When the commerce deadline handed, there have been two knee-jerk questions in regards to the strikes Boston made.
1. Simply Evan Fournier?
2. You traded Daniel Theis to save lots of a couple of dollars?
It’s true that the Celtics let a uncommon alternative slip via their fingers. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic had been up for bidding and Boston got here away with neither. They might come to remorse that, however within the face of a season that began so promising solely to develop right into a cascade of inconsistency, frustration and what looks as if a unending struggle with COVID-19, Boston at the least confronted their points this time as a substitute of hoping they’d work themselves out.
From a expertise standpoint, Evan Fournier, Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet wouldn’t appear to be a ok haul for a staff that’s making an attempt to do much more than maintain its head above water. Then once more, expertise wasn’t Boston’s situation. Well being has actually been among the many most prevalent points, as they’ve been snakebitten more durable by the coronavirus than anybody this season.
Celtics newcomer Evan Fournier has been entered into “Well being and Security” protocols, becoming a member of Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson. Boston Celtics gamers had already led NBA in most days in COVID-related protocols. https://t.co/nZO5rya8lX
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) March 27, 2021
Jayson Tatum’s play since contracting the virus hasn’t slowed him down fully, however he’s struggled mightily on back-to-backs since recovering from it. That already provides to the inconvenience of Kemba not with the ability to play on back-to-backs together with his ongoing knee points. These issues have undoubtedly performed a component in Boston’s struggles.
Nevertheless, the Celtics’ most obvious concern earlier than the commerce deadline was that their roster simply didn’t mesh on a number of ranges. So, after they made the strikes that they did, their intentions could not have been to get the very best infusion of expertise on the open market, however to fill its roster holes. What holes had been crammed? Let’s begin with their higher-rep acquisition, Fournier.
Our personal Dylan Thayer already did an important job filling everyone in on what sort of participant Boston could be getting with the Frenchman. As a substitute of rehashing what’s already been mentioned about Fournier’s sport, emphasis must be made on why Boston was in search of somebody like him.
The Celtics offense has technically been higher this 12 months – 114.0 offensive ranking – than final – 113.3 – and but they went from the league’s fourth-best offensive ranking to the twelfth in keeping with Basketball-Reference. That’s extra indicative of what this COVID-shortened season has achieved to defenses league-wide. Nevertheless, in Boston’s case, their scoring burden has been positioned extra on the starters than ever earlier than.
Boston’s bench scoring as of April third has the twenty sixth lowest level common at 31.8 factors a sport. Final 12 months, they had been really tied for final in that division, however they might reside with it as a result of the scoring prowess between Tatum, Kemba, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward was evidently greater than sufficient.
However after all, Hayward has since departed, which has opened the gate for Tatum and Brown to achieve their potential as scorers. Nevertheless, dropping somebody that might do what Hayward did can’t be shrugged off. Enter Evan Fournier. Fournier tasks as a Hayward substitute. A two-way scoring swingman able to placing up 18-25 factors whereas additionally dealing with a few of the playmaking duties.
Fournier’s not so good as Hayward is, however he’s extra of a pure match than Hayward was because the fourth possibility within the offense. His talents also needs to come very a lot in useful for a Celtics staff that has needed to play via Kemba’s knee points and Tatum’s struggles on back-to-backs. He’s a scoring cushion each for the 2 of them and for the second unit that anybody with eyes might see they craved.
Right here’s a superb summation of what Fournier does for the Celtics. Let’s check out Daniel Theis’ last shot in a Celtics uniform.
You’ll be able to’t actually complain an excessive amount of in regards to the high quality of that shot. Theis was huge open and he barely missed. The issue is, the Bucks had been completely okay with him taking that shot on the buzzer. Theis hasn’t been a nasty three-point shooter this 12 months – 34.7 p.c – however he’s not a menace from distance. And right here’s the underside line- neither is Semi Ojeleye. Neither is Aaron Nesmith. Neither was Javonte Inexperienced. Romeo Langford has barely performed. Grant Williams has been hitting threes with fairly good accuracy – 39.5 p.c – however he solely takes two a sport, that means the Celtics have but to weaponize it. Groups would let the Celtics’ supporting forged of wings shoot threes till they will persistently make them pay for it. Fournier is in a special ballpark.
