Celtics Players Who Need to Boost Trade Value in 2021 Playoffs
The Boston Celtics entered the 2020-21 NBA season with championship dreams, and they will almost assuredly exit it with a ticket to the play-in tournament.
Brad Stevens' squad ranks among the Association's biggest disappointments, and even the arrival of the postseason only offers so much relief since the Shamrocks will have to play it without Jaylen Brown, whose campaign is finished because of a torn ligament in his left wrist.
Obviously, the Celtics won't have the year they were hoping for, but they could still make some progress in the postseason.
Winning games would be a welcome source of short-term relief, but the biggest long-term prize might be a spike in trade value for the following three players.
The Celtics have made five lottery picks since 2010. Three helped set the organization's foundation: Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart. Another arrived in November, but it's too soon to tell what kind of role Aaron Nesmith will play going forward.
The fifth was Romeo Langford, drafted 14th overall in 2019 and has been perplexing ever since.
Before arriving in Boston, he tantalized with three-level scoring and defensive potential. Since joining the Celtics, he has battled both injuries and inefficiencies. He only has 47 big league games under his belt, so no one should rush to judgment yet, but his stat sheet offers zero sources of optimism: career 2.4 points and 0.5 assists in 12.5 minutes per game, 33.6/21.4/75.9 shooting slash.
Still, he's only 21 and possess intriguing physical tools. He might catch someone's interest as a possible trade sweetener, but that's easier to sell if he somehow finds his way to playoff minutes and manages to make the most of them.
The mere suggestion of a Marcus Smart trade might qualify as blasphemy in Boston, so let's tread carefully here.
The Celtics should not be in a hurry to move their emotional leader, bulldog defender and sneaky-good table-setter. But if they feel significant roster changes are needed—always a possibility with an underperforming club—they don't have any other avenues to explore.
Brown and Tatum are untouchable. Kemba Walker might be at his current pay rate (though we will discuss him more in a minute). The only other significant salaries belong to Smart ($14.3 million next season) and Tristan Thompson ($9.7 million). Thompson is maybe a neutral value on his contract, and that might be generous. Smart is an actual asset.
The 27-year-old is tricky, though, as a shooting guard who can't really shoot (career 37.6 percent overall, 32.0 from three). He also hasn't previously popped like this as a playmaker (personal-best 5.7 assists). He's such an effective defensive weapon that being an above-average player on offense would make him a tremendous two-way asset.
A strong shooting postseason could give a serious spike to his trade stock.
Kemba Walker is one season removed from his most recent All-Star appearance. He is one night removed from his latest 30-point outburst, which was preceded by two other 30-pointers in his previous three games.
He may not initially seem like someone in need of a value boost.
But check the game logs. This mini-run of 30-point performances was preceded by four consecutive games missed. He has only played in 43 of Boston's 69 games and often not appeared his normal self while battling left knee problems that go back to January 2020. He has his fewest points per game (19.3) and lowest field-goal percentage (42.0) since 2014-15.
The 31-year-old is set to collect $36 million next season and holds a $37.7 million player option for the following year.
Maybe it's nothing more than wishful thinking to hope Walker could restore his trade value this postseason, but he can be great. He has been great before. If he looks great now and carries the Celtics further than expected, maybe the trade market will come to see him as a great player again.