Nearly a week into the near year, the Boston Celtics are not where they’d like to be. Despite rostering two of the league’s most talented 25-and-under stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the C’s are tied with the New York Knicks for the fifth-worst record in the Eastern Conference. A devastating two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs on January 5 dropped Boston two games below .500 — both on the season and dating back to the start of 2020.
As Brad Stevens noted the following day during his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich,” the Celtics “have a lot to fix.” One quick way of fixing things in Beantown could be via the trade market. Similar to last year, the team has a slew of trade exceptions at their disposal as well as a number of fairly reasonable contracts and questionable roster fits.
Josh Hart Floated in Pricey Celtics Trade Package
One player that could potentially pique Stevens’ interest is New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart. The former Villanova standout officially becomes eligible to be traded on January 15 and is expected to be a popular name ahead of the deadline. However, making a play for Hart would cost Boston extensively. In fact, according to Mass Live’s Brian Robb, a deal between the Celtics and Pelicans would almost certainly have to include to likes of proven veterans such as Marcus Smart and Josh Richardson.
“Hart is 26 years old so he’s far from exiting his prime. I can’t imagine Boston’s younger prospects will be enough to entice the Pelicans to make a move for Hart straight up,” Robb wrote. “The Celtics could add a first round pick but New Orleans might not be looking for draft capital either. The only way I see it happening with Hart if it involves some proven Celtics names (Marcus Smart, Richardson, etc.) that New Orleans thinks are good fights/could upgrade their defense.”
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Hart Could Be Difficult to Pry Away From Pelicans
Still, Robb has his reservations regarding the Pelicans’ willingness to unload Hart. Despite the team floundering in the cellars of the Western Conference, proving to Zion Williamson — who enters a contract year in 2022-23 — that the organization is committed to winning is key to New Orleans’ long-term outlook. As the Celtics insider notes, retaining a talented chip such as Hart could help exec David Griffin’s quest to demonstrate to Williamson that the Pelicans are keen on building a contender. Then again, a veteran, gritty presence such as Smart is the type of player that almost every current contender is looking to get their hands on this trade season.
Smart, 27, has been somewhat hit-or-miss in his first extended run as a lead-guard in Boston. Inking a $77 million extension back in August, the former No. 6 overall pick is averaging just 11.6 points per game while shooting 29.0% from beyond the arc — both of which are his lowest outputs since at least 2018. Still, Smart remains a pest on the defensive end, a willing (if not always accurate) shooter, a decent ball-mover (averaging 5.5 assists this season) and a fiery leader.
As for Hart, the Maryland native is enjoying a career campaign in the 2021-22 season. Through 30 games (29 starts) Hart is averaging personal bests in points (12.9), field-goal percentage (52.0%), 3-point percentage (34.9%) and assists (4.5). He also ranks second on the team with an average of 7.4 rebounds.