Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is not afraid to make deals that will help his team get better. If you are a green teamer, you have seen that over the last couple of years. From acquiring Derrick White to last summer’s deal for Malcolm Brogdon, if Stevens recognizes a fit, he gets the player.
In Brad we trust? Perhaps that should be the new Celtics mantra following a deal that sent Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies and ultimately landed Kristaps Porzingis in Boston.
It was an emotional trade, but one that was needed to shake things up a bit for a team that has now made a living in the Eastern Conference Finals, but only getting over that hump once.
Part of that has been the naturally growth of the team’s two superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But most of it has been the team’s lack of mental toughness that has allowed less talented teams to expose them.
Boston Celtics got the ultimate stretch big they been searching for
So, what Stevens went out and did this past week was trade a player known for his toughness for a player known as being a bit soft. How in the world does that make the Boston Celtics a better NBA Finals favorite in 2023-24?
Well, getting rid of Smart now allows White to fill that role more. White has turned into a clutch player for the Celtics and his defense is not that far off from Smart. At guard they should be fine if not better with the only question being depth. Let’s not forget, the team still has Brogdon, Payton Pritchard who is starving for playing time, 2022 second-round pick JD Davison and a talent in Yam Madar is still stashed overseas.
Stevens can still add there, but with Smart out of town, Tatum and Brown are the leaders on this team. In Porzingis the Celtics now finally have that true stretch big who can protect the rim at one end, defend the pick-and-roll, provide the team with a low-post presence offensively and step out and knock down the three.
Kristaps Porzingis is a special talent
At 7-foot-3, Porzingis has always been a special talent. It is just a matter of him staying healthy. When that is the case, the type of season he is coming off with the Washington Wizards averaging 23.2 points a game, 8.4 rebounds on 49.8 percent shooting (38.5 percent from behind the stripe). If the Celtics get that player, watch out!
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That is at least the vision Stevens had when he made the deal.
"“From our standpoint, we just looked at it as ‘what’s our best opportunity to continue to grow and improve as a team?’” Stevens said of the Porzingis deal. “Knowing that sometimes really, really hard decisions have to be made. Like I said, not only adding Kristaps with his skill, his size and the positional versatility, we just had many more numbers and options at the smaller positions than we did at the bigs, especially as we look forward too.”"
The lack of big man depth really showed in the playoffs. With just Robert Williams III and an aging Al Horford, the Boston Celtics had to insert Grant Williams back into the rotation when the team went up against Joel Embiid. That would’ve been an issue again if the team had advanced to the finals against another dominant big man in Nikola Jokic.
In that respect, Stevens was looking forward. Porzingis is no Jokic, but when health he is close to being a similar type of player. Jokic had just Jamal Murray and they complemented each other in a great way during their championship run. Now imagine Porzingis with two All-Star wings like Tatum and Brown? That’s a big three that should take the Celtics to the next level.
Again, it will depend on health and how long it take the three stars to really mesh. But, if Porzingis stays healthy and continues to develop his game, he is not only the X-factor of the Boston Celtics next season, he is the X-factor of the entire 2023-24 NBA season