The impact of the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline on the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics stood pat the trade deadline and failed to make any win-now type moves. Will this mindset continue as the C’s explore the buyout market?

The trade deadline is a stressful time for Celtics fans. Like clockwork, a community of Boston Celtics fans get hyped up for the possibility of change. There was even that one deadline where Celtics fans worked themselves up for the chance of getting Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, or even Paul George. Clint Capela, Nemanja Belejica, Davis Bertans, and Christian Wood were all names we saw flash up on the screen when one typed in Celtics trade rumors on the world wide web.

Keep in mind, the Celtics have a ton of assets, both when it comes to young players and draft capital…so why not use them to improve the very thin second unit? Much to the dismay of many, the Boston Celtics played it conservative on deadline day. However, C’s fans should not lose hope when it comes to mid-season acquisitions.

Many were quick to call them deadline losers. While the trade deadline is in the rear-view mirror, there are many candidates still on the buyout market — some possible candidates include Tristan Thompson, Wayne Ellington, Ian Mahinmi, and Bismack Biyombo. The Celtics signing of Greg Monroe, who gave the team a much-needed scoring boost during the 2017-18 playoffs, is a classic example of possible talent available post deadline.

While the Celtics stood pat this year, other Eastern Conference teams such as the Pistons, Hawks, Cavaliers, and even the Knicks carried out trades. Most importantly, other Eastern Conference contenders were more aggressive at the deadline, specifically the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams made win-now moves to add depth, at the sacrifice of future assets. The Celtics, as of now, have yet to make an in-season, depth-improving move for the playoffs.

Let’s first examine the roster moves made by the Miami Heat during the deadline.

In: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill

Out: Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Dion Waiters

NBC Sports declared the Heat a deadline winner. They acquired seasoned veterans with playoff experience and got rid of expensive veteran contracts, all without giving up future any draft picks. The only real future chip the Heat gave up was Justise Winslow, who, despite his defensive prowess, is still very much a mystery offensively. Many forget this is actually Winslow’s fifth season in the league. The Heat also had their eyes on Danillo Gallinari but failed to work out a contract extension for the sharpshooting wing.

The Heat acquired Andre Iguodala, who renegotiated a 2-year, $30-million contract with a $1.25 million trade kicker, meaning it will cost the Heat an extra $1.25 million if they decide to trade the former Finals MVP within the next two years. While a very steep price to pay for a 36-year old wing, the Heat needed to get playoff experience.

Another significant addition, Jae Crowder, who played alongside Jimmy Butler at Marquette, also gives the Heat another stretch four to play their version of small-ball, a version with Bam Adebayo at the center spot. Last night, in 35 minutes, the plug-and-play Crowder came in and instantly produced for the Heat, going 5-8 from beyond the arc and snatching 11 rebounds.

Many failed to predict un-drafted prospects Kenrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson to be starting players on the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference. While the two have overexcited expectations, they still severely lack playoff experience. Along with Robinson and Nunn, key players Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., and Bam Adebayo all averaged over 24 minutes per game this season but collectively only played five playoff games between the five of them. All five games came from Bam Adebayo during the 2017-18 season.

Crowder and Igoudala, together, bring over 200 games of playoff experience to the table and add wing depth to an already very deep Miami Heat second unit. On any given night, when healthy, this team can go 10-11 players deep.

So what does this mean for the Boston Celtics? Say the Celtics face up against this team in the playoffs. The C’s will likely shorten their bench rotation to include Smart, Kanter, and the occasional Semi Ojeleye or Brad Wanamaker stint. The lack of scoring coming off the bench, especially at the wing and guard position, will severely hurt them against this deep Miami squad.

While Boston has been banged up with injuries throughout the year, this team needs a proven scorer off the bench to compete with the Miami Heat. There exists a stark contrast between the two bench units.

The Celtics bench unit is:

  • 30th in three-point attempts
  • 30th in three-point makes
  • 28th in bench scoring
  • 28th in bench field goal percentage
  • 27th in bench three-point shooting percentage

The Miami bench unit, who’ve had solid health this year, rank:

  • 4th in three-point attempts
  • 3rd in three-point makes
  • 5th in bench scoring
  • 14th in bench field goal percentage
  • 4th in bench three-point shooting percentage


The 76ers 

In: Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, 2020 second-round pick

Out: Three second-round picks, James Ennis, Trey Burke (released)

The 76ers failed to make any huge free-agent splashes. Unlike the Celtics, the 76ers addressed a glaring need for scoring and shot creation off the bench. Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III give the 76ers some proven scoring at the wing and guard position.

The 76ers took a bit of a gamble as Burks and Robinson III are both on short deals which expire at the end of this season. With that in mind, both these deals are very team-friendly money wise.

Alec Burks was one of the players on many teams’ radar. Despite shooting 38% from beyond the arc, Burks is more of a shot creator than a floor spacer. Per, he is in the 93rd percentile on percentage of shots fouled on, and when he gets to the line, knocks down almost 90% of his free throw attempts.

While listed as a wing, Burks likes to play as a hybrid guard who can take advantage of size matchups. Despite his contract situation, Burks would have been a good player for the Celtics to go after granted the lack of proven scoring talent on the second unit.

Glenn Robinson III is more of the traditional, wing-spacer, corner-three shooting type of wing. This season he is shooting close to 40% from the three-point line on a very depleted Warriors team. Robinson III is a capable rotation player on a competitive team.

While the additions of Burks and Robinson III may not make waves across the NBA media sphere, the 76ers now have two capable, two-way-esqe wings who can play actual playoff minutes. They are now a much deeper team with a likely playoff rotation of four-five players, a rotation which includes Burks, Robinson III, Mike Scott, Matisse Thybulle, and possibly the flaming hot Furkan Korkmaz.

Despite currently owning a worse overall record, the 76ers are three and one against the Celtics this season. Their size is an obvious problem for this current Boston Celtics team.

The Celtics would be wise to look towards the buyout market for needed depth to emulate the moves made by the 76ers. Scoring off the bench and a capable defensive big man who can guard in the pick-and-roll are two glaring needs for this current Celtics team.

Next: 3 ways C's can embrace small-ball

Currently, looking at the buyout market, Bismack Biyombo, Tyler Johnson, and Allen Crabbe are names that rise to the surface when considering the thin Celtics rotation. With Tyler Johnson recently released, the Boston Celtics view him as a capable scoring option off the bench next to Marcus Smart. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics make any 2008, P.J. Brown, late-season roster improvements. Till then, it will be a waiting and hoping game.

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