Look I get it – not too long ago I wrote an extended article talking about how I was no longer a Celtics fan and that Danny Ainge should be dragged through the cobblestone streets of Beantown and beaten a la Mussolini. However that has all changed in recent months. The departure of both Danny Ainge and Daniel Theis from the Boston Celtics organization has given me new hope, and has lured me back to where I belong – scolding and cheering for the green and white from the only New England city worth mentioning.
The Celtics have a plethora of holes in their roster that I have been bitching and moaning about for the last couple of years – the lack of a true distributor and post threat cause them a whole lot of problems for them throughout both the regular and postseasons. I’ve done enough on places such as twitter dot com about what the Celtics need to do to address the post presence (it’s Karl Anthony-Towns), so I will address the former issue in this article. This brings me to my main point, and the idea that’s been burning a hole in my brain for the last 48 hours – the best move for the Beantown Micks in the 2021 offseason is to bring in one of the best developing players in the league today, Lonzo Ball.
Lonzo has shown some absolutely incredible improvement in his first 4 years around the league, and has completely reworked his funky shooting form to bring the ball up on the correct side of his body. This has resulted in a jump in 3 point efficiency, going from 30.5% his rookie season to 37.8% in 2020-21. Additionally, Ball has also increased his attempts per game from 5.7 to 8.3 during that stretch. You read that right, Lonzo has not only increased his shooting efficiency, he’s shooting more often. Ball also still has those playmaking skills that got him drafted number 2 overall in 2017, and he’s playing borderline All-NBA defense on the perimeter. So why is he available?
Well, Lonzo is a unique position as he is now a restricted free agent. This means that his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans, can match any offer sheet that Lonzo signs with another team this offseason. For example, say that Lonzo signs a 4 year, $90 million contract with the Celtics. New Orleans can step in and Lonzo would then sign with the Pelicans for that same 4 years, $90 million deal. This makes acquisition of Ball a lot more difficult than one would like. However, a sign and trade option is not out of the question, and while the ideal scenario would be to just sign Lonzo out right, this is the Celtics we’re talking about and nothing is ever easy.
Lonzo Ball (signs 4 year, $64MM), Willy Hernangomez
Marcus Smart, Tristan Thompson, 2022 2nd Round Pick (via CHA)
To be fair, this might be a low ball. I think the most realistic iteration of this trade features some sort of first rounder from Boston’s side to get the deal done. Other than that, I believe this deal helps out the Celtics a ton:
Tristan Thompson sucks, we all know that, but Willy Hernangomez isn’t much better. He’s just a bigger body that will probably only be used in a backup big role, or when somebody large just needs someone else large thrown at them. However the real kicker here is Smart. I love Marcus Smart. I bleed Marcus Smart. I am Marcus Smart. Needless to say, he’s my favorite player on the Boston Celtics. This is how high I am on Lonzo’s development through these first 4 years. Lonzo is not only almost on par with Smart defensively, he is a much better offensive player. Ball is more efficient, and has a better ball handling ability. The Celtics desperately need someone to facilitate the offense, as they fell into the isolation pit of despair last season. We have seen what players like Mike Conley and Chris Paul have done to players like Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker – having a distributor makes the isolation scorer’s job infinitely easier. I see no reason why a Lonzo-Tatum pairing wouldn’t work wonders. Lonzo’s projected contract of 4 years, $64 million would also work extremely well with this trade, as Smart is slated to make $13.6MM next season, so there would not be a lot of finagling to do in order for this to work.
The Pelicans also have some incentive to do this trade, as it looks like the best use for Zion is going to be perimeter distribution with some banging and bruising down low. They could use this trade to put the ball in the hands of Zion and Brandon Ingram more, as Marcus Smart only really requires the ball every 6 possessions where he bombs a 3 that bounces way too high off of the back rim.
Well there you have it, a potential Lonzo Ball trade to bring the Celtics their ever so needed distributor and potentially a massive piece for their (hopeful) title runs in the near future. Overall, this trade would bring the Celtics back about 5.6 million, so they would have to be careful what they do with Evan Fournier to not mess up the cap space they have available in 2022. If they have the prowess to add their fourth and final piece in that offseason, a core of Lonzo, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, someone else and Robert Williams could do some serious damage in the postseason.