Celtics' Blueprint for 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2022

Celtics' Blueprint for 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    For the second consecutive season, the Boston Celtics are stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference.

    They have played 118 contests since the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign and won exactly half of them.

    That needs to change fast—like, between now and the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline fast.

    While Boston could theoretically load up for a playoff run or sell off some prominent pieces as part of an on-the-fly reset, this three-step blueprint for trade season is assuming the franchise will opt for the former.

1. Search for the Best Trade-a-Non-Jay Package It Can Get

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    There have been rumblings of potentially breaking up All-Star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but the Celtics "have no interest to split up the two...right now," per The Athletic's Shams Charania.

    Unless some suitor wanted to grossly overpay for one, that was always the right move to make (or not make). Their stars shine bright on both ends of the floor, and Brown, who turned 25 in October, is the senior member of the pairing. The Celtics should do everything they can to make it work with them.

    To do that, the roster must improve around them, and that's the inspiration for Step 1. Boston should cobble together its best assets—probably a package featuring Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder and either draft picks or prospects (or both)—and see the absolute most it can afford with them.

    Could the Shamrocks talk the Philadelphia 76ers out of Ben Simmons? Is that enough to land John Collins or Christian Wood? Is De'Aaron Fox remotely possible? All of these options and more should be explored ad nauseam.

2. Find a Floor General

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    The Celtics are getting nearly 50, mostly efficient points out of Tatum and Brown per night. So why is this attack buried at 22nd in the offensive efficiency rankings?

    More than anything, this offense suffers from a lack of playmaking.

    Smart is the starting point guard, but this is only the second time in his eight-year career in which that's his primary position. Schroder, who runs the second unit, is wired to think scoring first and distributing second. Al Horford and Robert Williams III are both slick-passing bigs, but running offense through either one is tricky when they don't pose a scoring threat away from the basket.

    Whether or not point guard is where Boston makes its biggest splash, this position needs some attention. Even a passing specialist in the Ricky Rubio mold—though not Rubio himself since he lost his season to an ACL tear—could be helpful in bringing together this often disjointed attack.

3. Get Some Spacers

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Celtics aren't a good shooting team. It would be one thing if they struggled from one specific spot, but they are slotted among the Association's bottom third in both field-goal (44.6 percent, 22nd) and three-point shooting (33.8, 23rd).

    Boston needs to improve in this area, and not just because every modern offense could use more shooting. If the Shamrocks could improve their spacing, it would give Tatum and Brown more room to operate in isolations, widen the attack lanes for Schroder to probe off the bounce and keep the runway clear for Williams' rolls to the rim.

    The itch is great enough that a sniping specialist could make a not insignificant impact. With Tatum underperforming (31.7 percent) and Aaron Nesmith doing the same to a woeful degree (23.5), the Celtics have even less firepower than they thought.

    In a perfect world, though, they would snag a net-shredder who brought something else to the hardwood. Anything from a playmaker with range to a three-and-D forward to a stretch big could really help this club.