Although the Boston Celtics are in high spirits following their statement-making Christmas Day victory, it’s imperative for the team to swing a deal before the trade deadline if they want to continue that success.
If not, the Celtics could resort to watching the playoffs from their couch for the first time since 2007.
In recent comments, Boston GM Danny Ainge did not appear to share that same mentality:
I’m probably in the same place Doc (Rivers) is. We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet…
We don’t need to make a change. We need to get better. So between the players and the coaches and the management, we’re all working together to try to figure out how to get better.
While it’s nice to see the GM have such faith in his coach and players, simply sending good vibes the team’s way is not going to deliver any wins. They need much more than that.
Sure, in recent years, the Celtics have struggled early on before picking things up during the stretch run. But, how many of those runs could have been upgraded to championship runs if Ainge had made a midseason deal?
Boston is currently 14-13 and No. 7 in the Eastern Conference. With its recent lackluster play—2-4 over the last six games—now is not the time to leave the team’s success up to faith and optimism.
The Celtics need to make a move now.
Areas of Concern
What should the Celtics' plan of action be?
With Boston racking up 41 rebounds during its Christmas Day game, while the Miami Heat only grabbed 34, the Celtics are no longer last in the league in rebounding.
However, the team still ranks last in offensive rebounding with a per-game average of 7.7.
On a positive note, Boston ranks No. 13 in the league in defensive rebounds with 30.9 per game. But a total average of 38.6 rebounds per game is nothing to brag about.
Not the best company to be keeping.
Then there’s Boston’s deficiency when it comes to interior defense.
The Celtics currently rank No. 23 in opponent points in the paint, allowing 42.6 points per game. That’s a solid drop from the No. 10 position they held last season.
Furthermore, the team ranks No. 27 in blocks, only averaging 4.0 blocks per game. Garnett leads Boston with a per-game average of 0.78.
With the team’s areas of concern taken into consideration, it becomes apparent that Boston is in major need of another big man. Someone who can rebound, defend the paint and has the ability to score.
As it stands, the Celtics are currently starting Jason Collins at center.
While he certainly has the height—Collins is listed at 7’—he has not given the team much else. In eight games this season, Collins is averaging 1.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game in 13.6 minutes a night. The fact that he’s only shooting 33.3 percent from the floor does not help his cause, either.
Boston’s other big men, Brandon Bass (8.3 PTS, 5.4 REBS, 0.7 BLKS) and Jared Sullinger (5.1 PTS, 5.1 REBS, 0.5 BLKS), haven’t been too much better.
So what now?
The Celtics, ranked 29th in rebounding, do have a strong interest in Cavs' Anderson Varejao, but the question is sulia.com/my_thoughts/fb…— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) December 20, 2012
With per-game averages of 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds, Varejao would seem to be a perfect fit in Boston. He has the height, the intensity on the glass and can score with relative ease. Furthermore, he has helped Cleveland rank No. 13 in opponent points in the paint.
But Boston’s lack of assets to exchange will ultimately put a damper on any possible deal.
At 7-23, the Cavaliers will be looking to rebuild. That makes Sullinger, paired with draft picks and a couple of other players, the perfect bargaining chip.
However, Cleveland showed no interest in Sullinger on draft day and that’s unlikely to change following the slow start to his rookie season.
That only leaves the 22-year-old Avery Bradley to spark the Cavaliers’ interest. But don’t expect Ainge to let the youngster leave the city anytime soon.
DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings is another option for the Celtics to consider.
In 23 games this season, the 22-year-old is averaging 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. While he is certainly making strides on the court in his third year in the league, Cousins’ off-court issues have cast a shadow on just how coachable he is.
Former-ESPN analyst Chris Sheridan has suggested a trade proposal that would entail receiving Cousins and Tyler Honeycutt in exchange for Sullinger, Bradley and Fab Melo.
Again, Boston does not benefit from giving away Bradley in this situation. Especially because they would also have to put up with the antics and immaturity of Cousins in return.
Not worth it.
So what about a low-risk, low-priced move instead?
As I have mentioned before, Kenyon Martin should be someone Boston seriously looks into picking up soon.
At 34, Martin still has a couple more good years of basketball left in him. Plus, his veteran leadership and experience would be invaluable to younger players such as Sullinger and Bass.
I mean, c’mon, could he really perform any worse than Collins is playing right now?
Summing It All Up
No matter how confident Ainge may be that the Celtics will turn things around, the team has to make a move before the deadline. And with the deadline in mid-February, signing a player like Martin now makes a lot of sense.
Not only will the move provide Boston with instant relief for some of its nagging shortcomings, but it will also give the team more time to build up the stock of possible trade bait (i.e. Sullinger, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green).
The Celtics took last year’s NBA-champion Heat to seven games, while dealing with all these same ailments. How far do you think they could have gone if they had made a midseason move to address those issues?
Count me as someone who does not want to ask this same question come next December.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of December 26, 2012
Also check out: Are C's Underachieving, or Are They Not Contenders?
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988