Celtics Trade Targets with 2023 NBA Trade Deadline a Month Away
For the first two months of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Boston Celtics enjoyed a charmed existence atop the entire basketball world.
The last month, though, has proved to be anything but charmed.
Tuesday night's 150-117 shellacking at the hands of the rebuilding (and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-less) Oklahoma City Thunder dropped Boston to 5-7 over its last dozen outings.
While a rocky 12-game stretch hardly sinks an entire season, it does suggest this roster could perhaps use an enhancement or two between now and the trade deadline on February 9.
If the Celtics' decision-makers agree with that assessment, it could make sense for them to pursue frontcourt depth. The following three bigs could all help fill a void on the interior.
Mike Muscala, Oklahoma City Thunder
If you're thinking this might be an overreaction to Tuesday's performance, rest assured this is not that. In fact, Mike Muscala was one of the few Thunder players who couldn't get it going that night, totaling five fouls and little else during his 13 scoreless minutes.
That game looks an anomaly, though, and not just for the Celtics. Muscala is much better than he showed that night.
The stretch center, who qualifies as ancient in Oklahoma City as a 31-year-old, has been a helpful reserve for the Thunder. He's shooting 37.2 percent from distance and producing per-36-minutes averages of 15 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 blocks, per Basketball-Reference. He also ranks second among rotation regulars with a plus-15.7 net rating differential, per NBA.com.
If the Celtics make a move for a center, there's an opportunity for someone to step in front of Luke Kornet in the power rotation. Muscala's ability to space the floor and provide some level of paint protection could help him carve out a niche role.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz
Celtics fans are familiar with Kelly Olynyk, who arrived during a 2013 draft-night deal and spent his first four seasons in Boston.
The franchise could help itself by bringing its old friend back in the fold.
The 31-year-old may not be the biggest reason the Jazz have outperformed expectations this season, but he's played a part in that success. He's been razor-sharp on the offensive end, delivering 12.4 points per outing on 50.7/42.1/83.3 shooting and rounding out his stat sheet with 4.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 triples.
As Boston's third big, Olynyk could add new layers to this attack without forcing the team to sacrifice size. He isn't the most impactful defender you'll find, but the Celtics have enough perimeter stoppers to prevent nightly parades into the paint.
Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves
While the Timberwolves have mostly been a mess this season, Naz Reid ranks favorably among their few bright spots.
There was a chance the 23-year-old could get crunched out of a frontcourt rotation featuring Karl-Anthony Towns and newcomers Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson, but he has been too productive to sit. His shooting rates from the field (54.6 percent) and from distance (36) are both the best of his career.
When Reid finds the floor, he typically leaves a huge imprint on the stat sheet despite seeing relatively little time on the hardwood (18.1 minutes per night). His per-36-minutes averages of 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 1.9 blocks, per Basketball-Reference, attest to that high activity level.
In terms of net differential, his minus-0.2 mark actually bests both Towns (minus-0.9) and Gobert (minus-6.8), per NBA.com.
Still, Minnesota might be motivated to move Reid, since the colossal sums owed to Towns and Gobert could make it impossible to justify covering the cost of the LSU product's upcoming free agency.