Despite all the talent boasted by the Boston Celtics, the team as a whole isn’t very deep. After Marcus Smart, the Celtics do not seem to have any other clear-cut players to fill out the seventh and eighth spots of their playoff rotation.
Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker are the most obvious candidates, and Brad Stevens may consider Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Semi Ojeleye, and Romeo Langford as well. While all six of these players have the ability to contribute in short bursts, none are particularly consistent on a game-to-game basis. Kanter’s lackluster defense renders him unplayable in many situations, Wanamaker often struggles to perform competently against elite teams, and the younger group of players offer great defensive effort but lack legitimate playoff experience. Boston’s top six players give them a chance to compete with any team in the league, but the team can’t expect to play just six players throughout their playoff run, and the bench players the team has right now have serious flaws.
More than anything else, Boston’s bench needs another floor-spacer that can create for others to some degree and score in isolation if necessary. Wanamaker can occasionally score and facilitate when surrounded by Boston’s other elite weapons (which would be the case in the playoffs), but he’s largely ineffective with the ball in his hands, and trusting him with 20 or more minutes per night as a primary ball handler in a playoff series may come back to bite the Celtics.
Considering the injury problems Boston has had so far this season, the team could likely use another ball handler for the remainder of the regular season as well. An additional piece to fill in for injured role players would likely be helpful in the Celtics’ quest for the Eastern Conference second seed, a race that could ultimately define how far Boston goes in the postseason. Luckily for Boston, it seems as though even if the team doesn’t want to make a move, the front office has options in the buyout market.
While no official statements have been made by either player’s representation, Jamal Crawford and Isaiah Thomas have both shown interest in the Celtics on Twitter recently. Crawford’s “interest” in Boston is obviously less defined, but it’s not hard to read between the lines of the cryptic emoji he tweeted responding to a recommendation by former Celtic Kendrick Perkins that the team should add Crawford. Thomas, on the other hand, publicly stated in an interview that he would be interested in returning to Boston, and has been spotted liking tweets suggesting the Celtics should sign him.
Crawford and Thomas are undoubtedly flawed players at this point in their respective careers. They both struggle defensively, are well past their primes on the offensive side of the ball, and likely cannot be depended on for reliable playoff minutes. Is either player a downgrade from Wanamaker, however? Are the Celtics better off trusting bench pieces that have been remarkably inconsistent throughout the regular season in a playoff series against some of the league’s elite defenses and coaching minds? If fully healthy, Boston could likely get away with using just Kemba Walker and Smart as the primary ball-handlers, while using two frontcourt players (any combination of Kanter, the Williams duo, and Ojeleye) sparingly to give the Celtics’ starters an occasional rest. However, health has been far from guaranteed this season and just one injury to any key player may have Boston wishing they had capitalized on the buyout market.
Danny Ainge doesn’t seem to want to shake up the team’s chemistry and flow, but options are rarely a bad thing. The “too many mouths to feed” argument that plagued last year’s team is a valid concern, and the delicate offensive balance Boston has when healthy could be compromised if the team adds a shot-chucking guard intent on trying to score 40 points every time they enter the game. However, if Ainge lays out clear expectations and is open and honest about the fact that these players have an opportunity to compete for a championship and play 15 or so minutes per game for a winning team, veteran players may take the good with the bad and sacrifice some personal goals to be a part of the Boston Celtics experience.
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