Earlier than coming to Boston, Fournier was taking pictures nearly 39 p.c from three on 7.2 heaves an evening this season. He did that when defenses might focus extra on stopping him in Orlando than he’ll in Boston now that he’s round higher offensive expertise. The Celtics lastly have a three-level complimentary scorer that may take the strain off of their 4 greatest gamers.
Trying on the Fournier commerce from a expertise perspective is it from the flawed finish of the telescope. Fournier gained’t make the Celtics higher due to his expertise as a participant. He makes them higher as a result of his skillset aids what the Celtics desperately wanted.
Then there’s the Daniel Theis commerce.
The Celtics actually tried to make their three large rotation work, partially as a result of they didn’t actually have a selection. They’d three bigs on the roster that had been all greatest used as facilities who wanted a wholesome 20 minutes a sport between Theis, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams III. Their answer for that was to begin Theis and Thompson.
These two didn’t begin out nice collectively, however it acquired higher. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a pairing that proved useful for the staff. The 2 shared the courtroom for a considerable period of time (375 minutes) and in that point, they mustered a plus-0.5 net rating. That’s a impartial affect at its best. Each Theis and Boston tried their darndest to show him right into a stretch-4 full-time, however that’s simply not what he’s greatest suited to.
On prime of that, the youthful and flashier Williams was beginning to come out of his shell. Boston has been conservative with Williams out of concern for his hip edema that stored him out for a superb chunk of final season. The edema and contracting the coronavirus has gotten the way in which of his availability, however solely to a minor diploma. This season has given us our first actual prolonged take a look at Williams and it’s been fairly telling. One of the simplest ways to convey Williams’ development is to match his present per-36 stats to Theis and Thompson (per Basketball-Reference).
Theis: 13.9 factors, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.9 steals
Thompson: 12.7 factors, 13.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.6 steals
Williams: 16 factors, 13.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.6 blocks, 1.8 steals
Exterior of rebounding, Williams had Theis and Thompson beat by a heavy margin. So, two elephants had been beginning to present themselves.
1. The Theis and Thompson duo wasn’t serving to the staff
2. Williams’ efforts confirmed that he was the staff’s most suitable choice at middle, which meant he deserved extra minutes.
It was within the Celtics’ greatest curiosity to let one among Theis or Thompson go to get again on monitor. Theis’ contract was cheaper and expiring, so he was the odd man out. In hindsight, if Boston had a do-over figuring out what they knew now, they most likely would have handed on signing Thompson and used the mid-level exception on another person. Not due to Thompson’s play, however as a result of it was clear that they solely wanted two pure facilities, not three.
Now they might have shuffled their middle rotation in order that they might solely should play two based mostly on particular matchups. That’s form of laborious to do since they might have needed to juggle their most enjoyable younger large since Al Jefferson, their beginning middle on final 12 months’s Jap Convention Finals staff and an NBA champion with an ocean of playoff expertise to his identify. These three are too good to be confined to a utility position. However collectively, the frontcourt was clogged.
Now it’s not — and now we’re starting to see what Timelord appears to be like like unleashed.
Robert Williams tonight:
He joins Nikola Jokic and Wilt Chamberlain (3x) as the one facilities with a 20/8/8 sport on 100% taking pictures in NBA historical past. pic.twitter.com/WaH4zCDHVP
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 3, 2021
Robert Williams as a starter this season:
10.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, 3.0 BPG, 70.8 FG%
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) April 3, 2021
Final week, Boston’s roster was a large number. They couldn’t get away with their lack of bench scoring and one thing needed to give with their bigs. Since making their strikes, the outcomes have been blended, There’s no telling if it will flip the season round for them or it’s going to be extra of the identical. For the objectives that the Celtics had in thoughts initially of the season, this roster undoubtedly suits according to what they wished to realize.
Notice the phrasing. Their roster makes extra sense now. Now, it’s on them to be higher.