All summer, we've examined the chances of a star developing in Boston, but we haven't talked about the possibility of bringing one in mid-season or next summer. The writers here at CelticsBlog had a roundtable discussion to talk about what might be in the cards come the trade deadline and certainly when free agency opens up in 2016.
Bill Sy: What kind of star--position, style, personality, etc.--would be perfect for the Celtics based on who's already on the roster and with Brad Stevens at the helm?
Wes Howard: By the end of last season, the Celtics had established an identity as a defensive-minded team that prioritized spacing and ball-movement on offense. As a result, they were one of the most successful teams in the league after the All-Star break. The perfect star for the Celtics would be someone who's game doesn't sacrifice or alter that identity. Boston needs a player who can make an impact on offense without pounding the ball, and who will make their presence felt on the less glamorous end of the court as well. Additionally, being on the younger side to peak along with Boston's current core wouldn't hurt. Marc Gasol circa 2012 sounds pretty good.
Tim MacLean: Based on what we've seen from Brad since he came to Boston it's pretty clear that he has the ability to mold his system in ways that fit his players best. Because of that, I don't think there is any specific style of player we need to target.
However, the Celtics would benefit greatly from getting either a legitimate big man or go-to scorer. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I'm a major advocate for making a play for DeMarcus Cousins. He's incredibly dominant with his back to the basket, is a smart passer out of double teams and plays just enough defense to get by. Under Brad I think Boogie would thrive. And I believe that Stevens would be able to get him to buy in defensively. At 25, he fits our timeline in terms of overall team growth.
Sean Penney: We always hear about how Stevens has aimed to model his offense using elements of the Spurs system, so why not go with the guy that has been the nucleus of that system - Tim Duncan. Sorry, just had a traumatic flashback to the '97 draft lottery.
This isn't to suggest the Celtics should be chasing after a 39-year old (although that guy is still pretty good), but the attributes that made prime-Duncan a legend in San Antonio are the same as what Stevens should look for. An elite defender to protect the paint and rebound. A guy that can be a go-to scorer when they need him to be, but doesn't have to dominate the ball in order to be effective. An unselfish team player with an extraordinary basketball IQ. Someone that will put the team ahead of himself if that's what it takes to win. Duncan is a winner and that's what the Celtics need.
Jeff Clark: I think Sean just described Anthony Davis, which would be fine with me though the chances of that happening are about equal to that of creating a time machine and rigging the 1997 draft to make Timmy become a Celtic. Cousins could be a workable solution if everything goes South in Sacramento but he does come with baggage and I'd have some initial concerns with his defense. Still, I tend to think Brad Stevens could make it work.
Now that I say that out loud (err, type it out?) I kind of cringe. Just to be the guy to ask the question to the class, are we perhaps putting too much faith in Brad Stevens to "figure things out" and "make it work?" I mean, if we keep giving him ketchup, cheese wiz, and hamburger buns and asking him to make pizza, it might not always turn out so well.
Bill Sy: There are no guarantees, but I'd put my faith in Brad Stevens over any superstar in the league right now. Maybe that's a bold statement, but I want the guy that could attract Brad Stevens-type players vs. finding a LeBron-type and building around him with complimentary players.
Wes Howard: Perhaps part of the difficulty with the question is that the Celtics have been missing a legitimate star. That fact has been pointed to as being perhaps their greatest flaw as a roster. The idea of any star playing for Boston is certainly appealing. To what extent would you feel comfortable with re-designing the roster to cater to the needs of a star, even if they're not a superstar, given the dearth of star-level talent we currently have on the team? Perhaps it would help to also consider what sort of stars would be poor fits in Boston, to clarify the ideal situation we're talking about.
Bill Sy: Then here's the hypothetical:
Everybody under a rookie contract or with two years or more on their deal returns next season. That eliminates Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Evan Turner, Perry Jones III and David Lee. For the sake of argument, let's say Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller are either extended before the season starts or retained as restricted free agents next summer. That gives us a depth chart of:
Wings: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Bigs: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey
What star turns that squad into a top-4 team in the East? A lot of you guys have said that we'd need a transformative big (DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, etc.), but personally, I think the key is finding that penetrating swingman. With the type of ball movement that Brad Stevens preaches in his offense and how important he stresses perimeter defense, I'd love to get a do-it-all small forward. Kawhi Leonard would have been my pick, but he's unavailable.
Tim MacLean: I agree that getting a go-to wing would be nice, Bill. But who's honestly available? I would have loved Leonard (that was never happening) or Jimmy Butler (neither was that). But a player along those lines would fit in really well with Brad's offense.
There are only so many great players in this league which makes trading for one all the more difficult as you all know. It's really hard to come up with a realistic target at this position that we would consider a star or rising star.
The only one I can think of is Gordon Hayward for obvious reasons. He has the connection with Brad and is developing into a really good all-around player. He isn't available, though, and unless Rodney Hood transforms into a world-beater this season then he probably won't be for quite some time.
Bill Sy: Jeff Green? I'll see myself out.
