The Boston Celtics are spiraling and their starting point guard is under fire. After floundering a 19-point lead against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, Marcus Smart aired out star teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for their unwillingness to pass the basketball.
On the surface, Smart’s comments hold some weight. As highlighted by CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn, Tatum currently averages a team-high 76 touches per game, but only ranks third among all Celtics in passing (45.4 passes per game). Brown’s touch-to-pass ratio is similarly problematic, averaging 28.6 more touches than he does passes per game. However, a case could be made that the real culprit in Boston’s offensive lapses could be their lack of a true point guard — a player more equipped to move the ball.
Despite figuratively handing the keys to their offense to Smart this offseason when they extended him to a deal worth north of $77 million, the Oklahoma State product has taken a step back thus far in 2021-22. In six games, Smart is averaging just 8.8 points per game (second-lowest average of career), as well as 1.7 assists per contest fewer than he did a season ago. This despite the fact that he’s playing 3.4 minutes per game more. With doubts of Smart’s fit as the team’s starting point guard surging, Quinn believes the Celtics would be wise to take a risk on five-time All-Star John Wall.
Al Horford & Josh Richardson Among Celtics Floated in Wall Proposal
Of course, making a move for Wall doesn’t come without its caveats. For starters, the former No. 1 overall pick is now 31-years-old. Plus, he’s on the books for $44.3 million this season and has a player option in 2022 worth $47.4 million. On top of that, the Celtics would need to unload a handful of players in order to yield his services. Per Quinn, that likely means a combination of four players; Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Dennis Schroder and Juancho Hernangomez.
Horford of course is the biggest pushback here from a Celtics perspective, but Quinn notes that his partially guaranteed contract next season could appeal to Houston. The 35-year-old big man is currently averaging 14.4 points per game this season (his most since 2015), as well as a career-high 3.2 blocks. As for the other players floated, Richardson hasn’t shown anything thus far for the Celtics to flinch at the thought of unloading him. Schroder’s minutes would mostly be eaten up by Wall, and Hernangomez has played a total of nine minutes all season.
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Juggling the Risk
Wall has not played this season as he and the Rockets continue to scour the trade market in hopes of unloading the one-time All-NBA Third Team selection. His market is clearly limited and Houston’s likelihood of reaping a young piece in return looks less likely by the day. Having said that, even in his current form, Wall still brings some tantalizing traits to the table. Coming off a torn Achilles, the North Carolina native returned to action a season ago to average 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. He also knocked down 38.4% of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts.
There’s certainly risk involved in committing $90 million-plus to an aging point guard with Wall’s injury history. However, if Boston’s struggles continue to escalate it could be a gamble worth seriously considering for the Celtics, per Quinn:
The Celtics have no traditional point guard. Nobody on the team has ever averaged seven assists per game at any point in their career, and it shows… The basketball implications here are relatively straightforward. Wall, for most of the past decade, was among the very best passers in all of basketball. From 2014 through 2019, Wall ranked in the top three in the NBA in points created by assists each season. Even last season, after returning from multiple major injuries and missing the entire 2019-20 campaign, ranked a respectable 12th despite playing on the worst team in the NBA.
If this season continues to go south and short-term winning is a priority, the reward here is great enough to give Wall serious consideration. Unlike Brown and Tatum, he’s perfectly happy to pass.
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