Over these past two games, in which the Celtics faced Milwaukee's Greg Monroe and the Los Angeles' DeAndre Jordan, it has become blatantly obvious that the Celtics need a true center. While Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, and Jared Sullinger have played great as of late, they tend to float and settle for jump shots instead of driving to the basket. Defensively, neither are blessed with the abilities to make an NBA All-Defensive Team.
If the Celtics gain some interior defensive help and make teams think twice before driving to the lane, they will be able to compete and, possibly even defeat, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yep, I said it. The Cavs have a great starting lineup, but we saw the Celtics exploit them with their transitional game and timely three-point shooting last Friday.
But who could the Celtics acquire?
Two names, which have both been linked to the Celtics in the past week, are Atlanta Hawks C Al Horford and Houston Rockets C Dwight Howard. According to multiple reports, the asking price for both of these players is astronomical. However, if the Celtics wait this process out until the February 18th Trade Deadline, the asking prices will unquestionably decrease.
First, let's talk about Al Horford. The free-agent-to-be is having a good season with the Atlanta Hawks, and will be looking to cash out this offseason. Horford has turned into the modern day big man, who would rather float around the perimeter and take jump shots instead of banging down low. The Celtics already have a poor man's Al Horford in Kelly Olynyk, but there is no question that Horford could considerably help this team. By the time next season rolls around, Horford will be 30-years-old and deserving of a max contract.
If the Celtics are able to acquire Horford at the deadline, they will have to deal a combination of young talent (Kelly Olynyk and/or Jared Sullinger), draft picks, and, to make the money work, David Lee's expiring contract.
The only way I make this deal is if the Celtics are 100% interested in extending Horford and solidifying him as a building block of this team. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are good players, and losing them for 30 games of Al Horford seems unnecessary.
But there is another, more enticing and interesting player that has hit the trading block: Dwight Howard.
We first reported that the Celtics were interested in acquiring Dwight Howard and, needless to say, people freaked out. They called him a cancer to a NBA locker room, a soft player, and a declining star with a fat contract. While all of those things may be true, Dwight Howard is still one of the better centers in the NBA and would be far cheaper than Al Horford. With a player option for next season, Howard could opt out and command a max contract from another team, if the Celtics aren't interested in extending him.
No one in the NBA is perfect, and that is more than true for Dwight Howard. He has been in some bad situations (LA Lakers), and probably did not make the right decision in signing with the Houston Rockets. Nonetheless, the Rockets were in the Western Conference Finals last year. Whether we care to admit it or not, Dwight Howard would instantly make the Celtics a Top 2 squad in the Eastern Conference, if they aren't already.
Plus, the price would be cheaper. Instead of having to give up Jared Sullinger AND Kelly Olynyk, Howard could be acquired for David Lee's expiring contract, Dallas' 2016 1st Round Pick, and Boston's 2016 1st Round Pick. To make the money work, I have seen suggestions of throwing in Jonas Jerebko, and, in return, receiving Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is a very underrated player, and fits the Celtics' philosophy. Additionally, Howard will be playing for a potential contract. As recent as last season, we saw how dominant D12 can be when he is committed and willing to work.
The Celtics could acquire a superstar center for two low 20's draft picks, a guy that hasn't played in weeks, and a mediocre utility player? Sign me up.