Tuesday’s 120-107 loss to the Miami Heat made one thing clear. The Boston Celtics are not where they need to be, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The Celtics only return six players from last year’s roster, and are still trying to incorporate many of their offseason additions into a complicated defensive scheme, heavily dependent on proper rotations. There is also the fact that Miami is the defending champion, and Boston nearly rallied back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.
So is there a need to panic? No, of course not, but constant evaluation is always being made in order to gauge where a team stands. One of the most glaring needs that stood out in the game was the lack of a defensive anchor when Kevin Garnett was on the bench. How can this be improved?
One answer is to trade for Josh Smith. The reports have already surfaced claiming Smith will not re-sign with Atlanta during the season, and the talented forward has been rumored to have his eye on leaving for quite some time. Before jumping straight into trading for Smith though, could the Celtics fix their problem in a simpler fashion?
The most logical option is to first look internally. Could Darko Milicic, Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins or Fab Melo hold down the center spot when Garnett takes his five minute rest?
Fab Melo can immediately be ruled out, as he is not ready for the professional game. Jason Collins will likely ride the bench for a majority of this season, and it’s doubtful he’s making much of a difference against the freight train that is James. Both Milicic and Wilcox could prove to be viable players this year, but they are nowhere near the class of Smith.
Could the Celtics realistically trade for Smith then becomes the question? With Smith destined to leave Atlanta, would the Hawks be willing to accept a lesser deal in order to at least receive something in return, rather than lose him in free agency? It’s possible.
The combination of Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Fab Melo works financially. Would Atlanta make this deal? Unlikely. The Celtics would need to throw in some cash considerations and a draft pick or two to further entice the Hawks.
It’s possible Atlanta asks for Avery Bradley or Jared Sullinger. If Danny Ainge could settle on Bass, Lee and Sullinger, or Bass, Lee, Melo, cash, and a first rounder, wouldn’t this deal need to be made?
Atlanta would gain two young quality NBA players with reasonable contracts (Bass, Lee) and a young project center (Melo) who they can develop. NBA owners always covet cash and a first rounder would prove useful to a Hawks team that figures to enter rebuilding mode shortly.
The Celtics could then tout a starting five of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Bradley, Smith, and Garnett. That instantly becomes one of the best defensive units in the NBA.
Smith’s athleticism gives Rondo a true running mate on the fast break, which he has desperately lacked for years. With Doc Rivers’ new emphasized transition attack, Smith would fit in perfectly. Reuniting high school teammates Rondo and Smith would also make for several ESPN top 10 plays throughout the year.
Where Smith would take the Celtics to another level is defensively. His 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame, with incredible lateral quickness and length provides the Celtics the closest thing to a LeBron stopper they have. Rivers would then have Smith, Pierce, and Jeff Green to throw at James in an attempt to contain the three-time MVP.
Smith is also a shot blocking presence that could protect the rim when Garnett exits. He has averaged 2.2 blocks per game in his eight-year career. It would also be nice to have someone show James and Dwayne Wade some resistance at the rim, rather than giving them an uncontested dunk. His ability to clean up the glass, 9.6 rebounds per game last season, would also improve another Boston deficiency.
Smith’s maturity has always been a question mark, but he has continually improved throughout the years, and Garnett could be the perfect mentor to the emotional, yet, gifted forward.
Once again, this is not panic mode. The Miami loss is just one game on a long stretch of 82. But with the championship window for the Celtics slowly closing by the day, all efforts must be focused on raising banner 18.
Ainge should exasperate every conceivable option within reason to improve Boston’s title opportunity.
Putting Smith in Celtics’ Green does just that, giving Boston the best chance of bringing another banner to the Garden rafters.