Most of the latest buzz regarding Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier would make it seem that a trade involving the fourth-year player is far from imminent.
At the same time, though, even if it doesn’t happen soon, it almost feels like one has to happen prior to the 2019 trade deadline.
Well, not only did the Celtics re-sign Marcus Smart to a four-year, $52 million contract last summer, they still have Kyrie Irving’s impending free agency to worry about next offseason. So Boston is about to have a huge amount of money dedicated to paying two members of their backcourt, making it extremely unlikely they spend much more to re-sign a third guard, no matter how good he is in his role.
And don’t get it twisted: Rozier is quite good when given the opportunity. That was proven in 2017-18.
Last playoffs, with Irving shelved due to a knee injury, Rozier was a major part of Boston getting within a game of reaching the Finals, averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per contest, in what were extremely high-leverage situations.
Thus, Rozier has done more than enough to show he can be a starting point guard in this league, and an above-average one at that.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons recently reported that Rozier may not be all that thrilled with his current role…
…making a potential trade a good bit likelier, even if it doesn’t happen within the next month.
In response, we decided to break down Rozier’s top potential trade destinations. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
NEW YORK KNICKS
“If Celtics point guard Terry Rozier ever goes on the trading block, expect the Knicks to be one of the teams with interest. … According to an NBA source, at last season’s trade deadline, the Knicks ‘were shopping for what they called their own young Terry Rozier.'”
The fit makes some sense, as New York is a rebuilding team without a surefire building block for the future at the lead-guard spot. Second-year ball-handler Frank Ntilikina could be that guy, but he’s shown little improvement between his first two seasons, shooting exactly 36.4 percent from the floor thus far in both campaigns. Plus, the French floor general has the ability to man either guard spot, so he could theoretically play off-ball to a guy like Rozier if it came down to it.
The fact that 2019-20 will be the year Kristaps Porzingis returns from his ACL injury makes acquiring a Rozier-type player all the more sensible. Porzingis has stated he wants to win, so acquiring talent to fill out the roster around him before he even gets back makes sense.
What’s more, the Knicks clearly have their eyes on major targets next summer; before we even get there, landing a talented youngish point guard like Rozier would be a great way to kick off their bigger free-agent pursuits.
A core featuring Rozier, Porzingis, Ntilikina Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox Jr would look a bit more enticing than the team as presently constructed.
One of the worst-kept secrets in basketball is regarding the Phoenix Suns and their need for a difference-maker at point guard.
Could Rozier be that guy?
Next to Devin Booker, Rozier’s hard-nosed defense and tough-shot-making ability would get a real chance to shine, and the duo, together, would form a fun tandem in the Suns’ backcourt.
In 2017-18, Rozier ranked in the league’s 80th percentile as a spot-up shooter, according to Synergy Sports. Theoretically, on possessions where Booker takes over primary playmaking duties, Rozier would be a real threat spotting up on the perimeter. Additionally, Rozier was in the 70th percentile as an isolation scorer, so the opposite could occur on plays where Rozier had the ball, with Booker playing the role of deadly spot-up shooter.
Rozier running the pick-and-roll with the explosive Deandre Ayton would also be an exciting form of offense for Phoenix, were they to acquire the Celtic guard.
This potential marriage would make a whole lot of sense, both from a timeline perspective (Rozier hasn’t even reached his prime yet, and neither have most of the young Suns), to his on-court fit with the rest of the roster.
Like the Suns, the Orlando Magic have lacked competent starting point guard play for a pretty long time. DJ Augustin has been serviceable in the role thus far this season, averaging 10.4 points and 4.8 assists nightly while shooting 41.3 percent from three, but he’s miscast as a starter for the Magic.
At least ESPN’s Zach Lowe thinks so. Here’s what he wrote in his latest 10 Things I Like column:
“Their point guard situation is a sinkhole. No one could have seen this coming. Orlando cannot expect any more from D.J. Augustin. He’s shooting 41 percent from deep and taking care of the ball; on some nights, the Augustin-Nikola Vucevic pick-and-roll is Orlando’s only reliable source of offense But Augustin can’t consistently prod beyond the foul line. He’s a nice backup point guard. The Magic are asking him to be a heavy-minutes starter.”
It’s hard to understate how buoyed Orlando would be if they just had a starting-caliber point guard in the rotation – a guy who could initiate the offense, get to the rim, create for others and knock down the three-ball at an efficient rate.
Someone like Rozier.
The former Louisville Cardinal is the perfect age to fit with both the Magic’s older pieces, like Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, while not being so old that he doesn’t also fit with the team’s young core, featuring Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba and, of course, Aaron Gordon.
Furthermore, Rozier’s game would also mesh nicely with the attacking, two-way style of play new Magic head coach Steve Clifford is trying to implement in central Florida.
Orlando isn’t a point guard away from contention or anything, but acquiring an above-average one like Rozier could change their fortunes as far as pushing for a playoff spot in 2019-20.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
One of the potential trade destinations for Rozier that Simmons mentioned in his original report was the San Antonio Spurs.
However, it should be noted: The last time the San Antonio Spurs traded for a player in-season was all the way back in 2014, when they acquired Austin Daye from the Toronto Raptors. And the only reason they did that was to dump Nando De Colo and his $1.5 million contract on the Raptors.
That’s all to say, the Spurs hardly ever trade during the year, and if they do, it’s not to add an actual rotational piece, but for salary-cap purposes.
So why would this year be any different?
For starters, the Spurs lost their best point guard right before the season started when Dejounte Murray tore his ACL in early October. Bryn Forbes and Derrick White have done admirable jobs filling the void left behind by Murray, but they’re limited players who lack the ceilings to be real difference-makers this year – a ceiling that Rozier proved he possesses in 2017-18.
A backcourt of Rozier and DeMar DeRozan would do some real damage in the Western Conference, with both guys able to get buckets even against the best defenders, which would also allow White and Forbes to come off the bench, where they could be more effective going against second units.
It may be unlikely, but as a half-season stop gap until Murray returns in 2019-20, Rozier could be a fantastic option for Gregg Popovich and Co. Especially when you consider how deep the West is, where one three-game losing stream could take you from the conference’s No. 3 seed to out of playoff positioning.
Loading up on talent isn’t a luxury for teams in the West, but a necessity.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter @FrankUrbina_.