I’m Turning on Brad Stevens

So far, Boston fans have little to complain about this season. The team is likable, tough, cohesive. Kemba Walker slid right into the role formally held by Kyrie Irving and there hasn’t been a drop off. In fact, Walker’s more team friendly demeanor elevated the Celtics where Irving kept them down the year prior. 

The Celtics sit prettily at 38-16, FiveThirtyEight.com projects them to finish with 57 wins, good for the second best record in the eastern conference. They’ve beaten Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angles Lakers and Clippers. Hayward in the last 22 contests averaged 17.9 points and is closely resembling the Hayward of his glory days in Utah. The Jays are bonafide All-Stars – despite Tatum being the only one of the two to make it. 
But, everything is not perfect. Before you ask, yes. I am a miserable fuck. 
Throughout the season, even as the wins pile up I cannot help but ponder if Brad Stevens is a good coach. His sloppy management of rotations, reliance on Enes Kanter, and reluctance to play the young guys like Green, Romeo and Grant. Recently, prior to the All-Star break, Stevens played Jaylen Brown despite him nursing a strained ankle. In late-January, Stevens and the Celtics threw caution to the wind and risked a serious injury to one of their stars. It’s an indictment on the training staff and the head coach no doubt about that. 
Whenever there’s an expected, ugly loss, Stevens gives this “Ah, Shucks, we’ll just have to play better” routine he’s been doing for over a year and has pissed me off. We continuously run into the same pitfalls and Stevens seemingly has no clue. 

The Celtics Are Interested in Rockets Center Clint Capela

You can count on many things as virtual certainties. Death, taxes, and Danny Ainge wiggling himself into trade rumors this time of year. 

Out of the endless supply of names haphazardly connected to the Celtics, the one where they are definitely interested in is Houston Rockets center Clint Capela. The rumor mill is Houston is in the market for a forward. The only pure forwards on the roster are P.J Tucker, who never plays the three position, Daniel House and Thabo Sefolosha. Tucker is fantastic in his role, but is 34-year-old. House is decent, but cannot play sufficient defense. Thabo is past his expiration date. 
While I do not believe the Celtics will involve Gordon Hayward in any of their trade discussions, Houston has eyed Timberwolves forward Robert Covington. A first-team All-Defense in 2017-18 and a good enough threat on offense that’ll keep things interesting for them on offense where they aren’t just Harden and Westbrook slicing to the basket or shooting from deep. 
Daryl Morey made it known a name he’s interested in is Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Simply put, Morey can go straight to Hell for even entertaining the possibility Smart would be on the table. 
Speaking of the Celtics, from their perspective I understand why Capela seems enticing. The drawbacks of doing a deal like this are there however. Hayward is likely to opt-into his 2020-21 player-option worth $34 million. With Tatum up for a rookie extension this summer, the Celtics will find themselves strapped for cap space and Capela only exasperates the issue. While Capela is on the 2nd year of his reasonable five-year, $90 million contract cannot be mistaken for an albatross, the Celtics effectively have sacrificed the little flexibility they still have while also reshaping the offense of the team by subtracting Daniel Theis from the equation. 
Should Ainge throw Theis away for the sexier Capela? It’s hard to say. Theis is a decent enough threat on offense, quite stingy on defense. An unsung hero of this pleasant rebound season for Boston. A recent string of injuries to Robert Williams and most recently Enes Kanter, the Celtics center workload have fallen squarely on Theis. When Kanter is healthy, the dichotomy of the Celtics performance versus when he isn’t is startling. The Celtics are 14-1 in games where Kanter plays below ten-minutes. If you can’t see how that stat alone explains how simply subtracting Kanter is a net gain then I don’t know what else to say. 
Conversely, Theis fits the Celtics system perfectly and is having a career year. The Celtics are running quality alley-op plays, he’s dunking once a game and since starting his first 17 games of the season without making a three-pointer, Theis has converted on nearly 36% of his attempts in his next 27. 
Williams has missed a large chunk of the season due to a hip injury. He’s raw, athletic, exciting and likely not ready for a season run. Unlike Kanter, a positive I can say about Williams is he is playable despite is obvious shortcomings. 
Ironically, the biggest upside to trading for Capela is not adding Capela himself. It’s taking Kanter off the team so Stevens can no longer look at him as a reliable security blanket. 
As for Capela himself, a solid 14 & 14 in points and rebounds, a pure athletic dunker, nearly unstoppable. However, his one dimensional status on offense could kill the good chemistry the Celtics have enjoyed this season. As previously stated, if Kanter is involved in a deal for Capela, it’ll thin the Celtics center rotation and force Stevens to ride the young Grant Williams and slide him into the role previously set for Kanter. While he’s a rookie, Grant is a contributor, has a good head on his shoulders and like Theis, once he’s shaken the habit of missing all his threes to start the year, Grant shot a respectable percentage from deep (38.9% since Dec. 9). 
The hypothetical deal, in my eyes is probably going to look like something like this:
Celtics: Clint Capela 
Rockets: Robert Covington, Daniel Theis, Romeo Langford
T-Wolves: Enes Kanter, Tyson Chandler, two 1st round picks – via Boston
The Celtics are slated to have three firsts in this year’s draft, projected to be somewhere near 17, 26, 30. 

