The Boston Celtics are currently 36-19 and are in second place in the Eastern Conference, just a couple games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While their ascension to the top of the standings has been wildly impressive, there are a number of areas in which the team needs to improve, especially on the defensive front.
While the teams offensive numbers are efficient, new personnel must be brought in to instill a focus on the defensive end of the floor.
Boston ranks 27th in the NBA in rebounding with just 41.4 per contest for a negative-3.2 differential, which ranks 26th in the league.
As a result, the Celtics give up 13.2 second-chance points per game, which ranks 25th in the league.
They also rank 23rd in blocks per contest with just 4.3.
They’re in need of help and it has to be a personnel fix before the trade deadline, especially since the Raptors just traded for Serge Ibaka.
Here are some options.
Trade 1: Celtics acquire Nerlens Noel from the 76ers
Noel is in the final year of his rookie deal with Philadelphia and is set to become a coveted free agent in the offseason. While he would be a short-term rental for the Celtics, who probably wouldn’t pay him close to the near-max deal that he will probably be looking for, his rebounding acumen and defensive abilities would be worth it.
In exchange for him, the Celtics could offer up youngsters Terry Rozier and James Young, who have potential but are far down Boston’s depth chart with relatively no future to earn playing time.
In order to make the deal happen and sweeten the pot a bit, Boston would probably have to include a future first-round pick (even if it’s Brooklyn’s).
Winning a title this year is an opportunity that is realistic given the rest of the landscape in the East and the Celtics must do whatever they can in that pursuit.
There’s still a chance that the 76ers want to hold onto Noel, especially since they’re shopping Jahlil Okafor, but for the right price, the rebuilding franchise would probably bite.
Trade 2: Celtics acquire Aron Baynes, Boban Marjanovic from the Pistons
Baynes is making $6.5 million this year and next year and Marjanovic is on an expiring deal.
Amir Johnson, James Young and a couple second round picks would probably make this deal happen. The Pistons might be enamored with the idea that trading Baynes would result in some freed up cap space in the offseason.
Baynes currently plays limited minutes behind Andre Drummond, but is a gritty, hard-nosed defender and rebounder. Marjanovic is a behemoth who likely wouldn’t make a huge difference, but could be utilized by Brad Stevens in certain situations.
Most of all, Boston would gain two impactful defensive-oriented players while ridding themselves of Johnson and Young, who haven’t exactly worked out as members of the team.
Trade 3: Celtics acquire Andrew Bogut from the Mavericks
Offering up Amir Johnson (for cap reasons) as well as a future first-round pick would probably get this deal done.
Since the Mavericks are in a bit of a rebuilding mode and would probably like to receive some sort of compensation for Bogut, who’s in an expiring deal, they’d probably be willing to take on Johnson’s expiring contract (which is almost identical to Bogut’s) in order to land a future first-round pick.
Since the Celtics are in need of a rim protector and rebounding force, Bogut would be a welcomed addition.
While he has been afflicted with a number of injuries throughout his career, the impact that he can have on a team is obvious. Remember those Warriors NBA Finals teams the last couple of seasons? He was manning the middle.
In terms of a fit, he would be able to play the five while on the court with Al Horford, who could move to the four, where he has excelled in his newfound finessed game.
Of course, he would also be a logical choice to spell Horford on the second unit.
Given his Playoff experience and resume, he’d be a perfect fit for a team in need of grit and tenacity on the defensive side of the ball.
Whether or not one or more of these deals will be done, the Celtics will need to make some kind of move in the near future if they expect to vault over Cleveland.