Two low-cost playmaking trade targets to help Boston’s ball-movement woes

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Justin Quinn
·5 min read
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You can point to a lot of things in an effort to diagnose what has been going wrong with the Boston Celtics in recent weeks, but perhaps one of the biggest has been structural.

The Celtics have two bonafide All-Stars on their roster, a veteran point guard who was an All-Star last season having solid to great play when he can stay on the court, and a rising force in the frontcourt putting up some serious numbers — yet these players can’t seem to get the rest of the team involved. A cursory glance at most of the stat lines produced by the bench confirms this, but it may be a structural problem tied to the team’s roster construction.

In short, this team is sorely lacking in genuine playmakers.

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To be clear, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have made great strides in that regard -- but also aren't ready to carry the scoring load while making sure their teammates eat a steady diet of assists. And Kemba Walker has always been a score-first point guard, even if he is among the least-selfish such players in the league. Robert Williams III has even become a noticeably good passing big, but we are seeing that even when these four join forces, there's simply not enough ball movement to go around. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373116660765356035?s=20

In fact, the absence of it is glaring. The company Boston keeps in terms of assists per game as a team is not the sort of company a franchise with title aspiration wants to find itself in. As of this writing, the Celtics rank 27th in the league for assists per game (22.6), only ahead of a team on a historic losing streak (the Houston Rockets), the New York Knicks, and the Portland Trail Blazers -- one of the most heliocentric offenses in the league. They trail the Orlando Magic, a club that has operated without a point guard for much of the season. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373227867233001476?s=20

In effect, as former Celtics play-by-play announcer Kyle Draper noted in a recent "Celtics Post-Game" show, Boston is chock-full of deadly finishers in need of playmakers to unlock them. Given that the Jeff Teague experiment hasn't worked out and the team needs wing depth -- but also clearly isn't quite ready to compete at the highest levels -- Boston needs to find those targets on the cheap, no easy task. They don't want to burn valuable draft capital or parts of their traded player exception (TPE) they'll need to secure that last, big move that's increasingly looking likely to come in the offseason. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373273133877186568?s=20

To that end, we have a few options in mind. While names like Ricky Rubio and Lonzo Ball would potentially make for splashier adds, both have fairly large salaries which make trading for them difficult. Add to this that Ball has a likely high ask price in terms of assets with a not-small flight risk as a pending free agent. There are however a pair of guards who may be able to be pried loose from their current situation for an acceptable price. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373314644752883712?s=20

The Athletic's James L. Edwards III writes that Detroit Pistons veteran Delon Wright is among "names that have been seriously discussed in trade deals," and the 28-year old, 6-foot-5 floor general is exactly what Boston ought to be looking for. His asking price shouldn't be more than a couple of second-round picks at most, makes just $9 million this season, making salary-matching that preserves the TPE manageable in a deal sending back Teague and Carsen Edwards with cash to cover Teague's salary. Wright is currently dishing out a sexy 5.1 assists per game while being a serviceable shot from deep at 36.5% and a competent secondary source of offense who doesn't need a lot of touches. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373318443592732673?s=20

Another such target comes from a team Boston has been doing plenty of business with in recent years, Devonte? Graham of the Charlotte Hornets. Sam Amick -- also of The Athletic -- writes that the Hornets guard "is a player on a rookie contract whose team appears hesitant about paying up for a second deal when he enters restricted free agency this offseason" among teams who believe he is available. And with former Celtics Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward joining likely Rookie of the Year candidate LaMelo Ball in distributing the rock for a pricy cost both now and moving forward, that makes a lot of sense. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373344113676984325?s=20

Earning just $1.6 million this season, it seems likely a quality second-round pick and a player like Carsen Edwards or perhaps Semi Ojeleye would be enough to steal away the young guard. And while his offense has taken a step backwards this season, Boston would likely be happy with his inefficient offense -- he is shooting almost the same from 2-point range (36.1%) as from 3 (36.2%). So long as he brings those 5.3 assists per game with it, that is. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1373353847154999299?s=20

Neither of these players is going to turn Boston into a contender, it should be cautioned. But conversely, they may go a long way in drawing out the best of the players who ought to be focal points moving forward. And more importantly making those only along for the ride good enough to make their spot worth occupying in the meantime. This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook! https://embed.sendtonews.com/oembed/?SC=FEcU25Q6Sj-1207975-8380&autoplay=on&V=2&format=json [lawrence-related id=48056,48012,48004,47980] [listicle id=48059]

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