The Boston Celtics are clearly struggling to fill the void left by Robert Williams, as he continues to recover from injury.
So far, we’ve seen Noah Vonleh, Luke Kornet, and Blake Griffin all get run at the center position, and while they’ve all proven capable, it’s clear that Boston’s defense is suffering by playing so much drop defense. However, it would appear that NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell might have the answer, as he postulated a trade that would send former top-10 draft pick Jalen Smith to the Celtics.
While Harwell didn’t provide the outline of a trade, he did provide some of his reasoning as to why a deal could potentially come to fruition.
“Smith has blossomed in Indiana, averaging 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds since coming over from the Suns at the 2022 trade deadline. The Celtics reportedly had an interest in the 22-year-old big man last winter, and Brad Stevens is familiar with the Pacers’ front office from the Brogdon trade…Considering Smith’s age and upside, Indiana may drive a hard bargain, but he’s worth keeping on Boston’s radar, at least,” Hartwell wrote.
Smith has played in all seven of the Indiana Pacers games this season, all of them coming as a starter, and is currently averaging 13.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and a block per game while shooting 55.1% from two and 30.8% from deep.
Smith Would be a Significant Upgrade Off The Bench
Smith, 22, would be a significant upgrade over the Celtics’ current backup center options, and could potentially allow interim head coach Joe Mazzulla to revert back to the ‘double big’ lineups that Ime Udoka found success with throughout last season.
At six-foot-ten, the third-year center has a similar size to Williams, and entered the league with a reputation as a rim-protector and shot blocker, averaging 1.8 swats throughout his collegiate career. Furthermore, Smith would be the ideal backup once Williams returns to the rotation, as he would give the Celtics bench rebounding, floor spacing, and a lob threat on the roll.
Still, Smith seems to have found a role on the Pacers, so, unless his playing time starts to diminish, or the Celtics enter negotiations with a stellar deal that the Pacers simply can’t pass up on, it’s unlikely we see him heading to Boston this season.
Joe Mazzulla Issues Challenge to Celtics
Turning our attention back to the Celtics’ current roster, it’s clear their defense has struggled to begin the season, as their lack of an elite rim-protector has forced the Celtics into playing more drop defense, allowing guards and wings to run directly into the middle of the floor.
Speaking to the media on October 29, interim head coach Joe Mazzulla challenged his starts to re-learn the basics of how to win in the NBA.
“We have to know personnel, and at the same time, we need to learn how to win again…Each season you come into, you’re not guaranteed to win, and so it’s valuing the ball, and it’s knowing tendencies, and it’s boxing out and rebounding. Just the fundamentals,” Mazzulla said.
The Celtics will get another chance to get back in the win column when they face off against the Washington Wizards on October 30, whereas another loss would leave them sitting at .500 after their first six games of the season – not a disaster by any stretch, but a worse start than they would have hoped for.