As the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia Sixers stand pat in the Eastern Conference revving to go in the NBA, there is one major similarity between the two despite the Celtics looking more of a major threat to challenge Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James and the Sixers looking anything but that. With a bevy of talented young players including Ghana’s own Ben Bentil, who can contribute directly or otherwise, both sides are set for the challenges ahead in varied forms.
With a huge chest of recent draft picks to complement the team like Demetrius Jackson, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter, Boston can deepen its roster should the plentiful young guns available can be packaged to fetch a proven player in the league to help their course.
With time ticking on Utah Jazz’ playoff clock, don’t be surprised if a trade involving Gordon Hayward between Utah and Boston bubbles up should the Jazz make a bad start to the season and take themselves out of making the postseason. Hayward is likely to forgo the last year on his contract and become a free agent next season so management will be wise to move him for a healthy return should Utah’s playoff ambitions fizzle out.
Having a top shooting wing player will push up Boston’s offense to the level capable of dethroning the Cavaliers. Philadelphia on the other hand finally has what it always wanted; the number one pick in the draft.
It is for this reason former Manager Sam Hinkie’s trades caused the team to win only 47 games in three seasons according to Basketballreference.com which got them 6 foot 10 projected Point Forward Ben Simmons. By drafting the Australian number one in June’s Draft, it is believed the rookie who has been described by 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Shaquille O’Neal as a “Lebron type player” will be a major factor for the team to win games more than the ten it did last season. In recent days, chatter of the two linking up regarding swapping Guard Marcus Smart to Philadelphia for Nerlens Noel to go the other way has gained momentum.
Looking at the reported proposition, it makes a lot of sense to offload some weight off Boston’s jammed backcourt which also has Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Hunter, John Holland, Rozier and Jackson to the Sixers who need it badly. Filling that hole would necessitate a move for one of Philly’s equally jammed frontcourt that has Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Simmons, Jakarr Sampson, Dario Saric and Elton Brand aside Noel. Smart bulldozing his way on drives to the basket and Noel backing up newly signed big man Al Horford in the second unit alongside defensive liable Kelly Olynyk is the utmost ideal situation for both sides.
But looking closely, the moves do have a tinge of counter productivity as Smart doesn’t necessarily improve the Sixers nor does Noel bump up Celtics offense in the new NBA that prioritizes three shooting. Philadelphia lacks shooting in all departments on the court and Smart’s position isn’t immune from that as the former number six pick is a subpar three point shooter who has converted 152 of 513 three point attempts in his two year stay in the league. On a Sixers side that finished the season dead last in offensive rating and has non three point shooters Okafor, Brand, Simmons and Sampson on the books, that is not good enough.
His defensive awareness however, figures to help the side climb further from its 26th position in the league as Smart’s hard nose play on the perimeter is difficult to overlook. His 6 foot 4 inch frame and 220 pound frame gives him the ability guard Shooting Guards and Small Forwards in smaller lineup. But does Philadelphia need a defender? Boston’s catalogue of defensive stalwarts even without Smart is impressive; Avery Bradley made All-Defense First Team last year, Jae Crowder’s defense is so good New York Knicks Manager Phil Jackson regretted letting him go to Boston, Horford is one of the most underrated big guys in the league and Amir Johnson.
Getting stops is synonymous to this new band of Celtics but getting it done on the end is not so much. The team struggles to score leaning way too many times on Isaiah Thomas to bail them out especially in situations when they are not racing down the floor off turnovers. Noel, a top defender in his own right, can contribute to force opponents in turning the ball over but much like a majority of the Celtics, Noel doesn’t offer much beside that. He doesn’t shoot three point shots, doesn’t score much on jump shots and is an ok finisher at the charity stripe.
Boston doesn’t need more defense, it needs more on offense and by reportedly longing for Noel, the Celtics doesn’t figure to gain much from this transaction.
By Yaw Adjei- Mintah