Despite earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and possessing a plethora of early first-round NBA Draft picks over the past few years as well as the next coming few years, the Boston Celtics know that they need to make a big move at some point if they truly expect to contend for an NBA Championship. The Celtics were nowhere near good enough to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Playoffs this past season, and the addition of No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum alone is not enough to get them over the hump and back to the NBA Finals.
That is where this offseason comes in to play for Danny Ainge and company. We have all heard the NBA rumors swirling for years now regarding the Celtics and Gordon Hayward, most recently of the Utah Jazz. From what we have heard, Hayward is as good as gone. He will leave Utah over the next week or so and is likely to sign with the Celtics or Miami Heat, placing Ainge and Pat Riley once again into yet another contractual war (negotiations continue to pit Ainge vs. Riley on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor event in a couple of months). We all know about the Hayward connection to Boston head coach Brad Stevens, who served as the All-Star’s head coach while at Butler, helping the Bulldogs make their miraculous Final Four run years back.
Because of that, I could certainly see the Celtics signing Hayward once the NBA Free Agency period officially begins in a few days, I am far less optimistic, however, that the Celtics will trade for Paul George of the Indiana Pacers to complete their four-player “Superteam” to go along with Hayward, Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
Whether or not the Celtics extend Thomas on a max deal remains to be seen, but they could conceivably build their roster around Hayward and Tatum moving forward. It makes sense. Hayward would sign a four or five year deal and be win Boston for the long term. He would also not cost the team anything in terms of current players or future draft picks.
George is an entirely different story.
He is under contract to the Pacers for one more season. He has already expressed to the team that he will leave Indiana after next season, provided the team somehow holds on to him throughout all of the 2017-2018 season. He is as good as gone. I just don’t see his future in Boston.
George has long been rumored to want to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, who could put together quite a “Superteam” of their own in the summer of 2018, with LeBron James even considered a possibility. Of course, if the Cavs could acquire George now and convince him to sign long term, then it will be the Cavs who continue their “Superteam” run, despite what James says about him never having played on any such squad.
Boston would not trade for Jimmy Butler. With Indiana reportedly asking for at least one starter (presumably Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder), as well as next year’s Brooklyn Nets and Lakers first-round pick in next year’s draft, I do not see Ainge pulling the trigger on a deal to acquire George either. The Celtics – if they could sign Hayward – would be far better served going after an additional free agent such as JaVale McGee or Taj Gibson to bolster the defense in the frontcourt.