Celtics

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

An intriguing young big man is reportedly available on the trade market and, given the question marks in the Celtics’ frontcourt entering the 2019-20 season, it begs the question whether Boston should be intrigued.

The Athletic reported Friday that the Pacers have engaged in trade talks involving 23-year-old big man Domantas Sabonis with the sides far apart in negotiations on a rookie extension in advance of Monday’s deadline.

Sabonis’ name was one that Celtics fans repeatedly invoked this summer after the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. The Pacers last season struggled to find ways for Sabonis and center Myles Turner to coexist. Given Boston’s glut of wings, the two sides seemed like potential trade partners.

Now, it appears the Pacers are motivated and Boston still has an obvious need for a frontcourt upgrade entering the season. The trouble in finding a deal: Indiana’s asking price might simply be more than Boston is willing to pay, especially knowing they will have to pay a high price tag to retain the player after the season.

If the Pacers are simply not committed to try and make the Sabonis/Turner combination work then their leverage in the trade market is weakened. The Athletic’s report noted the Pacers’ asking price, however, has been too high.

The Celtics would not be immediately interested in putting Jaylen Brown into a potential package. The team has been engaged in extension negotiations with Brown and is intrigued to see the strides that he makes this season when Brown’s role won’t be as muddy as it was last season.

Maybe their willingness to move Brown — or another wing — will elevate as the season progresses but the team is eager to see how its youngest stars like Brown and Jayson Tatum perform outside the shadows of Kyrie Irving.

Trying to build a trade package that might interest the Pacers without Brown is a bit more daunting. Celtics first-round pick Romeo Langford, an Indiana native who played at Indiana University and was the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2018, would seemingly intrigue the Pacers and makes the money work in a deal. Still, the Pacers would seemingly be seeking an immediate impact player and/or some of Boston’s future first-round picks, which might be more than Boston is willing to pay given the commitment it would take to maintain Sabonis.

Sabonis has no shortage of potential in a bigger role. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists over just 24.8 minutes per game last season while utilized almost exclusively as a reserve (five starts in 74 appearances). Sabonis is an excellent rebounder, ranking 10th in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (26.9) and 12th in total rebound percentage (18.4).

Defensively, he’s not quite the Joel Embiid/Giannis Antetokounmpo stopper that the Celtics so clearly need to truly contend in the Eas,t but Indiana’s defensive numbers with Sabonis on the court last season were encouraging. The Pacers limited opponents to 103.8 points per 100 possessions with Sabonis on the floor over 1,811 minutes and that number spiked to 106.1 in the 2,082 minutes that Sabonis was on the bench.

Sabonis’ defensive stats were aided by Turner’s presence as Indiana’s defensive rating dropping to 99.2 in the 434 minutes the duo shared the court. And the more noticeable spike with Sabonis on the court without Turner was on the offensive end as Indiana’s offensive rating shot to 109.4 but it was negated slightly by the defensive rating spiking to 104.

Ultimately, the Pacers might simply be gauging Sabonis’ trade value in advance of the tough decision about how to proceed with their bigs. The Celtics should be intrigued but also do not need to rush into a deal before getting a glimpse of how all their new bigs look at the start of the season.

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Michael Holley Podcast: Allison Feaster on playing career, role as Celtics Director of Player Development

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Michael Holley Podcast: Allison Feaster on playing career, role as Celtics Director of Player Development

Michael Holley is joined by Allison Feaster to discuss her Harvard playing days, her time in the WNBA, and her role as Director of Player Development for the Boston Celtics. 

1:30 — Allison Feaster discusses being valedictorian at her high school, and her path to Harvard.

4:00 â€” How difficult was being a student-athlete at Harvard?

8:00 â€” Her career as a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard.

11:00 — Allison reflects on her #16 seed Harvard upsetting the #1 seed Stanford in 1998.

14:00 â€” Being drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks as the fifth overall selection in the 1998 WNBA Draft.

20:00 â€” Goals of continuing to inspire young women.

27:00 â€” Playing basketball overseas.

