The new-look Sixers are on fire, putting up very impressive performances against both the Nuggets and Lakers since acquiring Tobias Harris. And tonight they face the Boston Celtics, whose last few weeks have not been as enjoyable — filled with disappointing losses, locker room drama and more.
To get up to speed on the Celtics in the midst of a bizarre season, I chatted with Andrew Doxy of Celtics Blog.
Question #1: Fill in the blank: if the Philadelphia 76ers defeat the Boston Celtics in a playoff series, it will be because...
If the Philadelphia 76ers defeat the Boston Celtics in a playoff series, it will be because Ben Simmons makes the Celtics pay for their scheming around him. I’m sure we’ll know better how the Celtics will guard Simmons now with Philly’s loaded starting 5 after tonight’s game, and that’ll provide a lot of clarity. With that being said, though, Kyrie Irving missing the game means that perhaps there won’t be much to learn from it. All I know right now is that a big reason why the Celtics were able to defeat the Sixers last May was because of solid single coverage on Embiid post-ups while not having to be overly worried about Simmons on the court. But, that probably won’t work as well with Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris now on the floor. The Celtics, up until their Christmas Day matchup, remained as one of the teams with the best personnel to defend the 76ers. We’ll see if that changes with Philly’s latest additions, but right now, Boston schemes Ben Simmons into doing exactly what they want offensively, and that’s been a major factor over the last year and a half.
Question #2: This question is short and sweet: what is the biggest weakness of the Boston Celtics?
Right now, it’s floor balance. I don’t want to throw Brad Stevens under the bus, but typically when a lead is blown or the C’s face a large deficit, you can point to a specific lineup that let it happen. Celtics fans online have been very vocal in their frustration about how Stevens uses some players, including Terry Rozier, and it’s my opinion that not putting these players in optimal positions to succeed has played into the team’s struggles at times. For instance, Rozier is not a point guard. He said it himself in old Twitter posts from, like, 2013! He’s a combo guard. When he shares the floor with Gordon Hayward, Hayward should be the lead ball-handler. When Rozier is ball dominant, it hurts the offense. It’s little things like that that can add up and lead to a couple of losses. That being said, I’m glad that this problem is more fixable than weaknesses that other teams face.
Question #3: The biggest story in sports over the last few weeks has been Anthony Davis, who requested a trade out of New Orleans with the hopes of becoming a Los Angeles Laker. The Pelicans held onto him, which means the Celtics will be able to make a run at trading for the superstar big-man that Danny Ainge has reportedly coveted for years. The consensus is that the presence of Jayson Tatum in a package for Davis would clinch the deal for the Celtics. But in these last few weeks, the people around Davis have made it clear that he isn’t interested in the Celtics. Even with that being said, would you be willing to include Tatum as the centerpiece of a package for Anthony Davis?
This is a black and white question that doesn’t really have a black and white answer. I don’t believe the Celtics should ever lead with “hey, can I interest you in a Jayson Tatum?” If I’m Boston, especially seeing the “leaks” for New Orleans’ demands, I approach the Pelicans in June with a Jaylen Brown and draft picks-centered package. Ask New Orleans who they want in the NBA Draft with the picks that the C’s have and work from there. Boston obviously would love Davis, but I’m sure they’d love having Irving, Tatum and Davis all on the same team.
Boston isn’t bidding against New Orleans’ demands. They’re bidding against other teams’ packages. As long as they can beat LA’s offer and everyone else’s offer, that’s what it’ll take to get it done regardless of if New Orleans really wants Tatum or not. That being said, if it ends up that throwing Tatum in there is what is necessary to get the deal done, I’d have to bite. However, I wouldn’t trade Tatum and Brown together for a player on an expiring contract, no matter who that player is. But if Tatum is what it takes, as sad as it would be, I’d have to go for it.
Big thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer our questions!