‘Perfect Fit’: Celtics Can Actually Make Trade for Dominant Big, Says Analyst

Celtics can trade for Jonas Valanciunas

Getty Rudy Gobert (R) of the Utah Jazz and Jonas Valanciunas (L) of the Memphis Grizzlies fight for a position during an NBA Western Conference playoff game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies at Vivant Smart Home Arena.

The Boston Celtics have one of the league’s more promising big men at their disposal in Robert Williams. Better known to some as Time Lord, the 23-year-old was inserted into the C’s starting lineup following the Daniel Theis trade in March. Despite battling through injuries, Williams has flashed with his added usage, shooting 72.1% from the field during the regular season and most recently setting the franchise record for most blocks in a playoff game with nine.

Yet, for all the upside Williams presents, he’s far from a certified star at the moment — nor is he enough to make up for the team’s lack of talent/depth surrounding him in the frontcourt. The Theis trade certainly hurt the group’s overall output, while veteran Tristan Thompson remains serviceable, yet mostly underwhelming.

With that said, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz believes the C’s can realistically upgrade the unit tenfold this offseason by packaging Thompson, youngster Aaron Nesmith and a draft pick in a trade to land one of the league’s most-underappreciated bigs — Memphis’ Jonas Valanciunas.

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Celtics Floated as Destination for Jonas Valanciunas

GM Danny Ainge has already gone on record stating the Celtics “will be looking to make some changes in the offseason.” Yet, what might those changes entail? On the trade front, Swartz believes the best-case scenario would be acquiring Valanciunas from Memphis. The B/R columnist recently mustered up “the best trade every NBA team can actually make this offseason,” here’s the proposal he drew up for the Cs.

  • Boston Celtics Receive:
    • C Jonas Valanciunas
  • Memphis Grizzlies Receive:
    • SF Aaron Nesmith
    • C Tristan Thompson
    • 2021 first-round pick

“The Celtics continue to need frontcourt help, with now serving as the time to start cashing in draft picks and young talent,” Swartz wrote. “Valanciunas would be the perfect fit. He’s one of the NBA’s best rebounders and a tough defender who can also space the floor.”

Valanciunas doesn’t get nearly the love he deserves. Averaging a double-double in each of the past three seasons, the seven-footer put up career numbers in 2020-21, posting 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. His 59% field-goal percentage ranked 11th-best in the NBA among players with a minimum of 300 field goals made.

He also has no issues delivering on the big stage. Valanciunas recently exploded for 23 points and 23 rebounds in Memphis’ first-round play-in victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The performance marked the fourth 20-point, 20-rebound game of the season for the Lithuanian center — the most in the NBA, per StatMuse.

Trade Outlook from Grizzlies Standpoint

While cutting ties with Valanciunas may not have the best short-term interest in mind for the Grizzlies, it does allow the franchise to better align their frontcourt for the future. The move would free up more minutes for both Xavier Tillman, who has recently flashed on both ends of the court, as well as a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr.

Of course, neither of these players offers the rebounding prowess of Valanciunas, who ranked third in the NBA this season with 12.5 rebounds per game. Yet, that’s where Thompson comes in. A career-8.7 rebounder, the wily veteran was a walking double-double during his final two seasons in Cleveland, averaging 10.2 rebounds and 11.5 points per game. As for the addition of Nesmith and a first-round pick in the deal, it’s simply the icing on the cake in Swartz’s eyes.

“The Grizzlies would be selling high on the veteran center, one who will hit free agency next year,” Swartz noted. “Having Jaren Jackson Jr. back along with Xavier Tillman means Memphis should still be OK up front, especially with Thompson now on board.”

“Nesmith, 21, was the 14th overall pick in 2020 and shot 37.0 percent from three as a rookie,” he continued. “He’d be a core piece for the young Grizzlies moving forward, as would the mid-first-round pick Memphis would also receive as part of the deal.”


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