The Boston Celtics have been in control of the Eastern Conference for most of the 2022-23 season. Once the Milwaukee Bucks cooled off after their torrid start to the season, the Celtics took control of their conference, and haven’t looked back since. With a 35-12 record, the C’s have the best record in basketball, and hold a 4.5 game lead over the second place Philadelphia 76ers right now.
With the 2023 NBA trade deadline looming, rumors are beginning to heat up, and while Boston doesn’t necessarily have any major needs they must address at the deadline, there are a couple of spots the Celtics could reinforce if they feel they need to at the deadline. But that’s the luxury that you have when you have been running the league through the first half of the season.
Regardless of what happens at the deadline, Boston is going to be in a good spot to make another deep playoff run this season after coming up just short in the 2022 NBA Finals. But there are some things that could happen that would make life much more difficult for the Celtics, so let’s take a look at their nightmare trade deadline scenario and see why this scenario could be so damaging for them.
Celtics nightmare trade deadline scenario
Boston’s main area of need at the trade deadline, if there were to be one, is frontcourt depth. They could definitely use another true center or power forward, but again, they have been making due with their depth as is, so it’s not the end of the world if they don’t address this need. The problems would emerge if their contenders in the East end up making serious upgrades.
While the Bucks are struggling with injuries, it seems like when they are healthy, they are probably the Celtics biggest threat in the East this season. They haven’t really been fully healthy at any point this season, so while they are sitting in third in the East right now, they should be a threat to earn the top seed throughout the remainder of the season.
What Milwaukee needs, though, is a strong two-way wing who can come in and defend guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In their seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals series from last season, the Celtics won largely because the Bucks didn’t have anyone to slow down Tatum or Brown. They were without Khris Middleton admittedly, but he’s not necessarily the best option to guard either of these guys.
This is part of the reason why the Bucks have been so interested in Jae Crowder, who hasn’t played a game this season for the Phoenix Suns. Crowder is big enough and fast enough to stay with both Tatum and Brown, and while he’s not a lights out shooter, he’s hit about 35 percent of his threes throughout his career, which the Bucks would gladly take.
Milwaukee getting Crowder would certainly hurt, but the other piece of the puzzle here is the Brooklyn Nets, who have overcome a very tough start to the season to reemerge as one of the top teams in the East. Similar to the Bucks, the Nets are going through a rough patch without Kevin Durant, but when they are fully healthy, they could give the Celtics problems.
The Nets managed to reinforce their depth last offseason, despite being plagued with constant trade rumors surrounding Durant and Kyrie Irving. Last season in the playoffs again, we saw the Celtics sweep the Nets out of the first round because they had no answers for Boston on defense. Their defense still isn’t the greatest, and guarding Tatum and Brown has become even more difficult, but if these two teams match up in the playoffs again, the same thing probably won’t end up happening.
Easily Brooklyn’s biggest need is another center. Nic Claxton has been really good this season, but there isn’t really anyone behind him. The Nets have been interested in a lot of different players so far, but adding another center like Jakob Poeltl of the San Antonio Spurs could be just what they need.
Poeltl isn’t an extremely flashy center, but his numbers are pretty strong once again this season (12.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 63 FG%). The Nets could use another big man to solidify their rotation, and Poeltl’s paint presence on both sides of the court could make him their most tantalizing trade target at the deadline. Not only would this make the Nets stronger, but it would take one of the Celtics top trade targets off of the board, as they are reportedly interested in Poeltl as well.
If both these deals happen, Boston wouldn’t necessarily have to panic, but it would be a nightmare scenario for the C’s considering how in control they have been this season. It’s going to be tough to return to the Finals for the second straight season, but if these two trades happen, it could make things even more difficult for the Celtics, making it a clear cut nightmare scenario for them.