After coming out the gates rather slow, the Boston Celtics have begun to take form under first-year head coach Ime Udoka. They’ve won eight of their last 11 games, including three straight. Jayson Tatum has emerged from his shooting slump, scoring 30-plus points in four consecutive outings and fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown has returned to the lineup after a two-week absence with a hamstring injury.
The arrow is clearly pointing up for the Cs. However, that’s not to say there isn’t work to still be done — specifically in the playmaking and shooting department. Armed with numerous trade exceptions and a desire to build a legitimate contender around the two Jays, Brad Stevens may be a very busy man during his first trade deadline as the team’s president of basketball operations.
Dejounte Murray Headlines Celtics ‘Top Trade Deadline Targets’
As for who Stevens and the Celtics may have their eyes on ahead of the February 10th deadline, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report has slated the likes of Magic sparkplug Terrence Ross, Grizzlies hybrid forward Kyle Anderson and Spurs guard Dejounte Murray atop Boston’s list of desired targets. The latter of which would presumably serve as a projected long-haul upgrade over current starting point guard Marcus Smart.
“The Shamrocks could instead pivot to Dejounte Murray, who’s engineering a breakout season but still may not quite scratch the San Antonio Spurs’ itch for a true franchise focal point. If he is up for grabs, he could fill the floor-general role Boston hoped Marcus Smart could handle,” wrote Buckley.
Smart, 27, was handed a hefty $77 million extension this offseason with the hope he could stake claim to the mantle of Boston’s lead-guard duties following the departure of Kemba Walker. While he’s played more efficiently of late alongside Dennis Schroder, he’s seen his scoring and 3-point goal percentage take a fairly sizeable dip and has now scored below double digits in 11 of his 17 games this season. He’s not your prototypical starting point guard. With that said, his all-around play is crucial for Boston’s success, the ball just doesn’t need to be in his hands for the Celtics to thrive.
As for Murray, he’s two-and-a-half years the junior of Smart and making a legitimate bid as one of the elite rising guards in the game. The Washington product is currently averaging career highs in points (18.1), rebounds (8.2) and assists (8.0). He’s also flashed All-Defensive traits along the way. However, despite his brilliance, the Spurs have plummeted to 13th in the West, and unloading a player of Murray’s talents/upside could net a favorable rebuilding core in return. Then again, they’d likely be better served to build around Murray if they can.
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Ross & Anderson Continue to Be Linked to Boston
The other two names floated by Buckley shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Anderson has long been rumored as a target for the Celtics with Mass Live’s Brian Robb reporting back in June that the organization has eyed the Grizzlies veteran for “quite some time.” As for Ross, the streaky scorer is currently shooting a career-worst from beyond the arc (30.6%). However, he’s shown capable of putting the ball in the basket in bunches more times than not over his career and is just 18 games removed from posting a career-high 15.6 points per game.
“Potential interest in Terrence Ross speaks to this squad’s underwhelming scoring options beyond Jayson Tatum and Brown and general lack of spacing,” noted Buckley. “Kyle Anderson, who was reportedly available this offseason, per Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, could perk up Boston’s playmaking and perimeter defense. If his early success from distance holds up, he would offer relief on that front, too.”
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