Fifteen games in, the Boston Celtics are still struggling to find their season's identity. However, some roster moves could be the key to unlocking a tremendous midseason run.
This isn't the news that newly appointed President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge wanted to hear, especially following an offseason that was full of moves.
Although the Celtics lost Ray Allen in free agency, the team was able to resign some valuable assets—Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox. Add in the acquisitions of Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, and Boston looked like a team that was built for a run to the postseason.
However, Lee—who was slotted to fill in the temporary vacancy at shooting guard—has struggled to find his rhythm. The former Houston Rocket has only averaged 5.2 points per game. After starting the first five games of the season, Lee hasn’t started since.
Throw in the inconsistent play of the entire Celtics bench and Boston is beginning to look like a puzzle that is missing a couple of pieces.
Here are two midseason moves that would prove beneficial for the Celtics.
Rajon Rondo is arguably one of the best point guards in the league.
He averages 13.5 points per game, 13.7 assists per game and 4.8 rebounds per game in 38.5 minutes. He’s also shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range.
Rondo currently leads the league in assists, while leading all point guards in minutes per game.
However, the latter might be an area of concern for the Celtics.
The reason for this increased playing time—a career-high for the 26-year-old—is quite simple: other than Rondo, Boston lacks a true point guard.
The team has tried utilizing Terry, Barbosa and Lee at the position throughout the season; unfortunately, none of the three have measured up.
Playing Terry at the point would be unfavorable, as his scoring is too much of an asset. Having him control the offense would render his outside shooting and off-the-ball movement almost useless.
Lee, on the other hand, has looked downright clueless whenever he’s been thrown into the role. Then again, he hasn’t looked comfortable playing at any position for the Celtics this season.
Barbosa would seem to be the best fit out of the three. He even started a game at the position during Boston’s Nov. 15 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
While the 30-year-old did finish with 17 points, he only managed two assists. Furthermore, the team only totaled 17 assists in Rondo’s absence. That’s seven short of their 24.3 assists per game average that has them ranked second in the league.
Injured guard Avery Bradley might just offer the best solution to the dilemma.
In 64 games last season, Bradley averaged 7.6 points per game, shot 49.8 percent from the field and shot 40.7 percent from three-point range in 21.4 minutes per game.
However, the numbers only tell part of the story.
In 28 games as the starter, the 22-year-old averaged 12.3 points per game and upped his shooting percentage to 50.4 percent. That includes a 15-game stretch to close out the season where he led the team with 15.1 points per game, shooting 52.0 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from beyond the arc.
While his play last season more closely resembled that of a shooting guard, Bradley spoke on his desire of becoming a better point guard in a recent WEEI interview with Rob Bradford. He even went as far as to call himself a “backup point guard.”
This is great news for Celtics fans.
While Bradley’s scoring will always be his biggest threat, an added versatility at the point guard position can only help.
It’ll most certainly help get Rondo a much-needed rest more often.
A worn-out Rondo benefits nobody, especially a team with aspirations for the playoffs.
Scoring in the post against the Celtics this season is as close to a sure thing as there is in the NBA.
Boston currently ranks last in the NBA in rebounds, averaging 36.9 boards per game. They allow opponents an average of 41.9 rebounds per game, giving them the worst rebound differential in the league at minus-5.0.
Furthermore, according to Hoopdata.com, the Celtics are allowing opponents the fifth-best field-goal percentage at the rim (67.7 percent) and the third-best field-goal percentage within 3-9 feet (45.9 percent).
That has a lot to do with the team’s lack of big men.
With Jason Collins and Fab Melo as the only 7-footers on the roster, Boston has turned to using 6’11” power forward Kevin Garnett as their starting center this season. Other than 6’10” Chris Wilcox, the rest of the roster is below 6’9”.
With Garnett in the midst of his 17th year in the league, the Celtics preferably want to shy away from playing the 36-year-old for more than 30 minutes a night. While he’s still proven to be effective—averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game in 29.1 minutes—he is still at a high risk to burn out.
As a result, it would be in the team’s best interest to invest in additional big men.
In 15 games this season, the 28-year-old is averaging 11.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 31.2 minutes per game. At 6’11”, Gortat would provide the Celtics with another physical post presence. His 2.3 blocks per game ranks No. 5 in the league. He’s also shown smart decision-making, ranking No. 4 in the league with 1.05 blocks per personal foul.
The only thing that might hinder such a deal is who the Suns would like in return. A package including either Bradley or Lee along with either Brandon Bass or Fab Melo is most likely.
Another possibility for the team is Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith.
Smith was rumored to be linked with a move to Boston back in June. The deal reportedly included a sign-and-trade involving Brandon Bass.
The deal didn't happen, but that doesn’t mean the Celtics can’t give it another go—especially with the Hawks most likely not being able to extend Smith’s contract.
In 11 games this season, the 26-year-old is averaging 15.2 points, 3.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game. At 6’9” he doesn’t exactly provide Boston with the large frame they were looking for, but he more than makes up for it with his vertical ability and his 2.1 blocks per game.
Either player provides the Celtics with a young and tremendous asset to build with.