Celtics Lose Out on Trade for High-Scoring Guard to East Rival

Caris LeVert, Boston Celtics

Getty Caris LeVert, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have been rumored to be interested in a plethora of players in recent weeks.

However, the Celtics missed out on Norman Powell, who was rumored to be a top target, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. And that misfire was quickly followed by the team missing out on trade target Caris LeVert on Sunday, February 6.

LeVert will now be suiting up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and in truth, the team gave up very little to acquire a player of LeVert’s ability. According to Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, the Celtics were also interested in adding the 6-foot-6 wing ahead of the trade deadline, a move that’s now dead in the water.

“The Pacers have long coveted Smart for his defense and toughness, while the Celtics would add a backcourt complement to Brown and Tatum. To boot, the Celtics would save more than $2 million, almost enough to bring them under the league’s luxury-tax limit,” Bulpett wrote.

Unfortunately, the Celtics will need to refocus their attention elsewhere if they’re invested in improving the current rotation before the February 10 trade deadline passes later this week.

Celtics Need Shooting Off the Bench

For all the rhetoric surrounding Boston’s need for an additional playmaker, the fact of the matter is pass-first guards are a rarity in the current NBA, and the team would be better served looking to resolve their lack of shooting.

Throughout this season, the Celtics rank 22nd in three-point percentage as a team, a flaw that’s allowing teams to sag off shooters and clog the lane. As such, we’ve seen numerous disjointed performances from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both require a certain level of spacing to open the floor for their driving game.

LeVert, in the sense of additional shooting, would not have helped the Celtics. The Ohio native is a slasher and rim threat; rather than a perimeter scorer, a quick look at his career 33.4% three-point shooting tells you as much. Yet, the veteran wing would give you another mid-range presence capable of attacking closeouts and attacking the space behind the first line of a team’s defensive structure due to his 43% success rate from the mid-range this season.

“He is a scoring combo guard who, historically, has had trouble staying healthy. He’s averaging 18.2 points and 4.2 assists but is not much of a 3-point shooter—he is making 32.7% on the season and only 33.4% on his career,” Bulpett noted in a recent article.

Celtics Have Enough Score-First Players

In recent seasons, a potent issue for the Celtics has been how many score-first players they’ve had on their roster. And when those players are asked to take a step-back in role, they become less effective as a result. Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward both tried to slot in as the Celtics third-option, leading to a disjointed offense and both failing to find their best form in Boston.

As such, a lot of onus has been on finding players who are “connectors” and can facilitate for others and call their own number. Norman Powell fell into this category, as does somebody like Jusuf Nurkic from the Portland Trail Blazers or Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings.

“LeVert is productive, but after two-plus seasons with the Kemba Walker experience—score-first, oft-injured guard—the Celtics might have learned that a playmaker who can shoot is the best way to complement Tatum and Brown at point guard,” Bulpett noted in a recent article.

It makes sense then that Boston held off in trade negotiations for LeVert, even if trading for him would have improved their bench in the short-term and got them under the luxury tax. There is still plenty of time left for the Celtics to find a deal that improves their roster in the manner they’re looking for; let’s just hope more of their targets aren’t taken off the board in the coming days.


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