Right now, the Boston Celtics are currently in the worst position that you can be in the NBA: just good enough to make the playoffs and miss out on the lottery, but also bad enough to lose early on in the tournament. Sitting at 22-20 with a thin hold on the 8th seed, the Celtics need to make a move to either get themselves into the lottery or to make themselves more formidable an opponent for Cleveland, Toronto, or Miami in the East playoffs. Most teams in the league would have to choose one of those options or the other, but, thanks to the Brooklyn Nets failed attempts at a Championship in the past few years, the Celtics can have their cake and eat it too with one simple move: trading for Brook Lopez.
Let’s go over the Celtics' current roster for a second. The Celts have a really nice group of guards in All-Star snub Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Evan Turner, with young players R.J. Hunter and James Young as nice Maine Red Claws/trade chips. The problem(s) with Boston rest in the insane number of front court players they have. Tyler Zeller, David Lee, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Mickey, and Kelly Olynyk are all deserving of decent minutes, and while Brad Stevens has done an admirable job of supplying them decent time, he has yet to truly find a combo that works great together.
So, back to Brook Lopez. The Celtics biggest problem this season is their lack of consistent scoring, rebounds, and a shot blocker. Lopez solves all of these problems as he averages 20/8/2 a game for the Nets. His 20-a-game would place him second on the team in scoring, averaging 10 points more than Boston’s highest scorer in the front court (Sullinger, 10 PPG). Granted, Lopez plays more minutes than any of the Celtics' forwards or centers, but his offensive prowess is not only leaps and bounds ahead of anyone on the Celts, but is also an element that they are desperately missing.
Though, perhaps an even greater reason to trade for Lopez other than his addition to the Celtics is his subtraction from the Nets, a move which increases the Celtics chances at the greatest prize they can realistically achieve: future All-Star Ben Simmons of LSU. The 6’10”, 19-year old Phenom from Australia figures to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and for good reason. The freshman is averaging an absurd 20/13/5 for the Tigers, and has been compared to NBA legends such as Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman, and LeBron James for his athleticism, rebounding, and passing abilities. Currently, the Celtics hold the number 3 pick in the lottery, courtesy of the Nets and the ludicrously one-sided Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade of 2012.
The problem though, is that the Nets aren’t bad enough, currently holding an 11-31 record, which rests 6 games behind the streaking Ish Smith’s in Philadelphia for the worst record in the league. Realistically, Brooklyn won’t pass Philadelphia, but they can pass the Lakers, who are 2.5 games ahead of the Nets in the Simmons sweepstakes. If the Nets were to trade Lopez, their undisputed best player, it just might make the Nets bad enough to drop the Celtics to number 2 in the lottery, at which point anything can happen (The top team in the lottery has actually won the top pick only once in the last eleven years). Hell, maybe the Nets decide to trade Thad Young and Joe Johnson while they’re at it, in which they just might be bad enough to give the Celtics the most ping-pong balls come May.
The hard part would be getting the new Nets GM, whomever that may be, to play ball with Danny Ainge. Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets owner, might not let his new GM trade with the Celtics ever again after what Ainge did to them back in 2012, but if he can be reasoned with, Lopez is a move that Ainge should push hard for.
A possible trade for the Celtics would most likely include David Lee (as his is the only salary that can match Lopez’s) and either Sullinger and a second round pick (of which the Celtics own 497 over the next 3 years) or Zeller and one of Boston’s other 1st rounder’s this year (Boston’s own pick or the Mavericks pick they received in the Rajon Rondo trade last year). Either of these deals would benefit Boston even further as it alleviates the logjam in the front court, allowing Stevens more flexibility and allowing players to form a better report with one another on the court.
The Celtics need a scorer and flexibility. The Celtics also need the Nets to suck even more than they already do. Brook Lopez is the easy solution to both problems.
By Michael Alvarez