So far so good for the Celtics, who are 3-1 and have already beaten both of last year’s Eastern Conference finalists in the Raptors and Bucks.
The one loss came on the road to the Sixers, though, and Danny Ainge has consistently said this fall that the Celtics’ roster talent still may not be up to snuff. It makes Boston one of the most likely teams to make a big trade over the next four months.
“I think that last year’s questions were more based on, you know, how is it going to jell? There was not a question of how much talent we had,” Ainge said. “This year the question is, ‘Are we good enough?”
Conventional wisdom suggests that Ainge will target a big man on the trade market considering that starter Enes Kanter is far from an elite defender. But Brad Stevens’ big man rotation of Kanter, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams has been surprisingly solid defensively so far. Most thought that Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo would feast on the Celtics this season but in the initial meetings, Embiid was held to just 15 points and Giannis was held to 22.
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Ainge has also been a “go big or go home” executive, so it’s much more likely that he targets the biggest fish available around the trade deadline and simply goes after a defensive-minded big man in the buyout market.
No doubt, the biggest fish expected to be available this winter will be Wizards sharp-shooter Bradley Beal.
Beal recently signed a contract extension with the Wizards but that is nothing more than window dressing in today’s NBA. Russell Westbrook signed a whopper of an extension with the Thunder in 2017 and Sam Presti traded him a year and a half later. Beal’s extension is much like Ben Simmons’ extension with the Sixers this past summer, as it was basically a no-brainer financially for both player and team. The extension does not suggest that Beal or Simmons will stay put in one place for the rest of their careers.
Interestingly enough, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown also signed an extension this fall. The extension could actually make Brown more tradeable in a blockbuster deal considering the Celtics would need to match the money for a player like Beal, and the receiving team would obviously want the guarantee that Brown would be a centerpiece for their franchise for years to come.
As for other teams that could be in on Beal this winter, the Lakers and Nuggets are teams that could make major moves. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested this week that Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green could be the two main pieces in a trade by the Lakers, and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo recently discussed the Nuggets as a contender most likely to challenge the Celtics when it comes to putting a package together for an elite talent at the trade deadline.