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NBA PM: What’s The Bold Move For The Celtics?

The Celtics need to make a move if they want to make a deep playoff run. Is Nikola Vucevic the answer? Or is it Harrison Barnes?

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As the season starts back up following the All-Star Game, the Boston Celtics are in dire need of a move that’ll make them a sure-fire contender. After the departure of Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets, the Celtics were able to get a $20 million traded player exception (that jumps up to $28 million if used this offseason). In an interview with Toucher and Rich, Danny Ainge made it clear though that he isn’t in any rush to use this exception and expects to use it in the offseason. This then leaves Celtics fans in a state of confusion as the team looks like it is short of contender status but nowhere close to being a lottery team. 

The Celtics’ woes have been from a combination of things this season such as lack of bench depth – outside of Payton Pritchard and Robert Wiliams – a two-big starting lineup that is just too slow to keep up, a COVID outbreak that sidelined many for extended periods and scoring issues outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker’s numbers are back up to around the 19 points per game mark, but he has had some awful shooting games this season. There doesn’t seem to be that one guy who can come in and make the team an immediate contender, but with an extra shooting-big and another forward off the bench, the Celtics could be back in business.

The Magic Trade Nikola Vucevic to the Celtics for Robert Williams, Aaron Nesmith, a 2021 First Round Pick and a 2022 Second Round Pick

Should the Magic look to blow things up – as it gets more clear following every game that they are nowhere near contention the way they’re currently constructed – they could look to part ways with their 30-year-old All-Star center, Nikola Vucevic. For the Magic, this trade is sounding the alarm and finally waving the white flag. With the team in shambles and full of question marks and end of the rotation bench pieces, the trade of Vucevic to the best suitor could be coming soon. Robert Williams would be a very good, young replacement for cheap – he’s been excellent for the Celtics this season and owns the makings of a starting center, but will it be with Boston?

Adding Vucevic to the lineup is the best scenario possible for Boston. The 2021 All-Star is averaging 24.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists – so putting him in the starting lineup over Theis and Thompson makes the Celtics look like a championship contender immediately. Vucevic would add much-needed spacing to the core of the team, while he’d instantly inherit the team’s leading rebounder position by far. Adding him to the starting five would also allow the Celtics to bring Theis and Thompson off the bench as the situational role players they’ve thrived in the past as. 

Grade: A+

The Kings Trade Nemanja Bjelica and Harrison Barnes to the Celtics for Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith and a 2021 Second Round Pick

This trade’s return would be underwhelming, to say the least, for the Kings, but they get two young former first-rounders on rookie deals in return, plus a second round pick. It clears them a significant amount of cap and allows them to see if either Langford or Nesmith have real potential in the NBA.

For the Celtics, this trade would immediately solve the scoring problems that have hampered them this season. Outside of the stars, Brown and Tatum, there have been many occasions in which nobody can hit a shot. Barnes adds more length and quickness to the starting lineup, as well as another consistent shooter and playmaker next to Walker, Brown, Tatum and and Marcus Smart. He has championship experience from his days in Golden State, while also bringing an established veteran presence to the locker room.

Bjelica being included in the trade may be somewhat of a reach, but his fit in Sacramento has just not been there this season. According to Basketball Reference, he’s seen a drastic fall in three-point percentage from 41.9 percent to 32.6. His scoring output has also decreased from 11.5 points per game to just 8.0. It’s clear by his regression that his fit in Sacramento is not ideal and, with the return of Marvin Bagley III, there are fewer minutes at the forward position up for grabs. Bjelica would be a great fit off the bench for Boston as the Celtics could use a knock-down shooter at the forward position on their bench since the team has struggled to find consistent contributors there.

Grade: B+

The Spurs Trade LaMarcus Aldridge to the Celtics for Grant Williams and a 2021 Second Round Pick

The seven-time All-Star looks like he is nearing the end of his career as his production this season has seen a massive decline. For the Spurs, it’s going to be pretty hard to find a suitor for Aldridge that has the cap space for the portion of his large contract left this season. In all likelihood, Aldrige may just wind up on the buyout market anyway.

