Marcus Smart

Associated Press

Jae Crowder told Celtics of concern about so much wing depth before trade

1 Comment

Jae Crowder saw himself as part of a crowded wing spot in Boston. Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were obviously going to start at the two and the three, but after them Crowder, Jayson Tatum, at times Marcus Smart, and even Semi Ojeleye could get some run on the wing. Were there enough minutes to go around?

At his introductory press conference in Cleveland Thursday, Crowder explained what happened when he told the Celtics about his concerns.

“I had a little concern because we had a lot of wing players stacked up. I was a little concerned, and I made it clear to the organization that I was concerned about it and I just wanted some more direction, you know? I think they gave it to me with the trade. They gave me what they wanted to do. They showed me what they wanted to do. I respected it.”

Boston is betting big on Tatum and Brown to develop and take up the 3&D role that Crowder filled well. That could take another year or two of development, but Danny Ainge has always had the Celtics playing the long game. The Celtics have so many picks and assets, they can still get players to fill roles (perimeter defense, as well as rim protection, are still question marks).

The Celtics could afford to move on from Crowder, despite his skills and great contract. But getting him is a big win for Cleveland.

Report: Celtics leaning toward starting Al Horford at center

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
5 Comments

Al Horford is the Celtics’ best center, and he’s best at center.

But that was also true last season, when Boston primarily started Amir Johnson at center.

Many – myself included – expected Aron Baynes to start at center this season with Johnson joining the 76ers. The burlier Baynes could battle opposing starting centers, allowing Horford to avoid wear and tear. Horford could still finish close games at center, play far more minutes than the start and play the position more in the playoffs, as he did last season.

Alas, the Celtics apparently have a different plan.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

I do think they’re going to start Horford at center, which is interesting. I think, organizationally, that’s the way they’re leaning.

This is the Celtics’ ticket to starting with their best lineup on the floor. They can now start three, rather than two, of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris between Horford and Kyrie Irving.

Why the change from last year’s approach?

Perhaps, Boston wants to give its new players – 11 of 15 – a better chance of jelling in their optimal lineup construction. Maybe the Celtics just want to acclimate Horford to center as much as possible before he plays the position nearly exclusively in the playoffs.

Or maybe they’re simply not overthinking it.

Though I am concerned about Horford handling that load all season, Boston is clearly best in the short term this way.

Celtics attempting gambit not accomplished in decades

Elsa/Getty Images
7 Comments

The Celtics were the youngest team to win a playoff series last season.

They apparently weren’t young enough for their own taste.

Boston’s trade for Kyrie Irving was the most dramatic step in a youth movement by a team that won 53 games and reached the conference finals a year go.

The Celtics lost four of their top six in playoff minutes (Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk) and replaced them with – top four newcomers by value – Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Guerschon Yabusele. Average age of the outgoing players right now? 27.2. Average age of the incoming players? 23.5.

Most teams with seasons like Celtics keep the core together, meaning everyone gets a year older. That doesn’t apply in Boston, which shed 11 of 15 players.

Marcus Morris (27) and Aron Baynes (30) are in line for rotation roles. Al Horford is 31. They’ll hedge against the team’s average age freefalling. But returners Marcus Smart (23), Terry Rozier (23) and Jaylen Brown (20) should receive larger roles previously held by much older veterans.

The Celtics had an average age – using players’ ages Feb. 1 and weighted by playing time, the same method used in this post’s first sentence – of 25.9 in the 2017 postseason. Just three teams had an average age below 26 during a postseason in which they won a playoff series then got even younger while still winning a playoff series the following year:

  • 1956 Syracuse Nationals
  • 1959 Minneapolis Lakers
  • 1960 Los Angeles Lakers

The Celtics will try to become the fourth. They’re not only expected to advance again, but return to the conference finals – and once again face the Cavaliers.

LeBron James looms over all this, his seven-year stranglehold over the East causing many to believe last year’s Celtics had hit their ceiling. If Boston somehow got past him, the all-time-great Warriors loom in the Finals.

It’s logical for the Celtics to delay their window.

Boston has between four and six first-round picks the next two years, and the two uncertain ones will eventually convey. The Celtics possess the tools to keep getting even younger.

