Staying put for the most part: Evaluating the Boston Celtics following the 2023 NBA trade deadline

Hardwood Houdini examines the ramifications of the 2023 Boston Celtics trade deadline moves with the deadline now passed Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Hardwood Houdini examines the ramifications of the 2023 Boston Celtics trade deadline moves with the deadline now passed Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The unnecessary Jaylen Brown for Kevin Durant trade rumors can finally subside for now. After a chaotic few days in the NBA world, the 2023 trade deadline has come and gone. The Boston Celtics may have not left with a superstar talent, but Brad Stevens added a role player that is going to fill a need for this ball club. In exchange for Justin Jackson and two second-round picks, the Cs acquired six-foot-11 31-year-old Mike Muscala from the Thunder.

Muscala adds the necessary height, and elite 3-point shooting to a group that already sits among the top-seven teams in three-point shooting percentage this season. In his role as the third big so far during this campaign, Luke Kornet has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, but Muscala’s veteran presence will help alleviate the absence of Al Horford, and Robert Williams III at times.

Boston is not in the position of the Suns or Lakers. Stevens did not have much work to do to add to a team that already is one of the deepest in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics now have seven total players that have shot 38% or better from behind the arc this season. Muscala even has some defensive versatility. Muscala owns the best defensive rating of any Thunder player this season at 106.6 while he sits in the 94th percentile for rim contests this season. Stevens knows he not only needs a player that has to assist on the offensive end, but this team also requires each player to be locked on the other side of the floor as well.

If Mike Muscala can bring this kind of defense to the Boston Celtics, what a move it would be

Many want to complain that the Boston Celtics did not go out and get a wing, but would that player really be that much better than Sam Hauser? The buyout market is always an option with reports that Will Barton could be hitting the market when he and the Wizards reach an agreement. According to some sources, the Magic may reach a buyout agreement with Terrence Ross. Ross is someone that has been linked with Boston in the past before the Evan Fournier deal, but does he fit?

Winning a championship is not always about the amount of individual talent that a team has, it is more about how a team works together a one. How do they interact in the locker room? On the floor? These are things to consider, and with Danilo Gallinari’s love for the Cs, and the positive attitude he brings to the team, it simply does not make sense to move him despite the fact that Stevens could have turned his dead money into a healthy contributor this season.

Would he really add that much to what this team already possesses? A deep big man that can stretch the floor when needed is a good grab, but why add a wing and take a hit in the salary cap when the former Virginia guard has been more serviceable in his role this season? Muscala has some history with Horford from his days in Atlanta and Oklahoma City which could help make the transition to the northeast that much easier for a player coming in a mid-season deal.

When it comes to grading the trade deadline for the Celtics, it was more about who they did not give up than who they acquired. Payton Pritchard has made it abundantly clear that he wants a larger role, but for the Cs to be able to hold onto a player of his caliber as an insurance policy for a potentially deep playoff run was a massive win. Sometime in the near future, Pritchard will be donning another team’s uniform, but for now, he will be ready to contribute whenever Joe Mazzulla calls his name.

Jackson was not getting any minutes whatsoever in Mazzulla’s rotation, so dealing him for someone that has the talent to make it on the floor leaves Boston a better team than before February 9. Even before this trade deadline, the Cs were equipped for a deep postseason run. No acquisition with be able to match the deal that brought Malcolm Brogdon to Boston in July. His leadership on and off the floor along with his contributions as a player has raised the level of this ball club from the start.

The deadline was not going to do much to due to the fact that the Cs are already a top contender to come out of the East. Retaining players that have been positives so far this season was an even bigger plus for this team than adding someone like Muscala. You can never give anyone a perfect grade, but it was honestly just another quality display in the front office by Stevens.

Boston Celtics trade deadline grade: A