• Matthew Legros

The Celtics Next Target

*Photo via Boston.com

The Boston Celtics accomplished a great deal in free agency. They didn’t land the one prized possession: Kevin Durant, but either did 29 other NBA franchises.Only one team could snag the perennial all-star, and that happened to be the Golden State Warriors. But no need to mope in Boston, they landed a great consolation player in Al Horford. Adding to the Celtics tremendously deep and youthful roster, Horford fills the void of a defensive big man with an offensive repertoire matched by few. A veteran presence, playoff experience, and leadership are a few of the many intangibles Al Horford brings to the table. He rounds out a starting lineup of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley in the backcourt, and himself, Jae Crowder, and Jonas Jerebko in the frontcourt. The Celtics bench resembles an ensemble of guards Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter, and James Young. Backup forwards include 3rd overall pick Jalen Brown, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, and several draft picks. So what should the Boston Celtics do now to truly contend with Cleveland in the East?

The starting lineup is as set as it can be. Isaiah Thomas is a point guard who can efficiently score in high volume, and distribute. In addition, Avery Bradley is a top 5 perimeter defender in the NBA who has improved his midrange game. Moreover, one Jae Crowder, being a two way small forward, thrives in a complementary role. Lastly a stretch 4 in Jonas Jerebko, and an All Star Al Horford who can command the post and extend his range, as well as protect the rim, solidifies this lineup. As great as the starting lineup is, the bench is not one to be slept on. Marcus Smart is a two way point guard who is capable of starting in this league. RJ Hunter is a young prospect who can flat out score and has range. Jalen Brown was the third pick, so he will be given the chance to prove himself this season. But the bus stops there. Everyone else, for the most part, is expendable.

The Celtics have a lot of trade options. Russell Westbrook is on the table. However, that would most definitely require surrendering Isaiah Thomas, a couple of 2016 draft picks, and and a future first rounder, if not more. The Celtics may not need a superstar to make them a true contender. Therefore, the 5 players who Boston should target with immense fervor, are as follows:

1) Nerlens Noel:

*Photo via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a dilemma. They currently have 3 big men, all 3 of which were debatably supposed to go first in their draft classes. None of them did, but that's beside the point. Noel is a promising young big who can help the Celtics in a multitude of ways. Sliding Horford to the stretch 4 position, Noel can man the middle, protect the rim alongside his frontcourt mate, and wreck havoc on the inside. The deal makes sense for Boston. Does it make sense for Philly? In a way. In my opinion, Embiid will probably blossom into the better player and the Celtics sure have the pieces to make anything work.

2) Steven Adams:

*Photo via USA Today

Again, game changing all-stars might not be needed. Adams proved himself in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. His relentlessness, grit, and polished skill set were on full display. A pick and roll between Adams and Thomas, with Crowder and Bradley camped out on the wings, would be a deadly weapon. There's only one problem. OKC might not be up for this deal. While trading Adams for young talent and a player such as a Kelly Olynyk would make perfect sense down the line post-Durant, but the Thunder are tasked with making sure Russell Westbrook stays in OKC. Barring his departure, Adams would be the second best player on the team, and I doubt, as good as he is, that he would be able to carry a team. Therefore, Adams might stay. Still worth a try though.

3) Demarcus Cousins:

*Photo via USA Today

Rumblings have been taken notice of, as it pertains to the potential for Demarcus Cousins to be placed on the trade block. Let's face it, as talented as Boogie Cousins is, the Kings have gone nowhere since his debut in 2010. To make matters worse, Rajon Rondo skipped town and Rudy Gay is on his way out. And while it's been mentioned that the Celtics don't need a superstar, a player like Cousins is no one to pass up on. The Kings can continue their 9 year rebuild and hope some Boston prospects become stars. The Celtics on the other hand, get the undeniable best center in the NBA, and regardless of chemistry questions, would be the top dogs to dethrone King James.

4) Kenneth Faried:

*Photo via USA Today

The manimal would be perfect in Boston green. A workhorse power forward with unlimited, yes unlimited, stamina, heart and athleticism. Faried would bring a much needed edge to the young Celtics. And would compliment Horford, as he is more of an inside player. We saw the caliber that Faried can play up to, as he dominated in the 2014 FIBA World Championships. While international play is entirely different, Faried's potential has been wasting away in Denver, a team that has not made a mark since their 3rd seed placement in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The Nuggets would be smart to make a deal such as this. They can, quite frankly, take advantage of the C's and take as much young talent as they wan. With these additions, the Nuggets would be poised to make a playoff run in a couple of years. Boston on the other hands, gets themselves, their version of a Tristan Thompson. A guy in Faried, given the chance could actually prove to be better than the aforementioned.

5) Blake Griffin:

*Photo via Getty Images

A deal of this magnitude could benefit both parties in unimaginable ways. Blake Griffin was made for the Celtics. An athletic superstar who can just about do everything except defend at a high level. Griffin would thrive under Brad Stevens. His unselfishness and court vision would allow him to find cutting guards and open snipers on the 3 point line, as his presence alone commands a double team on several occasions. Not to mention, his game compliments Thomas and Horford. The beautiful thing about this entire dynamic is that Al Horford does not need to be ball dominant to help the team in the same fashion he would as the number two option.

On the other end of the spectrum, the deal would also make perfect sense for the Clippers. Chris Paul has proven he can win games without Griffin (not to take away from Griffin's basketball talent). Los Angeles could deal Griffin, who has been speculated to be too ball dominant for this offense, and in return, ask for one Jonas Jerebko, a big stretch power forward, who can shoot the 3 (something Griffin cannot do) and rebound efficiently given the minutes. They can also ask for one Kelly Olynyk, the perfect backup big to Deandre Jordan, who can also shoot the 3, put the ball on the floor, and most importantly, shoot free throws! The Clips have had major struggles finding backup bigs who can actually play, and these two can no doubt. Match made in heaven. Along with 1 or 2 picks thrown in, Boston should offer the world for Griffin. In return, they'd be set to make their first ECF appearance since the big 3.

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