60 days to Trade Deadline & the playoff value of Gordon Hayward
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have seen enough of Kanter to decide whether he fits the needed role at center or not. Kanter is splitting time at the 5-spot with Daniel Theis and Rob Williams. The trio combines for 51.5 MPG (close enough to 48.0), 17.9 PPG, 17.2 RPG, 3.5 APG and 3.1 BPG. That is a solid double-double - coupled with 3.5 assists and 3.1 blocks per game. So what's the problem? It starts with the 3-pointers - or lack thereof. After 21 games, the threesome is 3-of-16 from beyond the arc, and Daniel made all three. These guys are not stretch-fives.
All three can score inside and rebound, while two of them (Theis and Williams III) are adept rim protectors. Daniel is the best of the lot at perimeter defense, while Rob may be the best passer. Put Enes in there and you get inside scoring and rebounding. Inject Theis in there and we get rim protection, rebounding and perimeter defense. Williams offers scoring on lobs, rebounding and rim protection, much like Daniel.
20 games into #Celtics season, 5 stats I like (aside from 15-5):— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) December 5, 2019
-Kemba Walker/Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown/Gordon Hayward: 18.9 PPG+
-Marcus Smart: 4 AST/TO
-Brown: 71.8 FT%
-Brad Wanamaker: 49 FG%/41 3P%/92 FT%
-Enes Kanter/Rob Williams/Daniel Theis: 11.4+ REB/36 MIN
The Cleveland Cavaliers are making it clear that center/forward Kevin Love is available. Boston would need to trade Gordon Hayward to accomplish that, and I can't see it happening. Packaging Theis and Kanter for a center other than Love, such as Myles Turner, is a possibility.
Weaknesses are revealed in the post-season, and the center spot may not be playoff-weak, but it is not optimum - and Ainge knows it. With the surge this season of the Jay Team and the imminent return of Hayward, Danny may feel confident that lack of perfection at the center position can be attenuated by the scoring, defense and rebounding of his core-five of Hayward, Tatum, Brown, Walker and Smart. That five-some is one hell of a balanced, versatile crew and could very well finish many close playoff contests quite effectively.
On the question of Hayward, it is worth noting that the Celtics were 7-1 with him (.875) and 9-4 without him (.692). In the eight games he played, his line showed 31.2 MPG, 18.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 4.1 APG - with only 1.9 turnovers/game. He shot 56% FG/43% 3s/84% FT. He can effectively play three positions, and take on point guard or center duty in a pinch. He is versatile, seasoned and clever as they come - just what the Celtics need come playoff time. But he has a player option for next season. Can Danny sign him to a reasonable contract? That is a major question.
Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, @CausewayStreet and Facebook