On this episode of the HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto is joined by Jay King, who covers the Boston Celtics for The Athletic. Scotto and King discuss several topics, including whether the team met expectations this season, can Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown lead the Celtics to a title down the road, and reviewing the performances of Kemba Walker and coach Brad Stevens during the playoffs. The duo also discussed Gordon Hayward’s future and potential trade scenarios for the Celtics.
1:06 Did the Celtics meet expectations this season?
3:07 How Kyrie Irving and Al Horford being gone affected Boston and their futures in their current situations
5:43 Can Boston win a title with Tatum and Brown as the franchise cornerstones?
MORE: Find out where Tatum and Brown rank according to executives on the top players under 25 to build around
9:33 Was playoff criticism for Walker justified?
King: I thought some of his playoff run was just that he clearly wasn’t himself physically. The knee issues, which started before the NBA hiatus, didn’t go away while the NBA was shut down for four months. When he got back to training camp for the NBA restart, the Celtics kept him out of practices during the seeding games. They limited his minutes. They made it clear they were worried about that knee. That was a concern for them. I think part of it was, just physically, he didn’t hold up. I think if you look earlier in the playoffs through maybe two games of the Toronto series, he was great. He was fantastic, he was efficient, he was high scoring, he was making so many plays for the Celtics. Then, you look later on at the Miami series, and Kemba can’t get by Jae Crowder? Something’s wrong. I don’t know how big an issue that is for the Celtics long-term that he couldn’t get his knee right. Danny Ainge said they don’t expect him to undergo offseason surgery.
15:40 Evaluating Daniel Theis as a starting center and winning type of player
16:49 Upgrades who could help Boston in free agency
Scotto: I always felt whether it was in free agency or in a trade at some point next season, they’ve got to add another shot blocker or maybe a guy that’s more of a traditional four. I’m not saying this is going to happen. I’m not reporting this. I’m just throwing it out there. Someone like a Paul Millsap, a guy that’s a rugged guy who can rebound, pick-and-pop, and has veteran experience. Someone along those lines.
MORE: HoopsHype’s 2020 free agent rankings
20:39 What will Hayward do with his player option and what will his role be next season?
Scotto: I think you and I can safely say a $34 million player option for Hayward is getting picked up for next season.
King: When you talk to people, the assumption is he will pick that up. Obviously, with the way the salary cap uncertainty is, there aren’t going to be as many teams with cap space, to begin with, this offseason. A lot of them are younger teams that Hayward probably wouldn’t be a great fit on. I think he picks up the player option. I think that’s safe. The discussion around him mostly relates to how expensive this Celtics roster is going to get moving forward.
Do the Celtics want to pay him into the future to be a fourth option? I think that’s probably the easiest way to keep their talent cupboard stocked, but I also think the Celtics owners could look at that and say we’ve already got so much money committed in this core, the luxury tax payments on this roster are going to be so steep if they keep everybody together. If he opts in as we assume, do the Celtics look to trade him? I don’t think they can get equal value back. Do they let him go after the final year of his contract? Does he want to stay in Boston? I know he had big dreams for his career. He didn’t sign in Boston to be a fourth option. I know in a lot of ways it’s a really good situation for him. They’re going to compete in the East for years. He has been well paid for not much production, although that’s not his fault (injuries).
Scotto: If you’re moving a guy like Hayward, you’re moving him to a team probably for a guy that’s got multiple years on his deal that a team is trying to get off his contract and Hayward comes off the books in a year financially. Also, keep in mind, the Celtics have four draft picks in this draft, which is considered a weak one overall.
27:21 Is Stevens overrated, underrated, or somewhere in between?
37:01 Other Celtics free agency decisions this offseason
Scotto: Theis has a non-guaranteed deal for next season at $5 million. I expect them to certainly pick that up. That’s not bad at all for a starting-caliber center. Enes Kanter has a $5 million player option for next season. A guy whose minutes fluctuated, but I don’t know financially if he’s going to get more than that.
King: The first dominoes to fall will be Hayward’s option and Kanter’s option. Kanter, I’m not sure he’d get any more money on the open market. He could look somewhere else where he’d get more minutes where Robert Williams and Grant Williams aren’t on his heels looking to take minutes. Even if he opts in, the Celtics could use his salary in a trade. I think the obvious move by Ainge would be to try and package those three first-round picks together to try to get some veteran help for the bench.
43:20 Potential cheap free agent center targets for the Celtics
Scotto: When you think about shot-blocking big men on the market that could be had maybe for a reduced price, you think of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, JaVale McGee. Robin Lopez is going to have a player option in Milwaukee. What will he do? You’ve got other guys like Alex Len. Maybe even a Bismack Biyombo depending on what he’s willing to take. It depends on what they can do with that taxpayer mid-level exception.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto
Celtics, Podcast, Podcasts, Top, Al Horford, Brad Stevens, Brad Wannamaker, Daniel Theis, Danny Ainge, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Robert Williams, Boston Celtics