Friday, February 7, 2020

3 Players the Celtics Should Target in the Buyout Market

AP Photo/Nick Wass
Danny Ainge and the Celtics did not make any moves before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, but they are expected to be active in this year’s buyout market.

With Boston maintaining an impressive 36-15 record, Ainge understandably felt “there were no good deals to be made.” But Boston could still try to bolster their roster through midseason free agency.

In order to sign another player, they would have to waive one of their reserves, such as Vincent Poirier, Javonte Green, or Tremont Waters. But the Celtics may never have won their 17th NBA championship in 2008 without the midseason addition of P.J. Brown.

As Ainge eyes the buyout market, here are three players who could make a strong impact for this year’s Celtics.

3. Tristan Thompson

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The Cleveland Cavaliers were expected to be sellers at the trade deadline, but instead acquired one of the NBA’s top centers in Andre Drummond.

This means that Thompson, their primary starting center since 2012, could soon become one of the most coveted players in this year’s buyout market.

Thompson is a tough defender, solid rebounder, and athletic finisher who would be a great addition to Boston’s bench.

As of February 7, Thompson is tied for eighth this NBA season with Miami All-Star Bam Adebayo averaging 10.4 rebounds per game.

Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have done an exceptional job anchoring Boston's frontcourt. But they still could get outplayed or into foul trouble when battling against Eastern Conference rivals like the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, who are stacked with size and athleticism.

Fortifying Boston’s frontcourt with Thompson, a reliable 28-year-old center and former NBA champion known for his solid defense, could turn out to be an excellent move come playoff time.

2. Evan Turner

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
After being traded from Atlanta to Minnesota, the versatile former Celtic is rumored to be on Ainge’s radar for a potential reunion if he gets bought out by the Timberwolves.

Turner would give the Celtics’ bench an experienced reliable playmaker who already understands Brad Stevens’ system. He averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists as their second unit facilitator from 2014-16.

He also recorded three triple-doubles in 2015 while developing into one of the team’s most reliable players.

With small-ball more prevalent in the NBA than ever before, the 6’6’’ Turner could still make a positive impact in the right situation. He’s a skilled veteran who can play any position and the Boston fans love him.

After Houston traded away Clint Capela at the deadline, the Rockets are playing better basketball with 6’5’’ P.J. Tucker starting at center.

Turner has the right combination of skill and size to improve Boston’s bench scoring, playmaking, defense, and rebounding. He helps create mismatches for opposing defenses and he’s also a really great guy.

1. Isaiah Thomas

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No player on the buyout market would make Celtics fans happier than "The Little Guy."

IT was the heart and soul of the Celtics offense when they surged to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game, tying John Havlicek in 1970-71 for the second best scoring average in Celtics history behind only Larry Bird’s 29.9 in the 1987-88 season.

The King of the 4th” routinely took over games in crunch time and led the Celtics to a 53-29 record. He finished fifth in MVP voting right between LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

Unfortunately, Thomas has since struggled to stay healthy and has been unable to find a long-term NBA home. After injuring his hip in the 2017 Conference Finals, Thomas was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving prior to the start of the following season.

This season, Thomas played in 40 games for the Washington Wizards, his most since Boston. He averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists before being sent to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

The Clippers are Thomas’s fifth team since Boston, but they are expected to buy out his contract. As he prepares for the free agent market yet again, Boston fans are speaking up. And for good reason.

Thomas would serve as a much-needed scoring threat for a Celtics’ second unit that has played well, but lacked consistent scoring.

This could be a perfect opportunity to make things right on multiple levels.

Ainge received a lot of criticism for his business-first approach in dealing Thomas without openly communicating with his All-Star point guard prior to the deal.

Bringing Thomas back to Boston to give him a chance to lead their second unit and compete for a championship would right some of the wrong.

Brad Wanamaker has been a serviceable backup to Kemba Walker, but the bulky playmaker could still make an impact while sharing ball-handling duties with another point guard. Having multiple facilitators on the floor is common in this small-ball era.

Furthermore, finally seeing Thomas play alongside Gordon Hayward, who signed in Boston in 2017 partially to play with Thomas, could work out beautifully.

Also, today is his 30th birthday.

The ultimate gift, both for Thomas and for Boston fans, would be to reunite one of the greatest Celtics in recent history with the team and city where he flourished.

It’s time to bring IT home.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Stop Voting Tacko Fall for NBA All-Star

Tacko Fall does not deserve to play in the All-Star Game. He probably does not even want your votes.

If he does want your votes, then by all means, vote for him. It would obviously be fun to watch Tacko hammer down alley-oops and standing dunks alongside NBA elites in a defense-less game.

But my guess is that Fall would rather play in the Rising Stars game with his fellow rookies and let the more deserving players take the big stage.

Guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are vying for their first All-Star appearances, belong in that game. It would be a huge achievement for Boston’s rising stars.

But that experience and accomplishment would be cheapened and overshadowed if there are players on the roster who do not belong there.

It is also demeaning to Fall, a rookie who hopes to eventually crack the Celtics rotation.

Fall has played less than 12 total minutes this season and is fighting back against the hindering narrative that his Senegalese nationality and 7’5 frame make him a gimmicky big man.

That unfortunate narrative has become a major obstacle for Fall, who went undrafted in 2019 despite his obvious sky-high potential.

Voting Fall for All-Star feeds that negative narrative. It does not give him positive recognition.

The Celtics are surging (12-4 last 16 games) and their wins often end with fans chanting for Tacko. Celtics players and fans alike have demonstrated intense support for him.

Even the unflappable Brad Stevens could be seen embracing Tacko Mania when he urged Boston fans to chant louder for Fall if they wanted to see him play.

But Stevens upset some fans on Friday when he admitted he was not a big fan of the 110,269 All-Star votes his reserve center had received.

Coach Stevens was understandably hesitant to support the possibility of players receiving accolades such as All-Star status based on non-basketball factors.

Votes for Fall could displace deserving players, like Bam Adebayo, who is having a breakout year in Miami.

For fringe All-Stars like Adebayo, Tatum, and Brown, making the team could completely transform their career trajectories. It can change their lives.

Boisterous social media support for Zaza Pachulia nearly got him named as an All-Star starter in 2016. Pachulia averaged 8.6 points per game for the Dallas Mavericks that year.

Following that season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver changed the voting process for All-Star starters to a weighted system which included media and player votes to balance out fans who vote recklessly.

The current situation is arguably worse because Fall is not a longtime veteran receiving ironic or sympathetic votes. He is a hard-working rookie with his entire career in front of him.

Fall wants to improve his game to become a legitimate All-Star someday. Give him time and the opportunity to earn his rightful place amongst NBA elites instead of fueling a dangerous narrative with meaningless undeserved votes.

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