Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens should keep his eyes on the Portland Trail Blazers this summer but reeling in one of their star guards could turn out to be the wrong move for the Celtics in the long run.
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Stevens pulled the trigger on the Kemba Walker for Al Horford trade, thus saving Boston roughly $20 million in the next two years. However, if Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum becomes available, will Brad take the bait and compile his best assets to package an offer?
Should Celtics Trade for Damian Lillard Or CJ McCollum?
I think the better question is: would trading for either one turn the Celtics into a championship contender?
If we’re talking about Boston finessing a move that would somehow bring in Lillard without having to part ways with either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, then the 2021-22 Celtics are my favorite to, at least, win the East. McCollum, on the other hand, isn’t someone I think turns Boston into title-lurkers.
However, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss believes McCollum could be the crucial piece that Boston’s backcourt is missing.
“McCollum is good at this kind of complementary playmaking and operates with a grace that gets him into tight spots where he can finish or pass effortlessly,” Weiss wrote, via The Athletic. “He can use subtle move to get past his initial defender and carve up the space between the front and back lines of the defense, which is a major need for the Celtics with Walker gone.
“The Celtics looked like they were trying to find more control on offense last season and while Walker could deliver that on and off, McCollum can carry that burden every night.”
Would CJ McCollum Turn Celtics Into Title-Contenders?
McCollum’s offensive skillset would undoubtedly bolster the Celtics’ backcourt in Kemba’s absence but CJ’s health concerns are certainly worth noting, as Weiss mentions, as something Brad should take into deep consideration before ironing out a potential deal.
“Before evaluating the trade and his market, the big question is where McCollum’s career goes from here,” Weiss added. “The 29-year-old was playing the best basketball of his career early in the season until a fractured left foot suffered in January cost him two months. This was the third time he has suffered the injury, breaking the same foot in his senior year of college and then again nine months later.
“It’s been eight years since the last break, but he’ll turn 30 just before the season starts and the Celtics have learned the hard way (again) how a guard’s injuries can exacerbate problems once they turn 30.”
Kemba, 29, at the time, inked a four-year max deal with the Celtics in 2019. He was considered to be the NBA’s 6-foot-2 ironman before arriving at Boston, where things suddenly changed for the perennial All-Star. A left knee injury eventually led to a stem-cell injection before the 2020-21 campaign, which forced Walker to miss the start of the regular season.
Kemba’s rollercoaster-like year ended with Walker unable to finish Boston’s first-round, best-of-7 series against the Brooklyn Nets. And, if you’re the Celtics, you can’t help but wonder if the same will happen to someone like McCollum or Lillard within the next couple of years.
Stevens and the Celtics could be better off staying pat.