The Boston Celtics are one of the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals and that’s still the case even with the early season struggles. A team that features Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward should be sitting atop the standings. However, something is not quite clicking.
It’s time for Danny Ainge to change things up. But how?
The Celtics first order of business is to find someone to take the contract of Hayward off their hands. Before his injury, Hayward was once one of the best small forwards in the NBA. However, since recovering from that horrific ankle injury, Hayward has played more like Robert Covington than the former All-Star he is.
On the season, Hayward is averaging 10.9 points per game in 28.6 minutes. If Ainge could somehow swing a deal with another team like the Miami Heat for Hassan Whiteside then he should really consider that.
What this would do is provide Boston with the defensive anchor that’s been missing in the post. With Irving labeled as a steady defender, paired with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart in the backcourt, Whiteside would be the last line of defense for a team ranked second in total defense but still lacking a true rim protector.
Horford (12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds) has been steady, but Whiteside is averaging 2.6 blocks to go along with 13.1 points and 13.2 rebounds in 26.5 minutes. There’s no secret that his time in Miami has been marred with controversy regarding his current standing and future with the team.
If Ainge is willing to part with Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Horford, this could be a deal worth looking into if the Heat were to throw in Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters. While fans could balk at what Ainge is giving up, a deal like this offers more roster flexibility.
First, this will solve the issue of trying to re-sign Rozier. It would also shed the Celtics of two large contracts in Horford ($30 million) and Hayward ($64 million). The good part about those deals is that Horford has a player option for 2019 and Hayward has one for 2020.
On the other side of the coin is Hassan Whiteside. He’s on the books for the Heat until 2020, but has a player option of his own in 2019 for $27 million. The numbers would fit for each team, but it would be Boston who walks away from the trade a clear winner.
The Heat are in the midst of a rebuild, but adding veteran leadership from Hayward and Horford could be missing links to put them into the top five in the East. For Boston, adding Whiteside and two shooters in Johnson and Waiters would give them better spacing for Irving, Brown, and Tatum to attack off the dribble.
By ridding themselves of Hayward, it would allow Brad Stevens to unleash his young guns just as he did last season. Too much talent is often viewed as a good thing, but for the Celtics, it’s hurting their chances to win a championship. No matter what happens, this Celtics’ team will remain loaded from top to bottom.
If the Boston Celtics are to make it past the Toronto Raptors, they will need to shed some of that star power they have and get quality role players at a cheaper price. It sounds foolish when you look at the Golden State Warriors, but even they will have to pay the price for winning this season.
While the hot topic rumors have Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans heading to Boston, a move of this magnitude would cause more damage than what they’re currently dealing with. Davis is no second-fiddle and while his numbers are up there with the best, how would he feel taking a backseat to Irving?
Ainge has made smart moves in the past and by trading Gordon Hayward and Al Horford for Hassan Whiteside, he may make one of, if not his best one to date.