Best Potential 2016-17 NBA Trade Deadline Targets for Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are a top-three team in the Eastern Conference, but there are still a couple glaring flaws on the roster.
The biggest issue is Boston ranking 29th in defensive rebounding rate, a problem that comes as no surprise to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“My biggest concern even before the year started was defensive rebounding,” Ainge told the Boston Herald back in November. “I think that we are a small team and a quick team, and we have to do it collectively. We don’t have one of those guys that gets all the rebounds, and that was our problem last year, and it’s going to be a problem this year, too.”
With an undersized frontcourt and a couple of veterans (Al Horford, Amir Johnson) showing declines in their boarding numbers, look for Ainge to be on the hunt for a big man with size who can hold his own on the glass.
The Celtics will also always be on the hunt for a superstar deal.
But with few big names seemingly available on the open market, the smart money on hunting for players with expiring contracts. Those deals will help Boston maintain its cap space for a run at a maximum-salary free agent this summer.
Andrew Bogut, C, Dallas Mavericks
The Celtics have already shown interest in Andrew Bogut, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
The Dallas Mavericks center may be past his prime, but he's putting up the best defensive rebounding rate (39.5 percent) of his career. That interior presence would be a welcome addition to a roster currently led in rebounding by 6'2'' Avery Bradley.
Bogut, 32, has previously showed (with the Golden State Warriors) that he can be a useful rim protector in a "pace and space" offense, a similar style to what Brad Stevens has implemented in Boston. He's currently averaging 2.1 blocks per 100 possessions, despite an injury-riddled 2016-17 season, a number that would currently be third-best on the Celtics behind Horford and Tyler Zeller.
Offensively, the 7-footer has been a bit of mess (career-worst 32.7 percent turnover rate), but some of that blame can be put on a shorthanded Dallas offense that lacks creators. The Celtics are a top-10 attack, and Bogut's crafty passing out of the high post could be a useful asset alongside Horford.
Bogut's $11 million expiring contract shouldn't force Ainge to meet a high asking price. Zeller's deal works for cap-matching purposes, and the Celtics could add one or two second-round picks from their draft stash to sweeten the deal.
Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Philadelphia 76ers
Ersan Ilyasova has already been traded once during the 2016-17 season, and he's thrived since joining the Philadelphia 76ers. The 6'10'' power forward is averaging a career-high 13.9 points per game while earning a modest $8.4 million in the final year of his contract.
Ilyasova also serves as one of the few bigs that can effectively space the floor for head coach Brett Brown.
But the Celtics are a team that loves to let it fly from three-point range (fourth in attempts in NBA), so the Turkish big's resurgence from beyond the arc makes him a terrific fit. Ilyasova's shooting 39 percent from downtown, his best mark since the 2012-13 season. His 5.1 attempts per game are also a career high, making his completion rate even more impressive.
In addition to the hot shooting, the 29-year-old is rebounding the ball at a terrific rate, snagging 8.6 boards per 36 minutes. That combination of outside proficiency and glass work would make him an upgrade over any big on the Boston roster outside of Horford.
The Sixers are fans of Ilyasova's recent play, but it's hard to see him being a long-term fit with the glut of bigs (Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons) already signed through the next few seasons.
Given Philadelphia's need for backcourt help, the Celtics could dangle Terry Rozier and Zeller (for salary-matching purposes) in return for Ilyasova and another bench player in the potential deal.
Nick Young, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
the re-emergence of Nick Young has to be one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard has bounced back from a tumultuous 2015-16 campaign on and off the floor to post the best shooting numbers of his career through 30 games. The 31-year-old ranks among league leaders in both three-point shooting percentage (44.3 percent) and three-point attempts per game (6.8) while fully embracing Luke Walton's uptempo offense.
His 14.6 points per contest put him third on the Lakers behind only Lou Williams and D'Angelo Russell.
The Celtics shoot 35.5 percent from beyond the arc, but they lack reliable shooting depth on the wing behind Jae Crowder and Bradley. Young guards Marcus Smart and Rozier have inconsistent strokes, and rookie small forward Jaylen Brown has not yet forced defenses to respect his jumper. Young could help solve that spacing problem for Boston's second unit.
The 31-year-old wing has never been known for his defense, but he's been routinely praised by Walton for stepping up in that department this year.
“We put Nick on the other team’s best player a lot this year. He’s done a great job in making them work,” Walton told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register.
Young is also earning a reasonable $5.44 million this season; He has a player option for $5.7 million for 2017-18 that he's likely to opt out of with the league's rising salary cap. This could be an intriguing add for Boston in exchange for draft considerations since the Lakers are already loaded with young backcourt talent and are looking toward the future.
Will Barton, SG, Denver Nuggets
Boston has lacked a creator off the bench ever since Evan Turner departed for the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency last summer. Smart's shooting numbers remain dismal during his third season and teammate Rozier is struggling as well, shooting just 37.9 percent from the field.
The lackluster performances from Smart and Rozier have led to Boston's offense dropping considerably whenever Isaiah Thomas sits. In order to take some pressure off Thomas and the rest of the starters, Ainge would be wise to invest in another playmaker like Will Barton.
The Denver Nuggets have plenty of depth at the shooting guard position in Barton, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, making one of them expendable in the right deal. Barton has been a stellar sixth man for Mike Malone off the bench since arriving in 2014 (via a trade with the Blazers), averaging 13.6 points per game over the past three seasons.
Barton is on a bargain contract, earning just $3.5 million over the next two years, meaning it may be difficult for Boston to pry him away. The Nuggets could be on the hunt for upgrades to their 27th-ranked defense, so a package centered around Smart and Kelly Olynyk (with the Nuggets throwing in a rebounding big like Jusuf Nurkic) could help fill needs for both teams.
Nerlens Noel, PF, Philadelphia 76ers
The Celtics have been linked to Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel as far back as the 2014 NBA Draft, when Jake Fischer of SI.com reported Ainge was pursuing him in trade talks.
While Smart may no longer be on the table as part of an offer for the 6'11'' forward, Noel's rebounding and defense would be a big help for Boston's frontcourt.
The problem (for the Celtics) is that the Sixers have held out thus far for a strong return, despite the fact the former No. 6 overall pick is in the final year of his rookie contract.
"I will only make deals that make sense for this organization," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo told Keith Pompey of Philly.com. "Hopefully we can make mutual benefit to both the organizations and players involved in whichever respective trades between the [February] trade deadline or before the [June] draft, ultimately."
Injuries and a frontcourt logjamhave kept Noel's minutes and production down for much of the season, but his athleticism and rim protection would be a nice complement to Horford. If the Celtics decide they want to invest in him long-term, giving up a young guard (Rozier) and draft considerations may be worth it to have him under team control during restricted free agency next summer.
All statistics and contract information courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted and are current as of Jan. 3. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.