Buckle up, Celtics fans. It will be an odd offseason across the NBA, without a clear calendar lining up what’s next in the league, without an understanding of whether fans would be allowed in the stands at games next year, and not knowing exactly how the salary cap would shape up going forward.
But for the Celtics, with disappointment lingering after the loss to the Heat in the conference finals, three first-round draft picks in the upcoming draft and a reconfigured Atlantic Division that features Celtics’ Big Three-era coaching alums Doc Rivers (Sixers) and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks), as well as Steve Nash (Nets), in the fold, it could be an especially tumultuous few months.
The head coaches in the Atlantic Division are:
Quite the list. https://t.co/kizUPuO62T
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) October 1, 2020
The Celtics had obvious flaws last season, especially in the middle. Daniel Theis played well, but as a 6-8 center who does not do much for rim protection, he is better suited to a backup role. Broadcaster Cedric Maxwell suggested the Celtics bring back the guy they traded last year, Aron Baynes, but some analysts have a bigger prize in mind: LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs, a seven-time NBA All-Star.
Proposed Deal Sends Kemba Walker From Celtics to Spurs
A Bleacher Report article looked at possible trades for all 30 NBA teams, and bringing in Aldridge was the suggestion for the Celtics. In the proposed deal, the Celtics would also get 24-year-old point guard Dejounte Murray and the Spurs’ lottery pick, No. 11 this year.
The Celtics would send out Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, according to the Bleacher Report proposal, though there is no doubt that the Spurs would need some youth back, either with players or picks (some combination of Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards and the Nos. 14, 26 and 30 picks). Walker was an All-Star who averaged 20.4 points and 4.8 assists, but he is also 30 with an increasingly troubling knee problem.
Danny Ainge gives update on Kemba Walker’s first season, knee health https://t.co/dlGoFWTRtB
— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) October 2, 2020
Aldridge is 35 and has one year left on his contract, at $24 million. He averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists, and at 6-11, would give the Celtics more size. He had his best season as a 3-point shooter last year, making 38.9% on 3.0 attempts per game.
Murray would be the bigger prize, a young point guard who came back from a knee injury last year to average 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, shooting a career-best 46.2% from the field. He is loaded with potential and could be due for a breakout season now that he is fully healthy.
Spurs Would Need Young Assets in a Trade With the Boston Celtics
That’s why, if you’re the Celtics, you make this deal in a heartbeat. You’re getting a point guard of about the same age as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who can develop with the team’s core and would fit nicely with their styles of play. Murray is also signed to a reasonable four-year, $64 million contract that kicks in next season.
Additionally, you get a short-term fix in the middle, Aldridge, and the 11th pick? Sign me up.
Alas, the Spurs are not an operation known for making dumb trades. They know about Walker’s knee trouble, the $107 million remaining on his contract and the fact that Kanter is a one-way player.
They also have given no indication that they want to give up on Murray.
Still, there could be a deal for Aldridge in the mix if the Celtics wanted to pursue it. Given his age and the Spurs’ need to rebuild, the Celtics might be able to pry him away for a package of Gordon Hayward (should he opt in for next season) and a draft pick. Boston remains wary of trading Hayward, though.
Aldridge is a nice idea for Boston. But he might not be a realistic option.