After battling injuries and COVID protocols all season long, the Boston Celtics claimed the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and lost in five games to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Now the Celtics are entering a very important offseason in 2021.
Shortly after the season ended, the Celtics announced that Danny Ainge would be resigning as General Manager and that Brad Stevens would take his place, leaving the team without a head coach. In his first several weeks in office, Stevens made quick work. He completed a trade that sent Kemba Walker and a 2021 first round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford and Moses Brown. Stevens then found his replacement in Ime Udoka, a former assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets.
Now, let’s examine three moves the Celtics should make to continue their already successful offseason.
Swap Tristan Thompson for Elfrid Payton
The Knicks success this season has opened the door to several big name free agents this offseason. Adding Tristan Thompson to the mix would only help as the team relied on Taj Gibson at starting center for most of the season, after Mitchell Robinson suffered a season ending injury. Thompson, an NBA Champion in 2016, would also bring in leadership and experience to a Knicks squad that couldn’t find their groove in the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Celtics would be getting a pass-first point guard who showed flashes this past season. Payton would call for a significant decrease in shots per game compared to Walker and would be able to create shot opportunities for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Down the stretch and in the playoffs, the Knicks relied more heavily on point guards Derrick Rose and rookie Immanuel Quickly, so they wouldn’t hesitate adding more frontcourt depth.
Thompson is set to make close to $10 million in the final year of his contract. Payton, however, is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so he would have to agree to a sign-and-trade for a value close to 10 million per year to make this deal work.
Re-Sign Evan Fournier
During this year’s trade deadline, the Celtics traded two second round picks for Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier. In his 16 games with Boston, Fournier averaged 13 points per game and shot a career-best 46 percent on three pointers. Two major factors last season were Fournier testing positive for COVID shortly after his arrival to Boston, and the constant injury battle the Celtics faced, which didn’t allow the team to find their groove.
With a full offseason to get healthy and build chemistry with his teammates, and the departure of Kemba Walker, the Celtics should not hesitate to re-sign Fournier to a deal close to $20 million per year. His stellar shooting would cause defenders to hug the perimeter, giving Brown and Tatum more space to drive to the rim and create for other teammates. Fournier would also likely come off the bench, similar to the role he thrived in during his six years with the Magic.
Trade up in the Draft
After trading away their first round selection in the Walker trade, the Celtics are left with only one second round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. At this point in the offseason, it is highly unlikely that Stevens will use the pick due to the lack of open roster spots. Therefore, trading several of their young pieces to move up in the draft is the best option for the Celtics on Draft Night.
A move that would open roster spots and clear cap space would be to deal Carsen Edwards, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and the second round pick to move into the back half of the first round. One specific team that would benefit from this trade is the Houston Rockets, who have the 24th pick in the draft. They would take on three young players who would have the chance to play big minutes and develop at a faster rate.
As for the Celtics, grabbing a first round pick in this year’s stacked draft class could help them add a key role player for this season. They would likely target a point guard, as they are limited to only Payton Pritchard and Marcus Smart at the position, and have plenty of talent in both the frontcourt and on the wings.
If the Celtics were to make all three of these moves, their roster would be very interesting and would put them in a great position to win next season. Here’s a breakdown of personnel at each position if Stevens were to make these three moves:
Guards: Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Elfrid Payton, 24th overall pick
Wings: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Evan Fournier, Aaron Nesmith
Main Image Credit: