2016-17 NBA Season Weekly Recap: Boston Celtics
You have to excuse me. I've been so locked into the Super Bowl and amazed at the fact that we actually won that game that I almost forgot that my Celtics are absolutely ballin right now. If you're like me, you saw the first episode of Jemele Hill and Michael Smith's edition of Sportscenter titled "SC:6". For their first episode, they had none other than my guy IT on as a studio guest. While I was watching, I couldn't help but think back to when we first traded for Isaiah in 2015. We were still in the early stages of the Brad Stevens era, at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and IT came off the bench. Fast forward to now, and the circumstances couldn't be any different. Brad Stevens, set to send his staff to All-Star weekend as the coach of the Eastern Conference, has cemented his status as an elite coach in the league. The Celtics are no longer fighting for 7th and 8th seeds; they currently own a 2 game lead on the Raptors for 2nd in the East. And Isaiah Thomas isn't our 6th man anymore; he's currently giving niggas 30-pieces on a nightly basis, with about 11 of those coming in the 4th quarter alone.
The Celtics are currently on a 7 game winning streak, which is good for the second longest streak in the NBA. Only the Miami Heat (11 games) have won more in a row. I had to pause there for a second because I don't know who the hell let the Heat win 11 straight games, but that's another story. Oddly enough, they've been on this hot streak without their second leading scorer, Avery Bradley. Though we've clearly missed Bradley's defensive prowess, the result has been rookie Jaylen Brown getting extensive time in the starting lineup in his absence. Brown has made the most of his opportunities; in my opinion, he's light years ahead where he was at the beginning of the season. It's tough for a rookie in his position because he's coming into an established organization that is in "win-now" mode. Typically, players drafted in the lottery are on bad teams and get a chance to play big minutes because, well, their teams suck. Brown has had to learn on the fly and is earning his playing time flashing his crazy athleticism, defensive abilities, and improving jumpshot.
Our great month of January really boils down to one thing though, and that's the stellar play of IT. He's been carrying us on the offensive end, and there was a 4 or 5 game stretch in January where 40 points would be a run of the mill game for him. It's amazing to think about the fact that we're at the bottom of the league in both rebounding and defensive efficiency but yet we're somehow 2nd in the East. So it's really been no secret that as we approach the trade deadline (Feb 23rd), Danny has putting out feelers on big men that may be available via trade. One team I've read about that is desperate to make a trade is the Orlando Magic, and they have a solid batch of veteran front court players that could possibly be pried away. In terms of realistic trade targets, I would be hype if Danny made a move for Serge Ibaka. Orlando is having a bit of buyer's remorse after trading for Ibaka, and the fact that he'll be a free agent at the end of year makes very realistic.
By now I'm sure you've heard our name in trade talks when it comes to Carmelo Anthony. Melo was my favorite player for a solid 4-5 years in the late 2000's, so part of me feels like I should want him on our team. But just as Danny Ainge is probably thinking as well, Melo is a terrible fit right now from both a money and a career trajectory stand point. At 32, he would be the oldest player on our team, and with his trade kicker it would bring his annual salary to the $30 million range if I'm not mistaken. Right now, Danny is all about maintaining flexibility financially moving forward, and dishing out 30 million to a one way player that's past his prime just doesn't make sense. Especially since our issue is defense and rebounding, not offense. If the stars aligned though, Ainge would find a way to put the Bulls out of their misery and swing a trade for Jimmy Butler. After their week of dust ups in the media, it could be a real possibility now.
My gut tells me a big name or two gets moved this Free Agency, so I'm looking forward to that. But if the C's can go into the AS break with a comfortable lead in the 2 spot, I feel good about the second half of the season. It's Eastern Conference finals or bust for us this year, but if a trade can be swung, maybe even more?