As the Celtics enter one of their most pivotal offseasons in recent memory, it’s clear that the direction the team goes could ultimately shape the landscape of the rest of the NBA.
If Boston’s roster undergoes a major overhaul, and superstar Anthony Davis joins Kyrie Irving, the Celtics are suddenly legitimate contenders. On the flipside, if Irving leaves, NBA insiders believe Davis is unlikely to come to Boston, and it’s possible the franchise could change its course entirely.
It could be an exact replica of last year’s roster, a total shift in philosophy, or somewhere in the middle. It’s impossible to say, but regardless of how it unfolds, it’s clear the Celtics have their work cut out for them as they try to keep pace with the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Philadelphia 76ers.
“I think there’s just more uncertainty about the path moving forward,” Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s a lot of different ways the summer could go. And that’s our job, over the next bunch of weeks, is to figure out what the best path is from here.”
Though there’s a chance the Celtics roster will look similar, the consensus is that it’s more likely than not there will be a major shakeup. Himmelsbach said Irving’s free agency will be “the dominant narrative of the summer.” Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris are free agents as well, and Rozier has made it known that he doesn’t want to return in the same role. Al Horford has a player option and could take a pay cut to remain with the team.
“Given the state of our roster, and the draft assets we have now and going forward, nearly any kind of transaction is in play,” Zarren told Himmelsbach. “To trade for players around the league, to move up or down in the draft, for future picks, to use our picks. We’ve got a lot of flexibility this summer, but also a lot of big decisions to make. So the next two months are going to be very, very busy.”
Could the Brooklyn Nets land Kyrie Irving?
New York Post reporter Brian Lewis shared Saturday that a source told him there are some within the Nets organization that feel a D’Angelo Russell and Irving pairing could work.
Both are ball-dominant players, but Lewis’s sources say there’s speculation they could not only coexist but thrive. The former No. 2 overall pick Russell, who is fresh off a career year, will be a restricted free agent this summer.
A source tells me that there are some within the #Nets organization that feel a D'Angelo Russell-Kyrie Irving pairing could work, that the two All-Star point guards could not only coexist but thrive. Story on the way.
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) May 25, 2019
The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks, among other teams, have all been discussed as possible landing spots for Irving.
Fans in Los Angeles serenaded Kyrie Irving with a “come to LA” chant.
Irving recently spent some time in Los Angeles, and fans greeted him by encouraging him to play there.
Kyrie was spotted in LA early today 👀 pic.twitter.com/RfMs3RO5C5
— KIDo (@OTGSQUADX) May 22, 2019
“Los Angeles is for you, man,” one fan said, then a “Come to LA” chant broke out before he got into his limousine.
Aron Baynes said his heart is still in Boston.
Time will tell whether Aron Baynes stays with the Celtics, but he made it clear Thursday that he has no desire to leave.
Baynes’s player pending option is one more variable the Celtics have to consider as this offseason unfolds. He can opt in or out of the second year of his two-year, $11 million contract.
“I haven’t really thought too much about that,” Baynes told reporters. “I know my heart’s still here in Boston. I love Boston. It’s been great to my family. There’s no better place to play than TD Garden during the playoffs or when you’re in a comeback.”
Baynes did say he’ll have to talk with President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens to get a better sense of his future. If he does stay, he wants to see the team develop better habits throughout the season.
“Everyone kind of focused on the playoffs,” Baynes told reporters. “There was a lot of talk that when we get there, we’ll be right, we’ll be able to play. You can’t just flick a switch and play the right way.”
Steve Bulpett said certain teams are “wary” of bringing in Irving after this year’s drama.
The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reported that some teams are “a great deal more wary” about bringing in Irving after the drama swirling around the Celtics throughout the season. Bulpett said certain clubs are “concerned about putting too many eggs in his basket right away.”
Perhaps, Bulpett reported, their outlook could change if Irving is paired with another superstar.
“Two teams for certain are telling people they will only go after him if they land another marquee free agent and that player says he wants Irving,” Bulpett said. “In each of these cases, the initial target is different.”
Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz weighed in on Anthony Davis and the Celtics.
ESPN analysts Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz recently discussed the fickle state of the Celtics on “The Lowe Post” podcast, and they agreed Boston has a fascinating offseason ahead of it.