But Aldridge would bring a very strong veteran presence to the Celtics’ locker room, as well as another glass-cleaner to send out on the floor. His three-point shooting has seen a very sharp spike the past two seasons as he’s become a different player with age. Trading for Aldridge would be more of a last-resort scenario for Boston, as it doesn’t make much sense to use any of the TPE on him. He would make the Celtics into more of a contender than they currently are, but it doesn’t seem like it would be significant enough to pull off a trade for him. 

Grade C-

Getting Barnes and Bjelica would be a solid move to bolster the team’s depth and aid in the second-unit scoring woes the team has had for a few seasons. It’s probably time for the Celtics to part with some of their bench players such as Javonte Green and Semi Ojeleye – who are capable NBA role-players but, have been given the chance on the Celtics now for a couple of seasons and have yet to make a consistent impact. With Barnes in the fold, the starting lineup could go much smaller and space the floor for more open three-point opportunities if Theis is also on the floor. Aldridge is a safe signing that would bring some much-needed scrappiness to the rotation.

But, still, these moves should be second to any Vucevic-centered chasing – but if Ainge is unable to swing that, either of the other moves could improve the team’s depth for a postseason run.

 It shouldn’t be forgotten amidst the early season struggles, that this team was just in the Eastern Conference finals last season and lost only Gordon Hayward during the offseason. That’s not a knock on Hayward, but his time in Boston didn’t go as smoothly as most expected. Vucevic is a star big man in this league that does not come with an ego, so bringing him into the tight-knit, friendly environment already established in Boston could tip the scales.

Bolstering the roster has to be done for the Celtics to have any chance of making it far in the postseason, that might seems obvious – but where’s the line? In recent years, Danny Ainge has been reluctant to part with the players that he drafted, but now is the time. The Celtics have a very good starting five, one that is capable of competing with any team in the NBA, but they need to complete it with just one or two more pieces to have a legitimate shot.

Dylan Thayer is a Contributing Writer for Basketball Insiders, and a Sport Management student in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

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Jazz agree to trade Derrick Favors, first-round pick to Thunder

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First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Utah Jazz are trading power forward/center Derrick Favors and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future second-round pick. The goal here was to help reduce their tax bill. While the six-foot-eight Georgia native does not have any notable NBA awards or honors on his basketball résumé, in the 2020-21 NBA season, Favors averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent. The 11-year NBA veteran also recorded a free throw shooting percentage of 73.8 percent last season.

The 2020-21 Thunder finished 27-50 (.306), ranking 14th overall in the Western Conference. They could use another first-round pick. Plus, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this trade will put Utah $13 million below the luxury tax. On November 24, 2020, Favors signed a three-year, $29.2 million contract with the Jazz. Favors is set to earn $9,720,900 next season. This is the second time in his career he has left the Jazz.

He played with them from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season, before he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 7, 2019 for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. For the 2022-23 season, he has a player option of $10,183,800. The Jazz plan to also re-sign Mike Conley, so this was somewhat of a drastic move to help clear up cap space. On July 6, 2019, Conley was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Jazz, in exchange for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Moreover, scoring-wise, the 33-year-old point guard has not lived up to his performances from his last few seasons on the Grizzlies, but the Jazz need all the help they can get. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik will make it a top priority to re-sign Conley here soon. Conley earned $34,504,132 in the 2020-21 season.

According to Spotrac, Conley has a cap figure of $39,344,900. Center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell have a combined percentage of 47.61 percent of Utah’s total salary cap. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five year, $205 million extension with the team. He will earn $35,344,828 next season.

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Wizards, Lakers agree to Russell Westbrook and Three-Player Trade Deal

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The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in a three-player trade, sending Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick in Thursday’s 2021 NBA Draft to the Wizards. According to ESPN, the Wizards are also giving up their 2024 and 2028 second-round picks as well. During last night’s draft, at pick No. 22, the Lakers sent Wildcats’ center Isaiah Jackson to the Pacers via the Wizards. At pick No. 15, the Wizards drafted Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert. In the second round, at pick No. 31, the Milwaukee Bucks traded NBA G League player Isaiah Todd to the Wizards via the Pacers.

