Can the Boston Celtics Build a Roster to Slow Down Lebron by 4% (and maybe, just maybe, beat the Cavs) ?

Here are some potential Boston Celtics roster scenarios for the upcoming off-season. I based this post on my own observations plus 2 great articles that were published over the past couple months on Celticsblog.com. Here are links to those 2 articles. These Celticsblog articles are must-reads for any Celtics fan.

First off. The Celtics just won the draft lottery. They’re not trading the pick. They’re going to draft Markelle Fultz. He’s one of the most polished offensive players to come out of college in the past 20 years. In my opinion, he’s a sure thing. For what he will offer the Celtics, he’s a great value… very good player, cheap contract (7M+)… great value.

The hot free agent name for Celtics fans is Gordon Hayward. I like Gordon Hayward. If you haven’t read the Celticsblog articles I mentioned earlier, here’s the shortened version… if the Celtics want to sign Hayward, then they need to get rid of a lot of players who are currently making contributions to the current team. They’d need to renounce Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey, Gerald Green, James Young, Demetrius Jackson, and Tyler Zeller…AND, convince Guerschon Yabusele to stay overseas for another year AND, trade Terry Rozier (while getting no contract in return)… AND, either renounce Kelly Olynyk OR trade Avery Bradley (while getting no contract in return).

Is that too much to give up to add one great wing player in Gordon Hayward ? Obviously, some of the players lost would be much bigger losses than others. The roster change would essentially boil down to trading either Rozier and Bradley OR Rozier and Olynyk for Gordon Hayward (and draft picks acquired for Rozier and Bradly… there would be no compensation for Olynyk as they’d simply have to renounce him).

Let’s break this down onto 2 sub-scenarios. 1) They lose Olynyk to make room for Hayward 2) They lose Bradley to make room for Hayward.

1) They lose Olynyk. That would leave the Celtics with a very unbalanced team. 1) They’d be getting rid of all 3 of their centers in the process. They would still be adding Zizic (who would essentially be a Johnson replacement). Johnson and Zeller… Ok, not huge losses. But, Olynyk would be a big loss. He’s one of their top bench players. But, even more importantly, they’d have way too many wings/guards; Hayward, Brown, Crowder, Abdel Nader (takes Young’s spot), Smart, Bradley, Fultz (takes Rozier’s spot) and Isaiah Thomas… and 2 big men (Horford and Zizic). I don’t like that team. You would have to trade at least 1 of the non-Abdel Nader guards/wings to have better roster balance. And, you still wouldn’t have enough playing time for everyone as Brown will deserve more playing time next year, and Fultz would demand more playing time than the player he essentially replaced on the roster (Rozier).

2) They lose Bradley. They’d be able to keep Olynk. So, their bench would still be pretty much intact. And, the minutes logjam for wings/guards would be slightly less bad (but, still bad because of the Brown/Fultz demand for playing time).

No, the “lose Bradley or Olynyk” scenario isn’t terrible… they’d still have a very good team, maybe even better than the current team. Except, there’s one huge problem. You still have a team that cannot stop Lebron James. You got no closer to stopping Lebron James. OK. Nobody really can stop Lebron James. With that said, I want a Celtics roster that slows down Lebron James by 2, 3… maybe 4%. If Lebron is at 96% of Lebron I like my chances better than going against a 100% Lebron. So, how can the Celtics construct a roster that has a better chance at slowing down Lebron James by 4%?

How about the Celtics go after Blake Griffin ? It’s essentially the same free agent scenario. Let’s say that the Celtics keep Olynyk, and trade Bradley. That roster has a lot more balance than a roster with Gordon Hayward. And, it’s got 1 more skilled big (Griffin) who can shoot 3s. Is that roster good enough to slow down Lebron ? Maybe a slightly better chance than the Hayward roster (mainly, because this roster is more balanced, and Griffin offers some rim protection). But, no, that roster doesn’t provide the 4% Lebron reduction.

So, what should the Celtics do? I believe they need to add a player (or, players) that can do a better job than any of the players on the current roster (including Hayward or Griffin) at covering Lebron… player(s) who could help (on 15-to-20 possessions per game) to slow Lebron down just a pinch (that 4%).

Here’s what the Celtics could do to construct a roster that could maybe, just maybe beat Lebron James. 1) Trade Avery Bradley for Robert Covington 2) Sign Serge Ibaka. I love Robert Covington. He’s a great defensive player who can hit 3s. I think he could slow down Lebron a little bit… just a little bit (with help from Crowder, Brown, Smart). He’s a free agent the year after next. He’s going to get a huge payday. The Sixers have their own roster crunch with forwards (and, they could use a guard like Bradley). The Celtics would essentially be trading one soon-to-be free agent (Bradley) for another (Covington). Essentially, Fultz replaces Bradley. Ibaka would fit because he’s not likely to get max free agent money; he’s still going to get 20M+. He’s still a good defensive player, 3-point shooter, and rim protector. He could cover Lebron 5–10 possessions per game. In this scenario, the Celtics keep both Olynyk and Rozier (assuming Olynyk doesn’t get an offer for some absurd payday). And, Yabasule could also join the team.

The roster would be Thomas, Fultz, Crowder, Horford, Ibaka, Covington, Brown, Smart, Olynyk, Rozier, Zizic, Abdel Nader, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson, and Yabasule. I like that team. That team just might be able to beat Lebron… or, at least slow him down by 4%.

Note: this roster still has the same minutes crunch at guard/wing (but, not the same crunch it would have with Hayward). That’s a problem for another day.

Go Celtics.