By Jesse Cinquini
Wanna know three certainties in life? Death, taxes, and the Boston Celtics owning multiple first rounders. As of right now, Boston is in possession of three first-round picks in the upcoming draft: the 14th, 26th, and 30th. But the Celtics don’t need three new rookies; there’s simply not enough minutes to go around on a roster in the thick of a title pursuit.
It wouldn’t make much sense for the team to stand pat with their draft choices, particularly because this class is supposedly one of the weakest in recent memory. Why not swing for the fences and try to add a piece that can play postseason minutes right away? While Boston’s assortment of picks isn’t likely to reel in a big fish, the C’s could gain a difference maker if they play their cards right.
Boston trades: Romeo Langford, Vincent Poirier, 14th overall pick
Houston trades: PJ Tucker, 2024 second round pick (from Golden State Warriors)
PJ Tucker belongs in Celtics green. The ferocity he brings to the game is infectious, and as he’s a more than capable three-point threat—Tucker has shot the long ball at a 36.9 percent clip over his last three seasons in Houston—I’d love to see him man the stretch-five in Boston. He’s also a sneaky good offensive rebounder, having averaged 1.6 per game this year.
Furthermore, Tucker’s on-ball defensive chops could be enough to solidify the Celtics as the league’s most switchable team. Imagine a five-man unit of Walker-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Tucker. Now, tell me with a straight face that isn’t a lineup programmed to make life nightmarish for the opposition. Yes, PJ is 35 years old but he should have a few years left in the tank due to playing less games in Europe and at the start of his NBA career. It would justify giving up a late lottery pick.
Boston trades: Vincent Poirier, 26th overall pick, 47th overall pick
Denver trades: Monte Morris
This Celtics roster is a bit top-heavy. Boston gets consistent scoring from their starting five, but the second unit is a different, bleaker story; the reserves in green are mustering the fewest points per game this postseason of any squad remaining (20). Boston’s paper-thin in terms of their depth; it might be the team’s most glaring weakness. And when Marcus Smart’s starting in place of the injured Hayward, there’s no designated scorer off the pine for the C’s who they can go to for buckets.
Let me introduce you to Monte Morris, the man with the attributes necessary to shore up the Celtics’ bench scoring woes. Morris averaged 9.0 points and 3.5 assists for the Nuggets this season on 45.9/37.8/84.3 shooting splits. He’s adept at creating opportunities for points out of the pick-and-roll; Monte put up 0.92 points per play as the pick and roll ball handler during the regular season, a mark superior to those of Colin Sexton, Brandon Ingram, and Gordon Hayward. Morris would be a noticeable upgrade over Brad Wanamaker who, although he has had moments of effective play, is not the consistent offensive threat that the 25-year-old Morris is.
In 20-25 minutes off the pine, Monte is capable of averaging double-digits with Boston. The club desperately needs someone to initiate offense for the backups, and Morris has been getting buckets as a reserve for his whole career. He can distribute, orchestrate the fastbreak, finish at the rim, and shoot the rock—basically all the traits you could ask for out of a floor general. It would take a first rounder to get him, but that would be permissible.
Boston trades: Vincent Poirier, 26th overall pick, 2021 second round pick (BOS)
Utah trades: Royce O’Neale
Before we dive into this scenario, I’d like to apologize to my guy Poirier for shipping him off in each of the three hypothetical trades I proposed. His two-year, $5 million contract is super trade-friendly, so he has to be dealt in order to make these imaginary moves possible.
Now, onto Royce O’Neale. The third-year man out of Baylor is undeniably one of the top rebounding wings in the game. Sitting in the 94th percentile among positional counterparts in defensive rebounding percentage, O’Neale’s a uniquely adept board-snatcher for a small forward. You know what else he can do? Shoot the three-pointer, and with damn good accuracy, specifically off the catch. In six contests for the Jazz thus far this postseason, O’Neale has netted 43.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot treys on 2.7 tries per game.
Royce can contribute a lot as a shooter and rebounder, but perimeter defense is his calling card — and if the Boston Celtics’ success over the past few seasons has told us anything, it’s that you can never have too many wings who can defend a number of positions. O’Neale is a role player who plays to his strengths and impacts the game on both ends. His defense-first mentality and long range marksmanship would serve him well in Boston, and in my mind he’s an ideal backup behind Jaylen Brown and/or Jayson Tatum.
BONUS: Check out Zach Wilson and Matt Esposito talk about the Raptors-Celtics series on their latest podcast featuring Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm!