Celtics fans are hoping to see some fireworks this July, but not just the ones viewed from their Independence Day barbecues. We want bold, headline grabbing moves that can take this team to the next level. This rumor would certainly qualify.
CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely believes that Boston could target a pair of Portland Trail Blazers that will be hitting the free agent market this summer. LaMarcus Aldridge is the star this team is craving, while Wesley Matthews could be the supporting piece that helps lure him here.
"My understanding is the Celtics are going to be open to putting together some type of package deal where they would not only bring in LaMarcus Aldridge, they'd bring in one of his good friends by the name of Wes Matthews," says Blakely. "Now, if you're the Celtics and you can put together a deal to get those two guys in town, you've gotta do it."
The 29-year old Aldridge is one of the premiere power forwards in the game, making the All-Star team in the loaded Western Conference in each of the past four years. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds, while posting a career-high 22.8 PER that ranked 10th in the league among players with at least 50 games played.
As recently as a couple of months ago it was assumed that Aldridge's priority would be to remain in Portland, but after a disappointing first-round playoff exit there have been whispers that he may now be more willing to consider a move to a team that gives him a better chance to win. The predominant theory is that the Texas native will be lured by the San Antonio Spurs or Dallas Mavericks. Both are respected organizations with a history of building winning teams, so it makes sense why they would be considered the favorites to land Aldridge if he does leave Portland.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has made it clear that he will make a run at every high profile free agent that comes available this summer. Aldridge will be no exception, even if it does seem like a long shot. It's clear why Boston would have interest in him, but how do they convince Aldridge to be interested in coming to Boston?
This is where Matthews could come in. If Aldridge really is interested in being part of a package deal with Matthews, the Celtics have the flexibility to make it happen. They have cap space, with only about $40 million committed to next year's roster, plus they have many contracts that can easily be moved if they need to free up more space.
Matthews would be more than just a throw-in to lure Aldridge here. The 28-year old sharpshooter averaged a tick under 16 points per game last year and is a career 39.3 percent three-point shooter. He was fourth in the league in three-pointers made at the time that he went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. While a serious injury like that would make any team cautious, Matthews claims to be ahead of schedule in his recovery and is confident that he will return better than ever.
When asked about the likelihood of the Celtics landing Aldridge, Blakely was surprisingly optimistic.
"I'm going to go high with this one," said Blakely. "I think there's a 35-40 percent chance that he's going to come here.
"Here's the thing about LaMarus Aldridge," continued Blakely. "He's going to look for a situation that is going to give him the best shot of going deep in the playoffs."
This is where Boston may hold an advantage over the Texas teams. While all three teams ended up being eliminated in the first-round this postseason, just as the Blazers were, the Celtics reside in an Eastern Conference that would be much easier to navigate. While teams out West had to fight tooth and nail to earn their playoff spots, the East included three playoff teams that failed to post records above .500 this season.
Boston was one of those teams with losing records, but they finished strong with the most wins in the Conference after February 2. This Celtics team with Aldridge and Matthews on board is certainly a team capable of posting a winning record. Depending on how the landscape of the league shifts with free agency and trades this summer, they could potentially challenge for the top spot in the East.
If Aldridge were to come to Boston he would be banking on an improving young core with a stockpile of assets to build with, a brilliant head coach and a front office that has proven capable of building a winner on the fly before. That's not a bad gamble for him to take.