Seven thoughts on the Boston Celtics while marveling how, just one week after the team's season ended in the NBA Finals, the page so immediately turned to offseason roster construction:
- It’s not a surprise that draft night passed with minimal activity for the Celtics. It felt unlikely the team was going to find anyone that was going to aid a championship-caliber roster anywhere in the second round of the draft, let alone at No. 53. Boston doesn’t have a lot of desirable trade assets -- maybe that’s why we’ve spent most of the week ready to fistfight the "Trade Smart!" brigade -- and it simply felt that Boston’s energy was better spent pondering veteran options with its traded player exceptions and taxpayer midlevel.
- The J.D. Davison highlight reel was unexpectedly fun and the Celtics will roll the dice that his freak athleticism can translate with development at the pro level. We’re intrigued to see how he looks compared to Boston’s summer league crew, especially their overseas stashes in Yam Madar and Juhann Begarin. Shoutout to every Celtics fan who made the same, "He’ll fit in perfectly here!" quip about Davison when they realized he had an impossibly high turnover percentage of 27 percent during his lone season at Alabama. But his hair is as amazing as some of his dunks and blocks.
- The conversation on our "Celtics Post Up" draft night program landed heavy on the possibility of whether Boston could make a strong push for Kevin Durant in the event that the Kyrie Irving calamity led to a full scale implosion in Brooklyn.
While we relent that every front office has to have that difficult conversation if a player of Durant’s caliber ever becomes available, we are lukewarm on the idea that Boston should part with whatever ransom it might take to deliver Durant.
Durant is scheduled to make $44.1 million during the 2022-23 season. Any package to get Brooklyn’s interest starts with Jaylen Brown -- which already makes us uncomfortable given his age and development here -- but then you wonder if the Nets would desire other young pieces and a bounty of future first-round picks. Maybe that’s just the price of landing one of the NBA’s best players.
Alas, the notion of including Robert Williams in any package already including Brown is simply a non-starter for us. Yes, even for Durant. Ultimately, we think the Durant conversation isn’t worth too much time until the dominos really start falling.
- It's a pretty good problem to have if you’re a team that both has the assets to jump into any Durant conversation or still be a championship contender even if you don’t.
For all the areas of Brown’s game that still need to develop, it’s telling that there’s still a bit of hesitation when you ponder even a fictional deal for Durant. Maybe it comes down to age. Brown turns 26 in October; Durant will be 34 in September and missed a good chunk of time in each of the past two seasons.
You almost feel bad that Brown’s name is invariably invoked in these sort of situations (just like it was when James Harden became available a couple years back). Alas, to be considered worthy of being swapped for an MVP-caliber talent is quite the compliment and speaks to Brown’s progress (and future).
- The Celtics are hopeful that internal development can fix a fair amount of what ailed the team's bench at the finish line of the 2021-22 season. But it was interesting to hear Ime Udoka join the chorus calling for more bench consistency moving forward.
"The biggest part will be internal growth, obviously, with our guys and, like I said, everybody improving, as I mentioned to the team coming back but better next year than we were this year," said Udoka. "So that's a big part of it. But also obviously free agency is a huge deal coming up and we do have some needs to address. For us, consistency across the board.
"We have a defensive mindset but also sharing the basketball and anything we can add, position wise, to help us with that will be beneficial. So for us, consistent scoring off the bench is a huge key. You'd like to look at certain positions, and I think we have a lot of things covered, but can always have additions with the trade exceptions we have. So we'll take a look at a certain amount of names that are available, possibly, and see if we can fit anything in numbers wise.
"But there are some things to address and I think the thing that stood out a little bit in the Finals was our bench scoring, kind of solidifying that with a veteran, veteran roles off the bench. We had some young guys we really relied on -- Payton [Pritchard], Derrick [White], Grant [Williams] -- and those guys grew tremendously throughout the year, and we need to see more of that, but certain positions and roles need to be touched on and we have a good amount of names that we're looking at and hopefully some of those things work out for us."
- It’s fun to daydream about the crop of sharpshooters who might fit into Boston’s $17.1 million traded player exception, players like Duncan Robinson, Kevin Huerter, or Luke Kennard. But the more we hear Boston brass talk about their needs, the more we think there will also be a priority placed on defensive-minded bigs and wings that can ease the load on Boston’s starters (all while still packing a bit more offensive consistency).
Whether it’s finding another big that can joust with Joel Embiid whenever Al Horford is on the bench, or identifying a big wing that can give you 5-10 minutes of high-level defense to spell Jayson Tatum and Brown on that end, it feels like the Celtics don’t necessarily need the sexiest of additions to bolster the bench. Remember, too, the Celtics can target those sort of additions with smaller TPEs or the $6.4 million midlevel exception if nothing grander materializes with the Evan Fournier TPE.
- It’s important to remember how Boston navigated at the trade deadline this past season. They moved out a possession-eating, offense-focused player in Dennis Schroder to bring in the ball-moving, defense-embracing presence of Derrick White. For as much as we daydream about glitzy offensive players to jumpstart bench production, there’s a balance and every addition the Celtics make moving forward has to ensure that the incoming player is pulling in the same direction as the core.