Boston Celtics are proving they have enough star talent to win a championship
All the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics in recent years has said that this team is just one or two superstar additions from winning a title, or at least seriously contending for one.
And after the Celtics lost in the first round of the playoffs for a second-straight year last season, that sentiment has carried over into this year – despite adding marquee free agent Al Horford in the offseason.
But that was before All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas started averaging 27 points and 6.2 assists through 27 games played so far. That was before defensive guru Avery Bradley upped his offensive game to finally be recognized as a potential star himself. That was before Horford started playing to the max deal he signed in the summer, averaging 15.7 points, seven rebounds, five assists and 2.1 blocks per game as the team’s center.
I count three stars right there, with Marcus Smart showing early signs of possibly getting to that level too. Does Boston really need another?
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Right now, the Celtics sit in third place of the Eastern Conference with an 19-13 record. Boston has won six of its last seven games and is starting to find a balance it can ride into the postseason, as noted by our own Joshua Bateman.
No, that record isn’t perfect, and the Celtics can be frustratingly inconsistent. It doesn’t help that they’ve only played about 18 games with a healthy lineup, and are 6-8 in games where they need to overcome adversity.
That doesn’t scream contender, but not because Boston needs another superstar. The offense is more than functional, ranking 12th in the NBA with 105.5 points per game. The defense is respectable with a deep defensive core of Bradley, Smart, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Terry Rozier and Horford.
Areas where another star would be needed aren’t the problem. Instead, it’s just one little (but big) area where the Celtics need help; rebounding.
Nearly halfway through the season, Boston is allowing a whopping 11.4 offensive rebounds to opponents per game. That’s the fourth-most allowed in the NBA, which leads to the fifth-most second chance points allowed per game (14.2) in the meantime.
Considering that only three of the Celtics’ 13 losses this year have been by more than eight points, those 14 second chance points allowed each and every game sure do make a large impact. Say the Celtics had another big man – not a superstar, but a decent role player – and had helped cut that second chance point total in half, this team would 29-3 instead of 19-13.
Just let that soak in for a second. 29-3.
With half of those second chance points allowed gone away, Boston catapults its defense from 103.3 points allowed per game to 96.2 points. That would rank second in the NBA, trailing ony the Utah Jazz.
Forget more scoring options. Forget another defending forward. Just add one more big man that could rebound the ball more efficiently than Johnson, Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk, and Boston would be one of the premier teams in this league.
Does that require a superstar big man like DeMarcus Cousins or Anthony Davis? Not at all.
The Denver Nuggets have the best rebounding ranks out of any team in the NBA, and they sit at 13-18 with the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur as their big men. The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Phoenix Suns rank around the top of the NBA in rebounding as well, and none of those teams have an elite core of bigs to rack up rebounds.
It can be done without a superstar player to matchup with Horford.
Beyond that, do you really want general manager Danny Ainge to trade away Bradley, Crowder or Smart, along with first-round draft picks, in order to acquire a big man of that star caliber? That would seriously mess with the flow of this team.
And with that addition of star, that means the Celtics would take on a hefty contract they need to pay for. With Horford already signed to a max deal, that would leave no money to re-sign Thomas, Bradley or Smart to the money they will warrant once they reach free agency after next season. If one or more of them left, Boston would need to rediscover the style of play it has become accustomed to.
Trading for a superstar at this point not only seems unnecessary, but also seems like it could be detrimental for the long-term future of the team. The only area the Celtics need to improve on is rebounding, an area that plenty of cheap trade possibilities could help fix. Why trade away current assets for a star when a simple role player would work wonders?
It just doesn’t make sense.