Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
4. Boston Celtics (Previously 5th)
Offseason priority: Round out that bench and find a new home for Gordon Hayward. The Boston Celtics aren’t hurt by having Hayward on the roster. He’s a valuable rotation guy for them. But re-allocating the $34 million he’ll be owed (once he exercises his player option) with two or three players would be ideal for a roster with such a short bench. The Celtics have a real chance to compete for a title, but they need depth more than they need an expensive forward when they already have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to lead them.
Why did they end up at this ranking? I trust Boston in the postseason more than I trust any other East team not named Miami. Tatum and Brown have catapulted themselves into a star tandem. Danny Ainge needs to address some of the depth issues, but this Celtics team is set up to be a problem in both the regular season and the postseason.
Brad Stevens’ club has yet to get over the NBA Finals hump, though, thanks in part to untimely injuries, inconsistent play and a lack of bench depth.
So, how can the Celtics take the next step? Should they run it back with mostly the same squad, or should Danny Ainge shake up the roster? We’ll tackle that question by ranking every Celtics player from most likely to leave the team this offseason to least likely to go anywhere. […]
Hayward likely will opt into the final year of his Celtics contract to earn $34.2 million in 2021, and Boston must decide whether there’s more value in keeping him around for another title push or trading him now before he walks for no return next offseason.
NBC Sports Boston: 2020 NBA offseason: Which Celtics players are most likely to leave Boston?
When your team comes close to winning a title, but fails, everyone talks about “if only.” This season, we couldn’t help saying, “If only Hayward hadn’t gotten hurt, Boston could’ve made the Finals” and “If only the roster had more depth, maybe we could’ve won it all.”
Those two situations were connected. Hayward being injured pushed Marcus Smart into the starting lineup, which in turn took an impact player from the mostly inexperienced second unit.
In hindsight, Ainge should’ve made a move or two to shore up the second unit with some experience and shooting. The Celtics had a real chance this season, but in the end they didn’t have enough weapons. Danny can’t make that mistake again. Now, does that mean Hayward should be traded? No, at least not yet … but it’s complicated.
Obviously, Hayward is not able to control if he gets injured. It’s just bad luck. But at the same time, his three years with the Celtics have been a frustrating struggle to simply stay on the court. This season, Gordo finally played well and consistently – and still missed 20 of Boston’s 72 regular season games with a broken hand and assorted other dings: nose, foot, calf and knee.
Then Hayward was out for 12 playoff games with the badly sprained ankle. We know now that this doomed the Celtics’ chances. He played in the last four of the Miami series, but only because he came back before being completely healed.
In light of all that, it’s fair to wonder if the Celtics-Hayward pairing will ever be as productive as expected. It would become a complete disaster if he pulls a Horford and walks away from his player option. Not only would the Celtics get nothing in return, but they’d have the bad look of two high-profile free agents coming to Boston and then deciding they could do better elsewhere.
If Hayward does stay, God forbid he gets injured yet again. Fans and pundits will absolutely be screaming about bad karma – and it would be difficult to say it wasn’t. At that point, a trade might indeed be the best thing for everyone.
But not yet. Let’s see how it goes whenever the next season does begin, because if Hayward sticks around, maybe he will finally stay healthy and perform as we all envisioned three years ago.
And while we’re daydreaming…
Maybe Romeo Langford will also shake his injury troubles. Maybe Ainge will find a reliable 3-point shooter or two to come off the bench. Maybe Rob Williams will figure out what his coach wants from him so he can stay on the floor. Maybe the Jays will continue their trajectory as the best young tandem in the league. Maybe, for a change, the Celtics will have a season filled with good luck.
That’s a lot of “maybes.” But we don’t want another year of “if only.”
On Page 2: Sign him up!
One of our fine editors here at NBC Sports Boston sent along the Yahoo! Sports story with Payton expressing a desire to join an NBA coaching staff and wondered out loud if he made sense for the Boston Celtics.
Given how many times I’ve typed the sentence, “Marcus Smart is trying to become the first guard to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton,” I’ll admit that my mind immediately wandered to the possibility of Smart and 52-year-old Payton engaging in a scoreless, three-hour, post-practice game of 1-on-1. […]
In the aftermath of Boston’s playoff exit, it’s often been suggested that the Celtics might need a veteran player on their bench. When we posed that question to Brian Scalabrine earlier this week on the Celtics Talk podcast, he was unsure how much of a need it was considering the Celtics seem to have hard-working young players who don’t necessarily need a veteran voice to push them to improve.
Could a veteran coach help? It probably depends on the situation. It’s fun to think about how Payton might bring some additional defensive tenacity to a Celtics team that already ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive rating this past season.
NBC Sports Boston: Forsberg: You might ‘Glove’ this idea for the Celtics
Did I read that right? Gary Payton – Hall of Famer, NBA champ, DPOY – might like to coach in Boston?
I’m stunned that Smart hasn’t already chartered a plane to go pick him up.
This is a no-brainer of epic magnitude. Look at the team-that-must-not-be-named that just won the playoffs. Jason Kidd was one of the worst NBA head coaches in recent memory, but as an assistant with that LA franchise, he surely added value to their coaching cadre.
The Celtics have no coach with a resume even close to Kidd’s, but they would with Payton (who played with the Celtics in 2004-05). Young teams generally don’t win in the NBA, because they simply lack experience. Adding the Glove to the team would absolutely change that. Brad may have coached for many years, but he could never be a mentor in the way that a former star player could be.
Danny needs to make this happen immediately.
And, finally… Get out the vote
Boston Celtics All-NBA small forward Jayson Tatum was challenged on Twitter by former First Lady Michelle Obama to form a “voting squad” of three people to collectively “make a plan to vote, and challenge three people to do it, too.”
Tatum was part of a diverse group of famous individuals invited to do so by the former First Lady including rappers L.L. Cool J, Fat Joe and Big Sean as well as actress Issa Rae, actor Billy Porter and several other celebrities.
Challenge accepted @michelleobama. You already know I have my #votingsquad and we have our plan to vote!! Grab YOUR squad, make a plan and VOTE TOGETHER! @Brandy_N_Cole @celtics @tatumjustin40 @SwaggyB_22 @tinoochoa @MandeeAllen https://t.co/dg4KOB14bl pic.twitter.com/98Q0a1BEom
— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) October 15, 2020
What do you know? JT is old enough to vote.
Wait, wait, loyal readers, don’t leave. I know you didn’t come here for politics, but this isn’t that. It’s really a non-partisan civics project, encouraging every American to be a good citizen and participate in the nation’s crucial election of 2020.
In fact, “Vote” was one of the messages that the NBA communicated from the bubble. Players and owners committed to support voters casting their ballots as the founders intended.
As for Michelle Obama’s tweet, I’m way too uncool to be familiar with most of those celebrities, but even I know that this is a very bright spotlight shining on Tatum. It puts the Celtics’ young star one step closer to becoming a household name. And that is pretty cool.
The Rest of the Links:
NBC Sports Boston: Assessing C’s odds to win 2021 NBA championship