32:00 â€” Meeting Danny Ainge for the first time and becoming the Boston Celtics' Director of Player Development.

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE TO THE MICHAEL HOLLEY PODCAST:

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Four things you need to know about tonight's Celtics-Suns matchup

Four things you need to know about tonight's Celtics-Suns matchup

Coming off their first loss since the season opener nearly a month ago, all eyes will be on the Boston Celtics as they try to get back to their winning ways tonight in Phoenix. 

A major headline going into the game is the reunion that Celtics players from last season's squad will have with their former teammate and now current Phoenix center, Aron Baynes. 

But there’s a lot more to this game than just that.

With that said, here are four things you need to know about tonight’s matchup. 

1. DEVIN BOOKER

We all remember how he absolutely torched the Celtics a couple years ago for a career-high 70 points. But that’s just one of several games in which Booker has dominated the Celtics like no one has. 

In his last four games against Boston, Booker has averaged an eye-popping 42.8 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field (61-for-122), 87.5 percent (35-for-40) from the free throw line and 35 percent (14-for-40) from 3-point range. 

Forget about limiting him from scoring. 

How about keeping him under 50 points?

2. NO PASSING FANCY

The Suns have done a good job all season of keeping teams on the move defensively with all their ball movement. Through the first 11 games, the Suns are averaging a league-best 28.8 assists per game. 

Phoenix’s ability to effectively probe defenses has allowed them to work the shot clock and get good, quality looks with little time left to shoot. 

This season, NBA.com/stats show that the Suns are shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range when there’s four seconds or less on the shot clock which is the fourth-best mark in the league this season. The Celtics are at the opposite end of that category, connecting on just 20 percent of their shots with four seconds or less on the shot clock, which ranks 21st in the NBA. Boston has been at its best shooting with 15-18 seconds on the shot clock, connecting on a league-best 52.4 percent of its shots within that time frame. 

That ball movement has a way of wearing teams down over the course of a game, which makes tonight’s matchup for the Celtics even more daunting when you factor in it coming on the second night of a back-to-back. 

3. RICKY RUBIO

In what’s turning out to be one of the sneaky-good offseason signings, Ricky Rubio seems to have finally found a basketball home and success with it. The veteran guard, who signed a three-year, $51 million deal after leaving Utah, has had a solid career in Minnesota as well as the last two years with the Jazz, but he never displayed the kind of consistency we have seen thus far with the Suns both in terms of his own individual play and that play fitting in with the team’s success. 

The 29-year-old Rubio is averaging a career-high 13.6 points per game as well as 6.3 rebounds (also a career high) and 8.7 assists while shooting a career-best 37.5 percent from 3-point range. 

Rubio’s ability to be that savvy, veteran playmaker has taken a good chunk of the running of the offense off the shoulders of Devin Booker, who can instead focus on what he needs to do in order to help the Suns win — which is score the ball and be a solid defender. 

And with Rubio’s 6-foot-3 frame with defensive skills that seem to keep getting better with time, the Suns also reap the benefits of having a solid defender in the backcourt with Booker, too. 

4. OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE KEYS

Boston’s defense has shown some slippage lately, something they will have to clean up against a Phoenix team with lots of high-impact, difference-makers on offense. And when you look at these two teams, it’s clear that three specific categories will go far in determining who wins tonight’s game.

Points off turnovers: Phoenix averages a league-best 22.2 points off of turnovers this season. They’ll look to continue along those lines against a Celtics defense that allows a league-low 13.1 points off of turnovers this season.

Fast break points: Phoenix is one of the best fast-break teams in the NBA, evident by them averaging 16.3 fast-break points which ranks fourth in the league. Meanwhile, Boston allows opponents to score 12.3 fast-break points per game, which ranks eighth in the NBA.

Points in the paint: And when it comes to points in the paint, the Suns once again score high marks with a 49.6 points in the paint per game average, which ranks 10th in the league. And once again, Boston’s defense may be the answer to limiting those points in the paint. Teams are averaging 42.8 points in the paint against Boston, which is the third-fewest mark of any team in the league now. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.