The 2023 NBA Trade Deadline is fastly approaching. Teams have until this upcoming Thursday, February 9th to make any trades.
For both contending and rebuilding teams alike, this is the most important time of the year. It’s where good teams can get even better, and bad teams can get a head start on their future.
In the case of the Boston Celtics, they will be looking to fortify their position as a contender. Up to this point in the year, Boston has been the NBA’s best team. They currently possess a league best 37-16 record.
After a run to the NBA Finals in 2022, the Celtics are all in on this season. Rightfully so. The team is as stacked as just about any other team in the NBA. From top to bottom, the Celtics are a juggernaut.
That doesn’t mean though that there are areas that can’t be improved upon. The one area where I think most people can agree Boston could use some help is their depth down low.
Boston has a pretty versatile group of big men who have been great so far this season. Al Horford at the age of 36 continues to be quite efficient for the C’s.
When Robert Williams III has been healthy, he’s proven to be an elite defender and a difference maker for the team.
Robert Williams swatted Ish Wainright's shot into the stands ❌pic.twitter.com/qMrxwZXcjQ— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 4, 2023
Rob's impact pic.twitter.com/W6O2khD67B— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 27, 2023
Robert Williams save— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 27, 2023
Grant Williams three pic.twitter.com/IiOjiftnLh
So on paper things don’t look all that troubling. Boston has three pretty solid big men, and one in Griffin who can still be good in spots. So where is the need for more big men in Beantown?
The Need For Depth
To put it nicely, Boston’s big man depth is shaky. Very shaky. Sure, Al Horford has been fantastic so far this season. However it cannot be forgotten that he is 36 years of age. That’s not exactly a spring chicken. The Celtics have the vet currently playing 30.7 minutes a night. That’s his highest minutes average in nearly five years.
Those minutes are going to wear him down eventually. Unfortunately for Boston, that time could possibly come in the playoffs when they need him most.
Robert Williams is the largest risk factor. The man has a hard time staying healthy, plain and simple. When he’s on the court, he changes the whole dynamic of the team. When he’s off the court, which is often, the team is quite frankly not as good.
Williams has missed 34 games already this season. He’s made 19 appearances, but has only been in the starting lineup for 10 games. A lot of times he’s playing on a minutes restriction.
There’s legitimate reason to doubt if he can stay healthy for a deep run back to the Finals. Grant Williams is fine, but he doesn’t have the impact that Horford or Williams has. He’s also kind of undersized, and would absolutely struggle against playoff teams with premier bigs.
Blake Griffin can’t realistically be relied upon. Again, he’s been solid in some spots, but he’s way past his prime. Griffin probably won’t even see the court come playoff time. Only in a state of desperation would Boston honestly give him big minutes in do or die games.
So the truth is, Boston is one injury away from being in trouble. If Robert Williams goes down again or Horford runs out of gas, it would spell big trouble.
Boston needs to add another big man who can at the very least provide some relief in the regular season. A guy who can eat some minutes from Williams and Horford in the final stretch of the season.
A lot of names have been thrown around, but there is one in particular I think is the most realistic and makes sense.
Let me start of by saying I personally don’t believe Mason Plumlee is the best option for Boston. I honestly think Jakob Poeltl and Kelly Olynyk, two players Boston has been linked to, are better players. They’d be better choices for the C’s overall.
Yet, Plumlee just makes the most sense. For starters, Plumlee is having a career year in Charlotte. The 32 year old big man has been really good, putting up 12.3 points and 9.7 rebounds a night on 67% shooting.
Mason Plumlee right-handed jumper? 😂— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 4, 2023
Hornets announcer was pumped pic.twitter.com/0JoUKxt14i
A Mason Plumlee midrange lefty dagger is the most painful way possible to lose a basketball game pic.twitter.com/8M84Ia7zqt— 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒆 🌩 (@Three_Cone) January 27, 2023
Mason Plumlee developed a jumper before Ben Simmons— Israel (@iohandles) February 1, 2023
Granted, he has been playing all year in a starting role and getting 28.4 minutes a game. That’s actually ideal for Boston though. It proves that Plumlee could come in and play big minutes for the Celtics, allowing guys like Williams and Horford to rest more.
Mason Plumlee in January:— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 26, 2023
Averaging career-highs in PPG, RPG and FG% this season. pic.twitter.com/MbtQ451puF
Whether or not he could keep that production up in Boston is the question. If he can come anywhere close though, he’ll be a nice addition to the team.
He brings the desired size the Celtics are looking for, standing tall at 6’11”. His 254-pound frame also makes him quite a force inside. No one would confuse him for an elite defender, but he could be serviceable protecting the rim.
You could also realistically include him in a postseason rotation. Plumlee comes with a bit of playoff experience, having appeared in 60 career playoff games. He happened to start in 11 of those 60 games.
Most importantly though, Plumlee is realistically obtainable for Boston. In the case of guys like Poeltl and Olynyk, their asking prices would probably be too much for Boston. Those two have multiple suitors and would likely require the Celtics to enter a bidding war.
The Celtics want to acquire depth without really sacrificing any major pieces. For Poeltl and Olynyk, I don’t know how that’s possible without giving up multiple first round picks.
Mason Plumlee has been publicly made available by the Hornets. Although their initial asking price is a first round pick, Boston can realistically talk that down.
The Celtics can offer a package that includes Payton Pritchard and second round picks. In the end, I just feel as though Plumlee will be the cheaper option, and still provides a great deal of upside for the C’s.
He can’t shoot the three at all, so he does limit your spacing capabilities when he is on the floor. If thats one of the only drawbacks, Boston can live with it. They have plenty of three point shooting to go around to make up for it.
All in all, the Celtics trading for Plumlee makes a lot of sense, and fills a legitimate need for the team. Although there are certainly sexier options, this is the move Boston should make to improve their odds at a title.
Featured Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images