boston moves Theis somewhere for a pick and reroutes that pick to Sacramento. Reality is your much more likely to see the Celtics with less good big men after the deadline than adding a 4th. Guys like Drummond, Aldridge and Cousins become a lot more intriguing to me as a Celtics addition if Boston traded two of the T's. There are some fits if they trade just one of the T's. But the Celtics aren't just going to add a center, so don't go ballistic when/if Ainge makes a trade and it isn't for a center.