The Boston Celtics blew a big lead on Sunday. They fell to .500. It’s easy to point fingers and question officials, but this Sunday evening meltdown was not an anomaly. Boston has been inconsistent this season – it showed in a big way against the Pelicans.
Qualifiers can be placed on their 15-15 record. Kemba Walker is still not 100%. Marcus Smart is out. Jayson Tatum missed time. They have barely had their best players on the court together. This, though, is the case for a lot of teams. This is the most disrupted season in NBA history, and the Celtics are not coping with adversity as well as their peers.
Margin for error took a hit when Gordon Hayward left. Boston’s already fragile depth was weakened further, and Tristan Thompson‘s signing has not been as impactful as Danny Ainge may have hoped. Semi Ojeleye has had a bit of a breakout this season, but his spot in the rotation is still not guaranteed come the playoffs.
The decision to acquire Jeff Teague was baffling. It has been proven just that. Caution has been exercised by the Celtics in recent years. They have retained their picks, and found some nice pieces like Payton Pritchard, but while others have been doing all they can to win, Boston has been treading water.
Will the Celtics use the TPE?
There’s good reason to do so, of course. Tatum and Brown are still so young. Going all-in now could backfire. Walker still has years to go on his contract, though, and signing him in the first place was a big time win now move. Ainge has not surrounded his three stars with the necessary talent, and that has shone through during the opening months of the 2020/21 regular season.
Boston has a record traded player exception at their disposal. Some of their youngsters retain trade value. The Celtics are not at a crossroads or anything so drastic, but they are at an important juncture. They are going to be fringe contenders as long as they have this version of Tatum and Brown, but for how long do they settle for that?
It’s common knowledge that Ainge is not a fan of midseason trades. There might not be many difference makers on the market this season. This version of the Celtics, though, is not a title contender. It’s understandable to want to see them with Smart, Walker, Tatum and Brown all healthy, but even then, are they favoured over the Nets, Bucks or Sixers in a series?
The loss to the Pelicans was the latest reminder that the Celtics need to make a move. Ainge resists making trades for the sake of it, but with the Bucks, Nets and Sixers all chasing marginal improvements at the deadline, the gap could expand further if Ainge sticks once again.