Though the Boston Celtics are reportedly interested in acquiring All-Star big man Andre Drummond, upon further examination, it would appear the team already has everything they need at the center position.
Within the past 48-hours, reports have begun to circulate that the Boston Celtics are in discussions with the Detroit Pistons to potentially acquire All-Star center Andre Drummond. He is one of the best bigs the league currently has to offer, and is seen as a potential “answer” at the pivot for this shamrocks squad.
However, despite what many may believe, the team already has a rotation of players that provide the same skill set found in Drummond. With the three main contributors — when all healthy — at the five, they somewhat resemble a certain fictitious serpentine water monster.
The Hydra is a monster from ancient Greek mythology that lurked in the depths of the lake Lerna, known in myth to be the entrance to the Underworld. The serpentine water monster is distinguished by having several heads (canonical myth varies from three to fifty) and was defeated by Hercules as the second of his Twelve Trials.
The Hydra was such a formidable beast because of just how many heads it had. Just when you had sliced one head off, another head would pop up and gnash you with it’s fangs while yet another crept behind and spit poison at you. It’s strength lay in it’s versatility and sheer numbers.
The Boston Celtics right now are deploying their own “Hydra” three headed center approach. Between Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Rob Williams, the C’s have flexibility, versatility, and production that would otherwise be impossible were they to trade for a more ‘marquee’ center on the market right now.
This analysis begins from a salary standpoint. Much of building a contending team in the NBA today is maximizing limited salary cap space. Right now Theis ($5 million), Kanter ($4.7 million), and Williams ($1.9 million) are on incredibly affordable contracts with plenty of team control. The team is not hamstrung by a big, unwieldy contract that they are basically tied to for it’s duration, better or worse.
Most of the targets being linked to the Celtics are high-priced players who command more than double what the Boston Celtics Hydra makes combined. This would require giving up one of their prized wing players to make room from a salary standpoint. This only leaves Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Kemba Walker as possible candidates.
Kemba is untouchable for a variety of reasons too long to list, and their young players still under team control like Brown are the most prized assets in the NBA. The 23-year-old is virtually untouchable in my book given his relatively team-friendly long term contract he just sign and the huge jump he’s made this season.
Hayward has a year left on his deal with a player option for next season, and $35 million would make him one of the highest played players in the league. Depending on what the Boston Celtics think is going to happen with Hayward, he’s probably the most likely player to be dealt.
Personally I think he opts out and signs a more team friendly extension, given how he’s playing and his relationship with coach Brad Stevens and the team. But that’s just speculation.
So the question then becomes would you rather have, say, four more years of Hayward at about $25 million, or whoever they might bring in?
I think this would be a foolish move for a variety of reasons. First, because of the Celtics Hydra at center and the flexibility it affords them. They get added versatility in distributing their minutes between three centers that can all be deployed more tactically. Brad Stevens can plug in whoever he needs at any given time.
When they need shooting to stretch the floor or a versatile rim protector, they put in Theis. Theis is an elite level rim protector with comparable DBPM and Block% numbers to Andre Drummond (in 12 less minutes per game, mind you.)
When they want some energy on the offensive glass or need a bucket on a post up, they can put in Kanter. I was among the many Kanter skeptics this season, but after a mediocre start he has really ramped it up as of late and I’m sitting here with a plate full of crow. He’s rebounding at an elite rate and would be among the league leaders in virtually all rebounding metrics were he to have enough minutes to qualify.
And when they need some athleticism and a legitimate shot blocking presence, they have the Time Lord himself, Robert Williams. Williams would be among the leagues best shot blockers were he to qualify in minutes. Plus with three more years on a team-friendly deal, years where he’s poised to make the jump to an athletic rim runner on par with the leagues best, he’s the perfect combination of affordable and effective.
Think of it this way. With just one big guy, they are just limited to his skill set no matter how dominant one part of it might be. They need to game plan and most likely build the team around them in the future, given the inordinately large salary they would command. Yet we can get all that production, plus the added versatility afforded by varying skill sets, for less than half the cost. We are benefiting immensely from diversification, and putting all our eggs in one basket is bad economics.
You’ve basically blown up a team that is already clicking. Regardless of how you feel about Hayward, shipping him off for some big guy when we already have that production and more elsewhere is just bad business. It not only creates huge redundancies in their roster, but more importantly it would transform the identity of a team that has already shown, as it’s currently constructed, is a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
Many point to the need to have a center who can “guard Embiid.” If there were any centers in the league who could “guard Embiid” he wouldn’t be averaging 23 and 12. He’s an absolute monster and frankly it’s an insult to think that we could just pick up one guy who can neutralize perhaps the NBA’s best center. Plus the Sixers seem to have a case of the 18-19 Celtics Flu and building your roster around a hypothetical playoff match up seems pretty dumb.
They have built their identity as a team around their stud wing players (and Kemba!). They are versatile and flexible at the center position that compliments this identity perfectly. As the only saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Looking at how they’ve been playing all season, does it appear the Boston Celtics really need any fixing?