Despite a rash of injuries and not having their two best offensive players for the postseason, the Boston Celtics persevered and were one game away from making the NBA Finals and being the first team to dethrone LeBron James in the eastern conference since Twitter’s infancy.
We saw young studs like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown come of age, Terry Rozier step up to the plate in Kyrie Irving’s absence, Al Horford do Al Horford things, and a host of role players maximize their efforts to bring an undermanned Celtics team to the doorstep of the finals.
They have two of the 15 to 20 best offensive talents in the world coming back next season to mix in with a team that was a contender without them, in theory this would be a case of the rich getting richer and adding this star talent to a core that was gelling would only make it better, but in reality that is not usually the way it works.
It is clear that the Celtics have something special in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and they need to aid in their development, they also have the best defensive point guard in the league in Marcus Smart and a host of highly affordable complimentary pieces.
Having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both back in the fold to take shots and opportunities away from Tatum and Brown and defensive flexibility and ability from the minutes that a player like Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier would provide, may make the return of two stars a wash at best as there could be too many cooks in the kitchen as they say.
What is the best way to get past this problem you say? Trade Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.
Avoiding paying either $30 million per season allows the Celtics to maintain and afford their core and retain a highly valuable player like Smart this off-season instead of letting him walk in free agency.
There are reports Irving wants to sign with the Knicks in free agency in 2019, which should scare the Celtics, but not force them into deciding on Irving as the guy to trade.
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
“I think they’re scared and should be scared to some degree of Kyrie Irving walking in 2019. I know he had a great year, but you know there are people in Cleveland that will tell you that the Knicks should be considered a real threat for Kyrie Irving. Because Kyrie had talked about it, about playing with the Knicks with some players in that Cleveland locker room from what I was told.
You know things can change. Obviously, you go to Boston. You become the face of the franchise. You’re on a winning team. Maybe the mindset has changed significantly.”
I take this report with a grain of salt, but it is worth monitoring and could be used as reasoning to fans if the Celtics did pull the trigger on an Irving trade.
While Irving would likely fetch more on the open market, I personally would advocate for trading Hayward.
Hayward will make an average of $32.5 million over the next three seasons and even coming off of a serious leg injury, he will garner interest from teams dire for a go to scorer and wing player.
Trading Hayward for cap space, picks and a better rim protector, will allow the Celtics more financial flexibility moving forward and the opportunity to maintain their core.
It may not be the most popular move, but I think it is the best move for the Celtics moving forward.