But, as punctuated by trading the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-rounder for Irving, this isn’t a complete teardown.

The Celtics are attempting the rare feat of rebuilding on the fly. They’re even doing it with an added degree of difficulty – starting the process already young.

Report: Celtics had concerns how Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward would mesh

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Boston Celtics got their man this summer — they signed Gordon Hayward as a free agent. Didn’t cost them one of their trade assets.

The Celtics are on the verge of adding a new All-Star to play with him in Kyrie Irving, if and when that trade involving Isaiah Thomas finally goes through. Boston is banking on those two All-Stars, along with Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and more quality role players, will be the future in the East.

But why are the Celtics willing to throw in their unprotected 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick for Irving and not for the other big names available this summer, Jimmy Butler and Paul George? Why not go after both of them (which would mean no Hayward)? Zach Lowe of ESPN delved into that.

The ‘why not Butler and George?’ questions are dicier. Timing played a part. Boston wanted two All-Star-level building blocks. They feared flipping their golden trade chip for the first one, whiffing on the second, and ending up having squandered their best asset to build a team that wasn’t appreciably better than their previous iteration of LeBron roadkill.

They preferred signing the first one — Hayward — in free agency, and then jumping headlong into the trade market. They may well have Paul George now had the Pacers waited another 10 days, but Boston was concerned George would leave for the Lakers in a year. Irving’s deal runs one season longer, and he has already relayed an enthusiasm for playing in Boston.

The Celtics had some concerns over how Hayward and Butler would mesh, both on the court and as personalities, sources say.”

The Celtics have concerns about how Butler and Hayward would get along but not Irving and Hayward? Does Hayward hate country music that much?

I get the concerns about going all in for George, he has just one year left on his deal and an eye on Los Angeles next summer. Maybe the Celtics could win him over and convince him to stay, but how much are they willing to risk in a trade on that bet. Consider this about the 538th time someone around the league — from executives to media — wondered why the Pacers pulled the cord on the OKC deal and not have waited out the market a little.

But Butler… I’d rather have him than Hayward. And he’s got two years left on his deal.

Still, while we can second guess Danny Ainge (and we will), he has his team set up to be a threat to Cleveland this year and take over the top spot in the East in two years. He is doing something right.

Report confirms rumor: Cavaliers to ask for more compensation after Isaiah Thomas physical

12 Comments

This is what we had written about coming, what was rumored about and discussed around the league and the NBA talking world:

After getting a look at the results of Isaiah Thomas‘ physical, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to ask for more compensation — likely another draft pick — to complete the Kyrie Irving trade, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

After Cleveland’s physical examination of Isaiah Thomas’ injured hip raised concern about the timeline for his return this season, Cavaliers officials are planning to seek an additional trade asset before finalizing a deal to send four-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, league sources said…

The Cavaliers’ stance could trigger a standoff between Cleveland and Boston officials, forcing both organizations to weigh the consequences of letting the blockbuster trade implode.

Just as a reminder, the trade sends Kyrie Irving to Boston for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the unprotected Brooklyn pick in the 2018 draft.

Neither side wants the deal to fall apart. Cleveland really wants that Brooklyn pick, and the combination of Thomas and Crowder keep them as the team to beat in the East this season. Boston covets Kyrie Irving and, with Gordon Hayward on the wing and quality players around them (Al Horford, Marcus Smart, etc.) this team is poised to be second best team in the East good this year and very good in a couple of years.

Both sides have some leverage here. Cleveland really wants to move Irving, and the market outside Boston has not been great. Plus, they really want that Brooklyn pick, but if IT is injured more than is being let on then that hurts their chances of contending this year. The Celtics would still be very good if the deal fell apart — if Thomas isn’t that injured (and his and Crowder’s psyches are not too bruised).

The question is how much compensation are we talking about? Would Boston throw in one more second round pick (theirs or others they have access to)? Will Cleveland demand a first rounder, either Boston’s or a future Clipper pick starting in 2019 (I see no way the Celtics would give up the 2018 Laker pick or the 2019 Memphis pick, both of which have protections and future options depending on what happens)? From the outside it seems a second rounder gets the deal done, but who knows.

Meanwhile, the lives and families of Irving, Thomas, Crowder, and Zizic are in limbo.