Another day, another bubbling bit of fodder for the NBA rumor mill, which is always fun, especially when the Celtics are (inevitably, it seems) involved. This one is a closer look at a deal that has been floated before, but one that could potentially turn the Celtics into an immediate favorite in the Eastern Conference.
From veteran writer Zach Buckley over at Bleacher Report:
Boston Celtics receive: Rudy Gobert, Ed Davis and Miye Oni.
Utah Jazz receive: Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis, No. 14 pick (via MEM), No. 26 pick and 2023 first-round pick (top-three protected).
As Buckley wrote, “Boston left an Al Horford-sized hole in its frontcourt unaddressed for the 2019-20 campaign and almost got away without it. But in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics couldn’t find a physical answer for a fully charged Bam Adebayo. Gobert would scratch that itch in the best way possible.”
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Indeed, Gobert is a trade candidate worth salivating over for Celtics fans. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who is capable of shutting down the paint as a rim-protector and can dominate the rebounding battle –he averaged 13.5 boards per game last season. He does not require much by way of touches offensively, though he is very solid at finishing as the roll man on pick-and-rolls.
That’s perfect for an offense that has three players–Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown–who averaged more than 20 points last season.
Gobert averaged 15.1 points per game on 69.3% shooting last season.
Rudy Gobert a Perfect Fit for Boston Celtics on Both Ends
Now, this would be a dream deal for the Celtics. It would first require that Gordon Hayward opt in to the final year of his current contract, which is slated to pay him $34 million. Hayward has been said to be looking for options on the free-agent market, but if he can’t find a team that can give him some long-term security—and there are very few out there that could give him such a deal—opting in on that final season makes sense.
But a package of Hayward, Theis, and picks is a slim price for a guy who can make an already good Celtics defense nearly impenetrable.
So what’s in it for Utah?
The Jazz would have to decide that a reunion with Hayward, who jilted the team when he signed with Boston in 2017 after seven seasons in Utah, is worthwhile and could benefit budding young star Donovan Mitchell. The sweeteners of Theis, plus two first-rounders this year and a future first-rounder, might not be enough.
The Jazz surely would ask for Marcus Smart in any deal, which might be where the talks end. But even if the Celtics could get the Jazz to keep Smart out of a return package, Utah would likely want a young player like Romeo Langford or Grant Williams in addition to the picks.
Jazz Has Some Incentive to Trade Away Rudy Gobert
It sounds like a longshot but, Utah does have some incentive to investigate Gobert trades.
The long-term problem with Gobert is that he is heading into the final year of his contract. He signed a four-year, $102 million deal in 2017, and is set to make $26.5 million next season, but can hit the market in 2021. He will be eligible for the supermax then, and it is unlikely Utah wants to give him that much.
The Celtics might not want to, either, but maybe a run to the Finals with Gobert in the middle would change that outlook.
There is some question about Gobert’s relationship with the team, too. He was Patient Zero in the NBA’s COVID-19 ordeal, the first guy to test positive and spur the league to shut down for four months until it establish the bubble environment in Orlando this summer.
While Gobert hardly deserves blame—there were plenty of others who had COVID-19 at the time—he was famously flippant about the virus, jokingly rubbing microphones just before the pandemic took hold in this country. That sparked tension in the Jazz locker room, especially between Gobert and Mitchell. Trade rumors involving Gobert bubbled up at the time but have since dissipated.
If Gobert does hit the trade market, it probably will have more to do with his contract than the COVID-19 issue. But the Celtics likely would be interested either way.