The Celtics finally landed their trade target yesterday. For a while there, it looked as if they would be rebuffed in their aim to claim 2015 fourth overall pick Kristaps Porzingis; talks with the Wizards and the Clippers bogged down after the latter saw fit to question reigning National Basketball Association Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon’s health standing. After amending their plans accordingly, they managed to get the Grizzlies to green light a deal involving 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart instead.
Considering the Celtics’ offensive woes in the just-concluded Playoffs, it’s easy to see why the front office led by president of hoops operations Brad Steven’s would want to fortify the roster with Porzingis. He has just come off his best season in the league, norming 23.2 points (on 49.8% and 38.5% shooting from the field and three-point line, respectively), 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. Significantly, it isn’t just his production they need; how and from where he punctures the hoop with consistency is equally important.
All too often throughout the 2022-23 season, the Celtics lived and died with their accuracy from trey territory. And it was no more evident than in the East Finals; the talent-challenged Heat came close to sweeping them, and ultimately beat them at home in Game Seven. Moving forward, they will benefit immensely from Porzingis’ capacity to either spread the floor or establish a presence down low. Never mind that the loss of Smart will, well, smart; he was their sixth overall pick in 2014, and his departure will hurt their cultivated image of building from within.
On the whole, there can be no doubting the strides the Celtics will make from here on. They’re not likely to be done wheeling and dealing, and if there’s anything that Porzingis’ arrival underscores, it’s the willingness of owner Wyc Grousbeck to open his wallet for improved competitiveness. Over the next two years, projected extensions for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would have the green and white forking over max contracts for their top three players. And in the face of more prohibitive provisions in the collective bargaining agreement, they’ll be heavy taxpayers for some time to come.
The bottom line is this: The Celtics will need to be financially creative in order to consolidate the gain they just made. Nonetheless, they get an A for riding on the Wizards’ reboot plans and nabbing Porzingis. Assuming he stays healthy, they cannot but be deemed favorites in their conference once more.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, oprerations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.