Anderson: Even with Gordon Hayward, Celtics still feel moves away from NBA title
Blake Griffin, in between comparisons to Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, is staying with the Clippers. A one-year Paul George rental has been traded to the Thunder for a borderline criminal return of two funny names and zero draft picks.
Still, the Celtics spent this past Sunday meeting with Gordon Hayward at Fenway Park, and ultimately wooed the 27-year-old All-Star small forward into signing a max deal with the Celtics, a deal that Hayward himself confirmed hours and hours after Twitter insiders’ will he or won’t he updates that practically ruined the Fourth of July for many of us.
But why am I not as excited as I should be?
Let’s for just one second ignore the fact that the Warriors are ruining professional basketball. Seriously, this team somehow found a way to sign Nick Young to a one-year deal worth over $5 million. How does this team even have $5, let alone $5 million?
Is my excitement that came with the prospect of the Celts creating a superteam — with visions of George or Griffin riding shotgun into Boston with Hayward planted in my head — to blame for what awaits the Hayward-boosted Celtics in 2018? Or is it the fact that we just ignored a few lines above — you know, the one that acknowledges the reality that the C’s would need to build that superteam if they’re going to be legitimate threats for an NBA title in the foreseeable future — that’s sticking in my craw?
First, and the only question that the Celtics really have to worry about in 2018: Does a Hayward-added Celtics squad beat the Cavaliers?
If LeBron goes into full meltdown mode, with his heart elsewhere like it was during his first final season with the Cavs, and if Cleveland’s depth woes remain an issue — sure, they may be able to. But if the Cavaliers add Carmelo Anthony, which is something they’re still in a viable position to do if Anthony indeed wants out of New York as bad as you’re led to believe, then you’re probably right back to where you were a year ago, you’d have to think. Even if the Cavs are as weak as everybody believes, though, the Celtics are not beating the Warriors with just Hayward added to the mix. Forget recent regular-season success. There’s no effing way that Hayward is enough to put the Celtics over a team featuring a big four with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green.
That’s why the C’s originally viewed Hayward as just one piece of a two-piece puzzle that would have ended with George joining him in the Hub. I have my doubts as to whether they’d beat some of the West’s other juggernauts — such as the consistently excellent Spurs, or even the reloaded Rockets and Thunder, too — especially when a cap-crunch forces one of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart out of Boston.
And this is the problem for the Celtics, and the NBA as a whole.
(It’s also a problem when the most entertaining time of the league’s calendar year are the NBA Draft and start of free agency. The, y’know, two times when actual basketball courts are not necessary, but that seems like a topic and migraine headache for another day.)
Even a great move seems like it’s not enough to dethrone the league’s top dog.
The truly heartbreaking part of all of this, too, is that this was a move that fans have waited for for what’s been actual years. After missing out on countless trade rumors — Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, and George all landed anywhere but Boston — and free agent superstar Kevin Durant, the Celtics have Al Horford and Hayward to show for their max contract efforts. And it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
All that pitching, all those favors called into Boston sports icons, and you have a team whose current ceiling remains that of a runner-up, either in the East or in the Finals.
So, just hours after finally getting what seemed like the third and final piece of your Big Three — Hayward will be the No. 3 behind Horford and Isaiah Thomas, at least in his first year in town — you’re asking what move is coming next for the Celtics.
Marc Gasol, an over 30 pipedream due big money for the next three years, is the latest.
The wild card, to the most ardent believers of Boston Basketball, are the draft picks that Celtics president Danny Ainge has hoarded to A&E levels of insanity.
But draft picks are just chaotic lottery tickets. You can tell me that the next three drafts coming up are loaded, and I’m still not going to be sold. I’ve lived through as many Greg Odens and Andrea Bargnanis as I have Lebrons and John Walls. Draft picks are like packs of basketball cards: I could get the Michael Jordan with the small bit of cloth from a game-worn jersey card (those were always the coolest cards and I do not care to hear otherwise) or I could end up with my fifth different Vitaly Potapenko card. Great.
The latest pick used, the No. 3 overall pick used to select Jayson Tatum, could be closer to a star than the ones that came before (the still-too-young-to-accurately-judge Jaylen Brown, Smart, etc.). But where will the rest of the Celtics be by the time he reaches that next level? Horford turned 31 last month, Thomas is still just 28, yes, but plays a style and at a size (5-foot-9) that could break down sooner than your average point guard, and Hayward is in his 30s for the second half of his max deal, better known as when the Celtics are probably closer to usurping the Warriors as the league’s best team.
Unable to stop time, even as they attempt to win as a club that has one foot in the present and the other stepping towards the future, the Celtics’ core talents they’re building around get older with each draft pick. As high as it may be, too. And with that process, the future of that core and team’s championship contention becomes more of a blur, especially as other contracts unfold both in Boston and around the rest of the NBA.
So, with reality of being the second or third-best likely continuing to stare the Celtics in the face, even with Hayward, we now wait for that next big move.
But if the C’s recent history has told me anything, it’s that we’re going to be waiting for a long while.
And even then, it still might not be enough in a league that’s taken the mystery out of competition and somehow found a way to make any arms race seem pointless.
Why am I not excited?
Full article @ Anderson: Even with Gordon Hayward, Celtics still feel moves away from NBA title
Source: GreenStreet Blog