It took 28 games, but the Celtics finally got their statement game after Tuesday’s big overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies on the road.
After scoring just 31 points in the first half, the C’s offense came alive behind Isaiah Thomas’ career-high 44 points.
It was Boston’s first win of the season against a team with a .600-plus winning percentage, and certainly one to build off of.
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So is the team we saw on Tuesday the one we can expect to see going forward? Or is it the one we saw too many times during the first 27 games?
Those are the questions Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and his staff have to figure out.
The Celtics find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference, which is where many think they belong. In order to improve upon that, they may need to look outside of their current roster for help.
Everybody knows Ainge will be busy on the phones leading up to the trade deadline. So which teams might be on the other line? Let’s take a look at a few potential options.
1. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
It feels like Cousins has been linked to the Celtics forever. That isn’t to say he’s been available, though. But as it becomes clear that the inept Kings are once again not a playoff team, it may be time for them to finally part ways and get real value back while they still can. There’s no doubting Cousins is one of the most talented players and big men in the NBA. At 6-foot-11, he can score from all over the court any way he wants. He’s averaging 18.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. So why might he be available? He comes with baggage and what many consider a bad attitude. Cousins has had more than his fair share of on- and off-court drama. The Celtics would have to give up a lot to acquire him with the hope that Boston can change him for the better. The risk is that he’s stuck in his ways and the C’s are stuck with a bad apple and no supporting cast.
2. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
A deal for Noel might make more sense for the Celtics if Ainge can get the 76ers to bite. Noel is healthy again after rehabbing his knee injury, but that hasn’t equaled much playing time. Sixers head coach Brett Brown has to choose between three young big men for two spots, and Noel has been the odd man out — and Noel isn’t happy about it, expressing his frustration to the media. Noel, a Massachusetts native, would be a nice fit as a defensive-minded center, and the C’s certainly have the pieces to make something work. Noel averaged 8.1 rebounds per game through his first two NBA seasons and there’s no reason to think he won’t improve upon that going forward. The 76ers will look to trade either Noel or Jahlil Okafor at some point.
3. Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
Nurkic is Denver’s 22-year-old, 7-foot, 280-pound center who just so happens to be the second-best big man on his team behind the now starting Nikola Jokic. Like Noel in Philadelphia, Nurkic is seeing a lot more time on the bench than he should be and in fact did not even step on the court on Monday. He’s way too skilled to be earning DNP-Coach’s Decisions, so if he can’t flourish in Denver, perhaps he can in Boston. The Nuggets will certainly be active up to the trade deadline. Expect to see both Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari in trade rumors — and both potential options with the Celtics, too.