Trade Hayward? Yeah, Probably. Trade Kanter? YES

If I had to pinpoint the reasons for the Celtics recent struggles after a strong start to begin the season, I’d blame the irrational heavy schedule featuring nine games in fourteen days. Teams like San Antonio, Detroit,  Milwaukee and Phoenix combining to shoot for 52.7 percent from the field. Playing Enes Kanter. Lastly, coming to the realization that Gordon Hayward will never, ever return to what he once was.

For a brief time it did appear he was in the process of doing just that before slamming his finger into a LaMarcus Aldridge screen. Prior to this, Hayward looked like an All-Star. Shooting 55 percent, averaging nearly 19 points nightly. Then, as fate would have it, he fell victim to circumstance and missed a couple of weeks, came back for a couple games then returned to the pine after sustaining another injury. Since returning on Christmas, Hayward’s shooting fell to 47 percent, as has his points per game to 15. 
Is it time to trade Hayward and focus more on The Jays? Well, it’s a very complicated subject… YES. 
Trade him. Do it. Do it now. While we’re at it, drop Kanter on anyone willing to take him. We can make it to the final dance if we get rid of Kanter and force Brad Stevens to play Grant Williams and, when he eventually returns, Robert Williams. 

Enes The Big Doofus Kanter

After a disappointing loss to the Toronto Raptors, who were missing Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, it was later reported Enes Kanter met and talked to court-side attendees actor Donnie Wahlberg, Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and supermodel Jenny McCarthy. A who’s who of bad vibes. No wonder we lost. This also exemplifies the fact Kanter, despite all he’s gone through recently with the government of Turkey wanting his head on a pike is politically naive and also a giant doofus. Fitting on his on-court persona perfectly. 

In all honesty, the Celtics can’t do better than Kanter. Not when they signed him in July when it was between him and Noah Vonleh. Certainly not right now. If the season went belly up the blame could squarely be pinned on Kanter as he’d be quickly ran out of town on a rail. The fact the Celtics defense remains at an elite level relying heavily on Kanter is a testament to Brad Stevens System. The four players sharing the floor with a teammate who refuses to raise his hands when defending the pick-and-roll have to pick up the slack and work doubly hard to minimize his weaknesses. 
Yet, on paper Kanter is having a career season. His numbers are relatively the same when he played similar roles in New York and Portland. Only the statistics don’t seem as much like empty calories. Against Philadelphia, Kanter’s played solid defense against Joel Embiid too. 
But here’s the thing, Kanter is literally the worst at the one thing NBA teams run constantly. He can’t guard the pick-and-roll and I’m sure he flat out refuses to. It’s infuriating and will undoubtedly cost us games. 
What’s funny is, we can’t bench him because Robert Williams is out for a couple months with a hip injury. The only other center we have on the roster ready to go is Daniel Theis. A tremendous bit player in a similar role as Kanter, but only better at roughly everything minus offensive rebounding. 
No matter his flaws. His cringeworthy posts. We’re stuck with Kanter for the time being. 

Who Says No: Al Horford for Russell Westbrook

Tons of NBA teams are in need of a drastic change to fix their oddly constructed rosters. Two teams that come to mind are Houston and Philadelphia. 

