The Boston Celtics have a slew of serviceable big men at their disposal. Yet they lack a surefire standout in the frontcourt. Robert Williams undoubtedly has the potential to become such a player, although injuries continue to bog down the 23-year-old. Tristan Thompson remains one of the league’s better offensive rebounders. However, he’s coming off his least productive campaign since 2017 and will turn 31 years old next season. The team could also look to bring back Luke Kornet in free agency, who would serve as a viable third-center with added value as a shooter.
With all that said, if the Celtics hope to prove this season’s poor showing as a mere fluke and revert back to their typical title contention ways, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz believes they will need to swing a trade for a “win-now center” this offseason — namely Jonas Valanciunas.
“With Tristan Thompson slightly past his prime and Robert Williams III still years away from entering his, the Celtics could use a win-now center at the top of his game,” Swartz wrote, who labeled the Memphis Grizzlies veteran as Boston’s perfect trade target.
“He’s [Valanciunas] a proven playoff performer, starting 41 of his 48 total games over six seasons, another important factor for a Boston team that should still have its sights set on a title in the coming years,” the B/R columnist proclaimed. “Valanciunas keeps the floor spread for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown while doing all the dirty work necessary for others to shine.”
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Valanciunas is Fresh Off a Career Season
While he may not be readily brought up in the discussion of the NBA’s top big men, Valanciunas’ production is up there with some of the elite centers in the league. The No. 5 overall selection of the 2011 NBA Draft, Valanciunas has averaged a double-double in three consecutive seasons, including in 2020-21 where he averaged career highs in points (17.1), rebounds (12.5) and blocks (0.9).
His 59% field-goal percentage also marked a personal best for the seven-footer, ranking 11th-best in the NBA (minimum of 300 field goals made).
As Swartz noted, Valanciunas is a proven playoff contributor, averaging 12.9 points and 9.5 rebounds in 48 career playoff games. This season he saw those numbers climb to 15.0 points and 9.8 rebounds over Memphis’ five-game playoff stretch. He also dominated the San Antonio Spurs in the play-in tournament, booking his Grizzles a ticket to the postseason thanks to an absurd 23 points, 23 rebounds performance. That game marked the fourth 20-point, 20-rebound game of Valanciunas’ season — the most in the NBA, per StatMuse.
Robert Williams’ Looming Contract Extension
Another aspect to keep in mind is the impending contract situation the Celtics have on their hands involving Robert Williams, who enters the final year of his rookie deal next season.
“Extensions are based on upside. … So, if you go by the body of work of Robert Williams for three years, it says, ‘I want to see a little bit more.’ I want to see a player that’s healthy. I want to see him on the court for 70 games,” ESPN NBA Front Office Insider Bobby Marks told Chris Forsberg on Celtics Talk Podcast. “I want to see him in a starter role for a whole year. … The beauty of it is that Brad [Stevens] has had him for three years and knows what his upside is, knows what he still needs to work on, knows what his strengths are.”
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