Celtics

Who should the C's target?

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Who should the C's target?

With back-to-back losses over the weekend, the Celtics now stand at 12-11 on the season. They're also currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, only a half game ahead of Philly for a spot in the NBA lottery.

Naturally, it's early. But when you look at the teams ahead of Boston in the standings New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Indiana you get the sense that they're all (with the possible exception of Milwaukee) around for the long haul, and ready to contend with the Celtics from now until the end of April.

Once we get there, it's a different story; a very different beast. But with the playoffs still four months away, the Celtics have a ton of work to do. While they started this season with all their bases covered, with a roster built for success in the regular season and beyond, recent developments have left the C's in a place of weakness. With specifics voids that need to be filled in order to compete at the highest level.

And when I say "voids," I really just mean one particular, but enormous void. The same one I've been talking about for weeks.

A big man. Someone to give KG and Wilcox a little help help down low. Someone to give the Celtics a physical edge. Someone that will make the opponent think twice before entering the paint. Someone who can rebound?

Yes! Please.

As of Saturday, most NBA players who signed a new contract this summer became eligible to be traded. And while there are still a few players, including Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, who won't be eligible until January 15, the in flux of available players should set the wheels in motion on some legitimate NBA trade talk.

We've heard Marcin Gortat's name thrown around for the last few weeks, and I'm on record as saying that I'd do this particular trade in a heartbeat. But who else might be out there?

In a recent post on Grantland, Zach Lowe threw out a collection of potential NBA trade targets and mentioned two guys that I feel would fit well with Boston.

The first is Jason Thompson. The 26-year-old, former lottery pick is averaging 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in 30.4 minutes a night for Sacramento. He also just signed a five-year extension worth slightly more than 30 million. So, why would Sacramento trade him? Well, because he plays the same position as 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson. Not to mention, while it would take far more than one move to get the Kings back trending in the right direction, they could certainly benefit from the acquisition of a young, athletic defense-minded shooting guard like Lee. Especially when the rest of their back court consists of defenseless dudes like Tyreke Evans, Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Thomas and the one and only Jimmer Fredette.

How about Thompson for Lee and Fab Melo?

How about that same package for Portland's JJ Hickson? You remember JJ as the guy who the Cavs refused to trade for Amare Stoudmire back in the day (even though it would have made LeBron so happy), before eventually trading him to Sacramento for Omar Casspi and a first round pick.

Hickson was miserable in Sacramento, and eventually released, before signing with the Blazers and re-discovering his game. So far this season, he's averaging 12 points and 10.5 rebounds (four on the offensive glass) in 28.2 minutes a night, and while that (and his modest one year4 million dealer) might not make him a candidate to be moved, there's speculation that the Blazers might considering trading Hickson to keep the minutes open for LaMarcus Aldridge.

And whatever, this is all just speculation. But 'tis the season. And regardless of what actually unfolds, you can bet that the Celtics will be in on every conversation. For one, because they always are. And two, because this time, they really need to be.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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