Houston for this entire season is a team made up of mismatch parts. Harden and Westbrook are lighting up the scoreboard, as you would expect, but their weak spots everywhere else negate this advantage. Along the way there’s been bad luck. Eric Gordon’s played only 9 games this season with a knee injury. Perhaps when he returns the Rockets won’t be so reliant on two players for all of their points. The foursome of Daniel House, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers and P.J Tuckers have been hit or miss as revolving door third options. The shots are there, but they aren’t falling at the rate Houston needs them to. In close games the Rockets are 3-3. While they are 22-10 they are inconsistent and need to shore up their defense.
In 2016-17 Mike D’Antoni ran the offense exclusively through Harden. Everybody else not named Clint Capela were spot up shooters. Defense was not their calling card by any stretch of the imagination. Looking back, the one man show Rockets had more of an edge to them because the flow of the offense was superior. I really believe trading Chris Paul for Westbrook was a mistake. The relationship between harden and Paul was on the rocks but their Ying and Yang act worked better. 
As for Philadelphia, their last two seasons have been odd to say the least. Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler almost brought the Sixers to the NBA Finals if not for a Kawhi miracle shot. But going all-in on one year cost Philadelphia pieces they need right now. Landry Shamet is a decent shooter playing the two position. Meanwhile, Dario Saric and Robert Covington are solid spot-up presence on their respective teams and are on tradable contracts. 
The only actual guard the Sixers have on their roster is Josh Richardson. A defensive juggernaut. Offensively, he’s hit or miss. 
The Sixers pairing of three ball dominate stars last season between Ben Simmons, Butler and Joel Embiid nearly worked as Butler was the only soul willing to stare death in the eye during the heated playoff series versus Toronto. Simmons and Embiid folded. Say what you will about Westbrook, but his heart is undeniable. That’s something lacking in Philadelphia right now.
Horford has been as advertised, but what he did in Boston isn’t the same as in Philadelphia because Embiid is their center. Horford is a center, not a power forward. Especially next to a guy like Embiid whose skill set is roughly the same. If he was next to a Capela, Horford likely is in the same situation he was when Aron Baynes was his teammate. Horford would start games at the power forward spot, and end them at center. Perhaps Capela is too one dimensional for high stakes playoff spots and someone more versatile is needed when the Lakers, Jazz, or Mavericks come to town. 
76ers receive: Russell Westbrook, Austin Rivers
Rockets receive: Al Horford, Josh Richardson
Philly picks up an extra guard, Houston strengthens their defense and picks up a needed shooter to sit in the corner. The Sixers need an edge. Westbrook could be that. 

More Grant Williams or Small-Ball

Currently riding a hot streak without Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward in the lineup, the Celtics have managed to scourge together a respectable three-game win streak due in large part to the hot hands of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scoring 165 points between them. The Jays have raised to the occasion in the Celtics time of need and as the team departs for their Christmas Day game versus the Toronto Raptors, they will do it without center Enes Kanter. A decent rebounder, a liability almost everywhere else.

On the bright side, Smart and Hayward are strong possible return candidates for Wednesday. Smart nursing an eye infection, Hayward hobbled by a foot. 
The only center the Celtics will have ready to go is Daniel Theis. Their options are to let the undersized rookie Grant Williams play large stretches and have him go through the learning curves in what’s sure to be a loss. Or they play extremely small for the majority of the game. 
Williams is very promising. He has an extraordinary basketball I.Q and is generally aware of what his role is and how to accomplish it. It is a foregone conclusion the experienced bigs of Toronto will cause the 6-7 Williams problems, but it’ll give him tons of needed experience. 
On the flip side, the Celtics could roll out a lineup where Hayward is their de facto center at 6-9 he’d be the tallest in a five-some with Kemba, Smart, Brown and Tatum. Obviously this cedes the rebounding battle, but the Celtics gain the advantage of having five versatile shooters who can also drive to the rim. An underrated attribute The Jays have improved on in the summer is their passing. This potentially is the lineup Brad Stevens turns to close out playoff games. There’s no better time to trot it out than now. 

No. The Celtics Shouldn’t Trade for Kevin Love

We’ve blinked and have already crossed the twenty-games threshold. Teams who’ve began with slow starts, all hope is not loss for many. Perhaps a trade could reinvigorate a stagnant roster. I say this and think of Portland. Following a low key disastrous summer, trading Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Hassan Whiteside,  Portland has taken noticeable steps backward. 

Perhaps the aforementioned Whiteside and a 1st round pick is enough to snag Kevin Love from the hands of Cleveland?  Love’s value is tough to gage. This isn’t 2014. Love is 31, declined and while serviceable he doesn’t have the allure he did five-years prior. 
Then, the Celtics had heavy interest in the All-Star and for a brief while were regarded as the favorites to land him. It took a LeBron James return to Cleveland to drastically shift the scales and push the Celtics out of contention. Now he’s available again, and the Celtics are (again) linked to him. It’s outrageous to even consider. Yes, the Celtics are weak at center. But Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Grant Williams and even the vexing Enes Kanter better serve this roster because they don’t need touches, are better defensively and allow the three scoring forwards to do their work. Only way Boston can acquire Love is throwing in Gordon Hayward. It’s only been a handful of games and I would go on a killing spree if Danny Ainge did this swap.
The Celtics are 16-5 and if Hayward wasn’t hurt they’d have only one loss on the record. We’re here because we put focus on three two-way forwards and don’t need an over the hill, overpaid, irrelevant power forward.