Lowe said he believes the Celtics’ confidence is shaken over what happened against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston, of course, was unable to piece everything together, capping a tumultuous and disappointing season by losing in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“They put on a brave face all season, through the ups and the downs, worried here, not worried there,” Lowe said. “Well, I think they’re worried now.”
The Celtics, of course, have plenty of assets to offer as trade bait, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks in this year’s draft, and the Memphis Grizzlies pick that will surface in 2020 or 2021.
There are dozens of different directions the Celtics could go, but Lowe and Arnovitz believe their fate depends on Irving’s decision. Arnovitz and Lowe made it clear the Celtics shouldn’t pursue Davis if Irving does walk.
For the evening commute: Lowe Post podcast: @kevinarnovitz and I on lottery fallout, the AD trade market, Boston's coming offseason, other trade targets (Mike Conley, Bradley Beal), the Wiz GM job, Warriors-Blazers, much more: https://t.co/x3wzYPj4NC
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 17, 2019
They say there’s no point in getting Davis to be the lynchpin of a team that finishes fifth or sixth in the East. If that happens, suddenly the repercussions of a whole lot of wheeling and dealing become moot and they’re stuck in no-man’s land.
“Davis is worth trading for if he’s the final piece, if he pushes you over, if when he arrives, you’re ready to contend,” Arnovitz said. “If not, you don’t want to deal for him, because now you’re going to lose Davis at the end of it and lose those assets. Now, where the hell are you in 2021? No Davis, no Tatum, no Irving, and no Memphis pick, and now you’re back to rebuilding.”
Christopher L. Gasper called pairing Irving and Davis a “microsurgery-delicate operation.”
Boston Globe columnist Christopher L. Gasper didn’t hold back when discussing the demise of a year filled with hype that didn’t yield any tangible reward. He said the season unraveled “like a sweater caught on a protruding nail,” noting that pairing Davis and Irving is a “microsurgery-delicate operation.”
Gasper said it makes “zero sense” for the Celtics to get into an arms race for Davis, sacrificing Tatum and Brown, unless they have a clear commitment from Irving.
“It’s hard to believe the Celtics are a salvage operation this offseason,” Gasper wrote. “Last offseason, the NBA was the Celtics’ oyster. Conventional wisdom was that the Celtics were better positioned than any other NBA team to follow the parallel paths of constructing contenders for the present and the future.”
Now, he said, everything has gone from promise to problematic.
Could Ricky Rubio be an option?
If it’s not Irving, and it’s not Rozier, someone will have to fill the void. Marcus Smart is more of 2-guard and Brad Wanamaker is a reliable backup, but the Celtics would likely need to bring in someone else to start at point guard.
Ricky Rubio, who played for the Utah Jazz last season, referenced the Celtics as a potential destination, but he too said that will all depend on Irving.
Terry Rozier made it clear he wants the ball in his hands.
Rozier wasn’t shy when speaking on ESPN about his role last year, saying that he “might have to go” because he’s “not trying to step into that again.” He noted that in his eyes, Irving and Hayward had the ball most of the time, while he was either stuck in the corner or on the bench.
“I think me being out there and giving my full style of play, how Terry Rozier plays, I feel like I couldn’t be that person this year,” Rozier said on “First Take.”
NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg noted that Rozier could end up staying with the Celtics if Irving leaves. Irving’s decision could be the first domino to fall, and it would also play a major role in Rozier’s future. If Irving stays, the Celtics have the same point guard and potentially the same starting five. If he leaves, either Rozier gets his wish and slides into a starting role or the Celtics look for a new point guard.
Stephen A. Smith expects Irving to play for the New York Knicks.
Stephen A. Smith doesn’t think Irving will stay in Boston. He’s confident there’s a “95 percent chance” Irving and Kevin Durant team up in New York. Bleacher Report even noted that the Knicks have the third-highest title odds for 2020, while the Celtics are sixth.
Yes. From everything I’ve heard, KD and Kyrie are planning on coming to New York. 95% Chance they say! Only potential hiccup is KD changing his mind pic.twitter.com/9ezL7IEc3y
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 11, 2019