Heading into the NBA trade deadline, few were expecting the Celtics to swing for the fences with any major moves that could have disrupted the flow of the team with the best record in the league. Still, based on Brad Stevens track record of solid doubles over the last couple of years, you couldn’t rule anything out. Adding Mike Muscala probably qualifies as a walk or maybe a seeing-eye single in this baseball analogy. And Stevens still has another at bat left.
It would seem that the big man rotation has been filled out now. Behind Al Horford and Robert Williams the team now has Mike Muscala, Luke Kornet, Grant Williams, and Blake Griffin to eat up minutes and provide much needed rest and insurance. Once the playoffs start, we’ll probably see a tight rotation of Al, Rob, and Grant. But to get to the postseason in one piece, it will be nice to give those guys some nights off and lower minutes for the rest of the regular season.
As part of the deal, the Celtics sent out seldom used Justin Jackson, so there’s still a roster spot open and a need for added wing depth. Sam Hauser is showing signs of breaking out of his slump, which should help some. However, it would be nice to add a player that provides a little more athleticism and/or defensive potential. Keep an eye on the buyout market. As a reminder, here’s what Keith Smith said about that subject in a recent article.
Players generally prioritize the following, in order, during buyout season: contending for the Finals, playing a role and then salary. If the first two are equal, the third becomes a nice tiebreaker. The Celtics can offer more money than most others, giving them a nice advantage for post-trade deadline maneuvering.
Boston also has a $3.2M Disabled Player Exception from Danilo Gallinari that they can use to outbid many of the buyers on the market. See here for some names to keep an eye on.
As for the rest of the league, the biggest move (by far) was Kevin Durant ending up in Phoenix, which appears to put the Nets back in the rebuilding phase. The Bucks finally landed their Jae Crowder upgrade. The Sixers added Jalen McDaniels. The Cavs stood pat with what they have. Each could still be a player in the buyout market as well, but it is good news for the Celtics that nobody in the East got significantly better.
We have the All Star break coming up and then it will be roughly two months more of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. The Celtics are still at the top of the standings but the competition has caught up and is nipping at their heels. We’ll see if Muscala and whomever they pick up in the buyout market is enough to hold them off and maintain the top seed.