Once the Celtics finally landed their big summer whale, there was a moment of euphoria. Not in a sense that Gordon Hayward was the final missing piece to get the Celtics past CLE and into the Finals (because he’s not), but anytime you can add an in your prime All Star wing to your roster, that should be celebrated. But during that celebration was the little sobering fact that I think all Celtics fans tried to push to the back of their brains, they have to get rid of a valuable rotation player in order to make this signing happen. For about 10 minutes after the Hayward signing became official for the second time, I sat at my computer and wondered how God could be so generous and so cruel at the same time. My mind went in every direction possible, from “did Kyrie mess up the end of Game 3 of the Finals on purpose because the Cavs knew the Celtics cap situation and wanted to bone them?” to “Who did Ainge piss off in the League Office so that they didn’t fix the Finals to go longer?” to “This whole thing could have been avoided if the Celtics would have just won a goddamn ECF home game”.
But the facts are what they are, and given the salary cap being $99M next season, the Celtics find themselves in a pickle. Here’s why that pickle sucks. As good as Hayward is, that doesn’t change the fact that most likely the Celtics are now going to trade a player who is either in his prime, or a player who has yet to reach his prime. That is frustrating as all hell, especially when teams like GS have positioned themselves in a way that they can just keep their own players, and continue to use exemptions to bring players in. In an arms race where every team in the NBA is trying to add more so that they can challenge GS/CLE, the Celtics find themselves in an unfortunate position where they are going to be losing a player who is key to making that happen.
The pain comes when you realize the Celtics could potentially move more than one piece. In order to make this all work, it may require multiple players. Now some would say “big deal, none of these players are that good”, which simply isn’t true. From what I can gather, here are my thoughts on everything I’ve seen as a possible route.
Trade Jae Crowder
Pro: His contract sure does open up space for Hayward so there’s that. You could also argue that he plays the exact same position as Hayward, had all that drama during the year about cheering for Hayward, and this might be the highest his value ever is.
Con: You also lose one of the best contracts in the NBA. Two way players like Jae often make nearly twice as much in today’s NBA. You also lose a plus defender (although I do feel like his defense has been a tad overrated) and an emotional leader. Most importantly though, you lose the ability to play Jae in a small ball lineup at the four, which I think is very attractive to Danny Ainge. I think throwing Hayward and Jae on the court TOGETHER is one of the reason why Ainge wants all these wing players in the first place. There’s also the fact that Jae turned himself into a solid rotational player who just had the best three point shooting year of his career.
If I had to pick, I would guess this is the player fielding the most calls, mostly because of that beautiful contract. I’ve long been of the stance that Jae wasn’t bad in the playoffs, he just didn’t elevate his game, which is certainly a concern. It would suck to lose such a durable player who really embodied what the Celtics are about, but I can see it
Official Trade Pain Meter:
Trade Avery Bradley
Pro: An unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season, Avery is going to get PAID. It wouldn’t surprise me if his market is in the 18-20M range, something the Celtics will have to think long and hard about with the other players who are also going to be up. If you are of the camp to trade Avery, a lot of it probably has to do with his durability, because that’s really the only reason I can think of. If this is truly all about money, then Avery is probably the one that moves.
Con: For starters, it won’t feel good to lose the longest tenured Celtic who also happens to be just 26, entering his prime, and a player who has gotten better each year he’s been in the NBA. You also lose possibly the best on ball defender in the NBA. Personally, I really think the Celtics will feel the loss of Avery more than they will feel the addition of Hayward. While I think Isaiah is their best offensive talent, I truly think Avery is the most important Celtic. His scoring has come a long way in terms of consistency, his rebounding took a leap, and again, he’s the best defender in the NBA at 26 years old. If the whole point of bringing in Hayward was to potentially compete with CLE/GS, I just don’t understand how losing Avery Bradley makes you closer to that, but that’s just me.
Official Trade Pain Meter:
Trade Marcus Smart
Pro: He may never develop an offensive game, and as a RFA there is a good possibility someone like the Nets come in and throw a big offer sheet on him next summer, in which the Celts get nothing for him if they don’t match. That’s it. That’s the only pro.
Con: I really really can’t get behind moving Marcus. He hasn’t even hit him prime yet, is arguably one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA, he can legit guard 1-4s, and he does all the small things that help you win. To put it simply, you need guys like Marcus on your team if you want to be serious about winning. What I love about him is he is in no way afraid of the moment on the court. His passing continues to develop into a real threat, and if his FT shooting is any indication, his shot isn’t completely lost. I don’t want to miss out on 26 year old Smart who is an even better defender and can actually shoot.
And to these rumors about him to NY, well I don’t care for those one bit either
Official Trade Pain Meter:
Trade Terry Rozier
Pro: He’s buried on the depth chart, his salary would certainly go a long way into creating space, and since he’s on a rookie deal you probably good get a decent return for him.
Con: I do not see Ainge wanting to give up a player that still has a high ceiling and is extremely cost controlled. That doesn’t really see like it would make much sense. Also, I think Rozier showed last playoffs that he could be a real factor on the second unit. Rozier is so athletic, so raw, and so young, it would be wild to just give up on that before you even know what you have in my opinion. Also for selfish reasons this means I wouldn’t be able to use Terry in 2K and he is RIDICULOUS in 2K. I’m not ready to say goodbye to that just yet.
Official Trade Pain Meter:
What makes this whole process so tough is you can make a case for why each of these guys should go, but also make a case for why the Celtics need to keep him. If there is some way the Celtics can pull this off and only have to move Rozier/DJax/Mickey, that will hurt, but overall be a gift from God. I guess that’s where the sign and trade with Utah comes in, but that makes no sense in my opinion either. Ainge isn’t going to just give Utah a player because they are sad Hayward left when he could get actual assets in another deal.
If it’s me, I bite the bullet on losing Jae because I think having your elite defenders on your team in addition to Hayward is what’s going to give you the best chance at competing. The reason the Celtics match up with GS so well is because of their perimeter defense. The problem then becomes well, who guards Lebron because I don’t know if Hayward can, Avery/Marcus are too small, and Jaylen isn’t ready just yet. Also don’t even get me started that this probably means another year of stashing Yabu overseas.
Yes, I’m very happy the Celtics landed an All Star caliber player in Gordon Hayward. They needed what he brings. But goddammit, the ripple effects stressing me the fuck out. The good news is, trades are where Danny Ainge owns the NBA, so I’m confident he’ll find a way to make this all work.