Tim MacLean: Tried and failed unfortunately. Believe me, I really wanted him to become that guy for us. Just didn't happen.
If we limit this only to stars that are 'available' within the next year, that takes away a lot of options. In fact, realistically, few stars, if any, could be considered as such. If we're talking about who we could realistically get, the conversation moves a long ways away from who we would like to be able to hypothetically get. I would also agree that a do-it-all wing would be a great fit, and would help out fans missing the Truth. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Gordon Hayward would have to be near the top of that list. However, I'd say that that would be contingent upon the Celtics having a solid (at least) rim protector, which does not exist on the roster described above.
Bill Sy: Eh, I'm kinda over the rim protector talk. The Pelicans and Rockets were 2nd and 5th in FGM from 5 ft. or less with Davis and Howard on the back line. But I do like the Paul George suggestion. James Young and a 1st?
Wes Howard: I'll be honest, Bill - I think James Young and a 1st might not quite be enough. Maybe Sully, Evan Turner, and a 2nd?
Tim MacLean: It would take a lot more than James Young and a 1st to get Paul George. The Pacers are in a similar situation to us and he's young enough that when they're ready to contend again he'll be hitting his prime.
Wes Howard: In all seriousness though, we saw Charlotte turn down a ridiculous offer for a pick that isn't guaranteed to yield a star. In the modern landscape of the NBA, is it possible to pry a star away from another organization? Bonus question; how much more difficult is it to do that when you have Danny Ainge's reputation?
Bill Sy: Well, before this spirals into wishful thinking on a fallen star from another team and more armchair GMing, I'd like to go back to a question that Wes asked: "to what extent would you feel comfortable with re-designing the roster to cater to the needs of a star, even if they're not a superstar, given the dearth of star-level talent we currently have on the team?"
After two years under Brad Stevens, the team hasn't necessarily been winning, but the basketball nerd in me loves the way they play. I'd hate to give that up to get a Kobe or LeBron or Durant. I know stars win championships and fans have been itching for fireworks, but a part of me wants to see this thing play out as it's currently constructed. Anybody else feel the same way?
Jeff Clark: I hear you Bill, but sign me up for an ugly Championship over beautiful also-rans any day of the week. I'm convinced that a star is needed for true title contention and I think Stevens can adapt his style of play to maximize the talents of that star. Finding a star that also shares the ball and maximizes the talents of his teammates is obviously the best of both worlds. I would go so far as to argue that a star that can't do that isn't a star at all. Those guys are simply numbers generators.
With that said, Paul Pierce was little more than a numbers generator before Doc Rivers got ahold of him and he didn't become a Championship star until KG and Ray came along. So there's a chance that a new system in a new environment could maximize the talent of someone who's not currently looked upon as a "star."
Jeff Nooney: If Marcus Smart or the Brooklyn pick this season don't pan out, then I think you have to make changes to get a star. I love the idea of a starless team winning with selfless basketball, but that Cavaliers series is a sobering reminder. They got swept by a Cleveland team that didn't really play that well. The Celtics will continue to get better, but the ceiling is low without elite players.
Dustin Chapman: It's easy to enjoy and appreciate the style of play that Brad Stevens has implemented, but it's no secret that you need star power to compete for championships in the NBA. We all love watching this selfless Celtics squad attack the opposition by committee and run a free-flowing offense that thrives on making the right basketball play. However, at the end of the day, there is a ceiling on this brand without big time talent.
Theoretically, of course we would love the Celtics to operate like the Spurs, but that's a special group. If you can get a star level talent that will bring you another step closer to the NBA Finals, you do it, even if it means adjusting the team's style of play to accommodate him. It'll be worth it in the end.
Bill Sy: I hope Dustin is right. Emulate the Spurs because I think that's the best long term, longer lasting moving going forward. Sure, I'd love to hang Banner 18 with another Big Three, but #19 and #20 are more likely if there's a culture in place that doesn't necessarily cater to "stars."
Sean Penney: Emulating the Spurs is great and all, as they've certainly implemented a system that has led to sustained success for nearly two decades. Yet none of that happens without Duncan. We don't have a star anywhere near that caliber to serve as the foundation to build around. If we don't get a superstar then the best we can hope for is a team like the Hawks. Several good players that can be All-Stars based on their contributions to the team's performance, but they aren't superstars. Atlanta is another team that has modeled themselves after San Antonio, but we saw how that turned out in the playoffs when faced with LeBron's Cavs. Do we want to be a playoff contender or a championship contender? There's only one way to answer that in Boston.
Jeff Clark: Which Spurs system are we talking about now? The defensive minded post-centered one of Duncan's early years or the free flowing offensive attack of the recent years that coincided with Parker's prime and the rise of Kawhi Leonard? My point is that Pop's gameplan is so great because he adapts his system according to his personnel (and league-wide trends). I'm pretty confident that Stevens can do the same if given the right level of talent.
Bill Sy: Looks like we've finally come full circle on this topic then. The best player for the Celtics' system is the best person available and that might be its biggest strength, no?