Celtics

Stevens Wasting No Time Making Moves

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Brad Stevens didn’t waste much time making his first move as the Boston Celtics’ new President of Basketball Operations.

Less than three weeks after taking the position, he traded Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, Al Horford returns to Beantown after spending two seasons with two different teams. Boston also received big man Moses Brown in the deal.

Next on Stevens’ list was hiring a new head coach in Ime Udoka, who will get his first shot at leading an NBA team. He spent this season as an assistant coach with Brooklyn.

Horford Comes Home

Horford had a bounce-back year after a dreadful tenure with the Sixers. He averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Thunder. While he played in only 28 games, OKC sent him home in late March to prioritize getting younger players playing time.

It’s no surprise that Horford is ecstatic to return to Boston. He’s been on record saying that things might have been different had he known Walker was going to sign with the Celtics before he agreed to a deal with Philly. He’s had a lot of success with the Celtics and has the respect of his teammates, specifically Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

He also gives the Celtics’ offense something it desperately lacked after the departure of Daniel Theis. Horford has always been one of the better passing big men in the league– now the Celtics can go back to running offense through the high-post and having multiple bigs able to read the floor.

This is vital, as teams have started trapping Tatum in the pick-and-roll, so having Horford as a safety valve will make teams more weary of doubling Tatum or Brown.

Another area where Al will help on offense is being an actual threat in the pick-and-pop. While Theis could shoot the three, opposing teams didn’t respect his shot and would be more than happy to let him shoot away. Horford, on the other hand, has shot no lower than 35% from three in the past five seasons, so teams will have to close out on him and respect his shot.

Celtics Get Intriguing Young Big

The Celtics saw first hand just how good Moses Brown can be. In their first matchup of the season, Brown dropped 21 points and 23 rebounds against the Cs. He had a mini-breakout year for the Thunder, averaging 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

While the numbers aren’t anything special, OKC rewarded him with a four-year, $6.8 million contract extension.

Standing at 7-foot-2, Brown has a knack for crashing the offensive glass, averaging six offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. Playing time might be hard to come by barring another trade, unfortunately, as the Celtics have three big men ahead of him on the depth chart. The aforementioned Horford, along with Robert Williams and Tristan Thompson will all start the season getting minutes over Brown.

Williams has yet to prove that he can stay healthy, however, and Horford is bound to rest throughout the year. Thompson may be moved in a trade as well, which could free up opportunities for Brown.

Financial Implications

While the trade makes sense from a basketball standpoint, Stevens said that the trade was more of a financial move and to give the team more flexibility.

By trading Walker, the Celtics freed up about $9.4 million under the luxury tax. This makes it easier to re-sign Evan Fournier if they want to, along with giving them the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

It also gives the Celtics another trade exception to work with. The Walker TPE is worth about $6.87 million, which isn’t much but could be used to acquire a decent bench player.

The bigger deal, however, is it gives the Celtics a path to max cap space in 2022. As of right now, they only have four players with guaranteed money on the books, in Tatum, Brown, Horford and Demetrius Jackson (still on the books until 2023-24).

Looking ahead to that summer, Tatum’s good friend Bradley Beal is scheduled to be a free agent and would be a realistic target the Celtics could go after.

While trading Walker stings, it was the right move to free up flexibility long term. He never got a fair shot to find his rhythm after the shortened offseason. A full offseason should do him wonders and I wish him the best of luck in Oklahoma City.

Stevens Hires Successor

After interviewing a myriad of candidates, the Celtics finalized their coaching search by hiring Udoka. He has been a popular name in recent years but hadn’t been able to land a head coaching job until now. He boasts an impressive resume, however, as he has been an assistant coach for nine years.

He was able to separate himself from the rest of the field with his ability to build relationships with players. Having relationships with Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart after coaching them with Team USA was also a big factor in why the Celtics chose him.

In his introductory press conference, Udoka stressed that he wants to push players into being the best version of themselves. He also wants to play team basketball, while emphasizing that he wants to be a defensive-minded team.

https://twitter.com/celtics/status/1409604264708694019?s=20

Even though the offseason hasn’t officially started yet, Stevens is off to a terrific start in his role in the front office.

Follow us on Twitter @CelticsLead for the latest Celtics news and insight. 

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About Mason Urban

Sports writer for The Spectrum newspaper and contributor for The Lead Sports Media

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