It is no secret that the Boston Celtics are vulnerable in the paint. Al Horford and Aron Baynes‘ respective departures in the offseason have left Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter as the first choice centres on the Celtics’ roster.
Theis has improved this year, and given the Celtics solid minutes at the five. Kanter has been scoring well off the bench and his offensive rebounding (he’s averaging 6.1 offensive board per 36 minutes) is more than handy.
Theis is just 6’8″, Kanter is a liability on the defensive end. Both will be attacked relentlessly come playoff time.
With Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo standing in Boston’s way in the Eastern Conference, another big man seems like a must. Embiid has excelled against the Celtics this year, and Boston were rolled over by Philadelphia even without Embiid recently. The Celtics don’t have anyone who can live with Giannis.
Danny Ainge still has picks at his disposal, but the Celtics aren’t in a great position to make a trade. Gordon Hayward was a potential trade chip – that doesn’t seem like a good idea considering his importance as a ball handler offensively. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren’t going anywhere. Marcus Smart‘s $12.5 million contract is a good size to be dealt, but he’s the heartbeat of this roster, and a crucial defensive player himself.
Smart is an interesting piece. He has guarded bigs in the past, and put up more than a fight against people almost a foot taller than him. For all his toughness and gritty competitiveness, that isn’t a solution to Embiid or Antetokounmpo in a seven-game series.
Ainge’s hands are tied, unless he breaks up the core of a roster that has overachieved so far this season. The Celts are second in the Eastern Conference right now and are one of a handful of teams with a top 10 offence and defence. Tatum and Brown have taken a step forward after a so-so 2018/19. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive season, but a trade feels like a necessity if they are to be a real threat in the East.
An Andre Drummond trade doesn’t make sense, nor does a move for Tristan Thompson. Perhaps a deal for Dewayne Dedmon is the best compromise for Ainge if he can get together enough a salary for a deal – otherwise, he risks gambling on the buyout market.
There is no perfect solution for Boston. It will be fascinating to see how Ainge approaches this.