The expectation all summer time was that Damian Lillard would change into a brand new Eastern Conference rival for the Celtics. Just not the crew he finally landed with.
The Heat have been the frontrunner to amass the longtime Blazers star however after a deal by no means materialized, one other East contender swopped in. The Bucks, on the eve of coaching camp, surprised the NBA world on Wednesday by buying and selling for Lillard in a blockbuster deal that made them the quick championship favourite.
So, what does it imply for the Celtics?
The Celtics, definitely, already needed to fear concerning the Bucks earlier than the commerce, even after final season’s No. 1 seed suffered a stunning first-round exit to the Heat. But now the 2021 champions are much more formidable, pairing celebrity Giannis Antetekounmpo with Lillard, one of many league’s greatest scorers to type a probably deadly duo.
Add a totally wholesome Khris Middleton to the combination, along with a deep roster that features Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Malik Beasley, Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder, and it’s no shock why this Bucks squad catapulted the Celtics because the title favourite this season even when they’re growing old. The 4 matchups this common season – with the primary one coming Nov. 22 in Boston – are tantalizing, and a seven-game collection subsequent spring, maybe within the Eastern Conference Finals, already appears seemingly. The Bucks emerged because the Celtics’ clear-cut prime competitor within the East.
It begs the query: Do the Celtics must make one other transfer to counter the Bucks and re-assert themselves atop the East?
The Celtics, already retooled themselves this summer time after buying and selling Marcus Smart and Grant Williams and buying Kristaps Porzingis, are definitely nonetheless in an important place and positioned nicely for a collection in opposition to the Bucks. But the domino impact of the Lillard commerce will drive Brad Stevens and Co. to ponder one other shakeup.
Jrue Holiday, the All-Defensive guard who was key in serving to the Bucks win a title two years in the past, was traded to the rebuilding Blazers within the Lillard deal and the expectation is that the 33-year-old might be rapidly flipped to a different crew. The Celtics are reportedly one in all a number of groups exploring the potential of buying and selling for Holiday, with a aggressive bidding warfare anticipated.
Holiday’s slot in Boston is simple to see. After buying and selling away their very own longtime elite defensive guard, Holiday would change most of the similar qualities that Smart possessed. Even at 33, Holiday continues to be on the peak of his defensive powers after being named to All-Defensive first crew in 2023, his fifth profession choice. He additionally represents an improve offensively from Smart as a greater shooter – hitting 39.5 p.c from 3 over his final three seasons – and he’s a confirmed champion. He’d be a welcome addition for a Celtics crew desperately making an attempt to recover from the hump.
But the most important query is the worth. And it might be vital.
There are a number of groups prone to pursue a commerce for Holiday, together with the Heat who misplaced out on Lillard and wish one other influence participant to maintain tempo within the Eastern Conference. That will make the bidding warfare extraordinarily aggressive, however the acquisition of Holiday will already require a big return. The Celtics definitely have the longer term draft choose capital that the Blazers would need in a commerce, nevertheless it’s the matching salaries that will seemingly current a roadblock in negotiations.
Any Celtics deal for Holiday would virtually definitely embody Malcolm Brogdon, who they already practically traded this offseason and makes $22.5 million this season, however that wouldn’t be sufficient. The Celtics would in all probability even have to incorporate one in all Robert Williams or Al Horford, and the Blazers would in all probability choose the 25-year-old Williams over the 37-year-old Horford as they construct for the longer term.
Such a commerce would give the Celtics a robust beginning 5 – with Holiday becoming a member of Derrick White, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Porzingis – however would deplete them of their depth. Holiday can be coming into the ultimate 12 months of his contract, and is prone to search a large contract extension that wouldn’t make loads of sense in Boston. The Celtics signed Brown to a supermax and Porzingis to an extension this summer time, and are set to supply Tatum a supermax subsequent summer time. They already don’t have a lot monetary flexibility going ahead, and that’s earlier than contemplating Holiday.
The guess right here is that Stevens – as any sensible, contending crew would do – will do his due diligence and name Portland on what it might take to amass Holiday, however the worth will finally be an excessive amount of to revamp this roster once more. While Holiday can be a powerful addition, it might be a short-term transfer for a crew that’s higher positioned than their East counterparts to compete for championships for years to return.