On Thursday, Harrell decided to pursue his $9.7 million player option for next season. Yesterday, rumors surfaced across social media regarding a possible Lakers-Kings trade involving Harrell. Despite the outlandish predictions and mindless speculation from fans over these last couple of days, this trade move could work out great for both teams.

After all, Westbrook is a 9-time NBA All-Star and three-time assists leader. In his MVP season back in the 2016-17 season, over the course of 81 games, he averaged a career-high 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. On Twitter, Westbrook tweeted, “I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 67 games started for the Lakers. The 28-year-old shooting guard will make $13 million next season. As for Kuzma, in 68 games played last season, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Kuzma is set to earn $13 million next season. For Harrell, in 69 games played last season, he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. The six-foot-seven power forward/center is also a six-year player. Instead of having one or two notable super stars, the Wizards having several contributing players might work out better in their favor.

Last season, in 65 games played in his only season spent on the Wizards, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. The 32-year-old point guard finished the 2020-21 season with 38 triple-doubles, ranking first in the league and second highest in his own playing career. Westbrook also surpassed Oscar Robertson last season for the most all-time assists; Robertson accumulated 181 triple-doubles in 14 seasons. Now, the two-time NBA scoring champion has 184 career triple-doubles, the most all-time for any player. Furthermore, this is Westbrook’s fourth team in his NBA career.

He is the fifth former MVP in league history to play on four different teams over the course of four seasons or less, adding to the existent list of Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Derrick Rose. Moreover, on December 2, 2020, Westbrook was traded by the Houston Rockets to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 first-round draft pick. He is set to earn $44.2 million in the upcoming season. His player option for the 2022-23 season is $47 million. This trade deal will not be official until August 6th.

Per Bovada’s NBA Futures odds, the Lakers now have +300 odds of winning their eighteenth championship in the 2021-22 season. This is a move from 4/1 odds before the trade, leaping the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, and they now have the second best odds behind the Brooklyn Nets (+250). Westbrook also has the best odds of leading the league in assists next season, with first place odds showing EVEN. He is ahead of James Harden (+150), Trae Young (+450), and Luka Doncic (+600). With +6600 odds, he also ranks 19th in the NBA for next season’s MVP odds, trailing Lakers’ teammates such as James (+1200) and Davis (+2800).

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Russell Westbrook joins L.A. Lakers in One of the biggest trades in NBA History

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(Image courtesy of AP)

In one of the biggest NBA Draft trades ever, Los Angeles Lakers acquired the services of Washington Wizards’ former MVP, Russell Westbrook, last night!

As a result of the trade, the Lakers can now boast a holy trinity of attacking talent in Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and, of course, Lebron James, unlike anything seen in recent memory. Assuming this new contingent clicks into gear, it might just be the most frighteningly talented trio to play together in NBA history, rivaling the Bulls triple horn of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, or that great Lakers team of the late 80s with Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In exchange for their star man, the Wizards received three players and what was the No 22 overall pick in last night’s NBA Draft. The former Lakers tasked with replacing Westbrook in Washington will be Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.

Washington then spent the Lakers No.22 pick on Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, but immediately traded him on to the Indiana Pacers in a deal that saw the Wizards acquire pick No.31 and point guard Aaron Holiday. Wizards then used pick No.33 to draft Isaiah Todd to bolster their ranks at power forward.

 

(Image courtesy of AP)

The effervescent Westbrook had another great year in 2020-21, averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game in his first season with the Wizards.

In joining the Lakers star cast, which already boasts the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook, a 9x NBA All-Star & 2016-17 MVP, will now be hoping to end his NBA championship drought.

Westbrook has since taken to social media to thank the WashingtonWizards franchise for a great year spent in the capital, tweeting:

“Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one,” he wrote. “Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.”

“I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

With a legendary point guard now fixed among the ranks, 2020 NBA Championship winners the Lakers have all the talent required to wrestle back the title from the freshly-crowned Milwaukee Bucks.

So, get yourselves ready for an influx of NBA betting lines on Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Middleton vs. LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook for next year’s championship games!

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