As Stephen A. Smith noted in a fiery, direct First Take segment on ESPN Monday morning, the Boston Celtics should not be a .500 team with two studs such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on their roster. Unfortunately, 30 games into the season, that’s exactly what the Cs are. Sitting in sixth place in the East, Boston’s current makeup doesn’t look viable at the moment to compete with the juggernauts in the conference and their once perceived luxury of a $28.5 million trade exception now looks like a dire must to deploy.
The name most readily linked to the team of late has been Kings forward Harrison Barnes. The former NBA champion is playing arguably the best basketball of his career and would seem like an ideal fit playing alongside Boston’s star duo. Sean Grande, the voice of the Boston Celtics, would appear to agree with that notion. The sportscaster even went as far as to dub Barnes and Bulls forward Thaddeus Young as potential “perfect fits,” albeit “safe choices” while chatting with NBCS Sports’ Chris Forsberg on the Celtics Talk Podcast.
However, Grande admits that he can’t help but be drawn in by the tantalizing upside that Magic high flyer Aaron Gordon could offer the Celtics.
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Grande on Aaron Gordon: ‘That’s a Sexier Choice’
“If you want my irrational guy that my eyes tell me what they tell me but my heart can’t let it go, it’s Aaron Gordon,” Grande said, seemingly self-aware of the drawbacks. “My only thing about Aaron Gordon, because we see what he could be and what for the most part has been, I want to see him without [Nikola] Vucevic. I think he’s a different player with him, and that’s not a knock on anybody. This game is about players fitting together in some combination. I don’t think Aaron Gordon with Vucevic — there’s too much replication there.”
Grande believes that removing Vucevic from the picture and inserting Gordon at the five-spot could potentially lead to the former No. 4 overall pick flourishing in Brad Stevens’ system.
“Aaron Gordon as the small-ball five. That triggers something in the irrational side of my brain that says — that’s a sexier choice,” he said. “There’s more upside there and more downside than Harrison Barnes or a Thaddeus Young.”
Is Nikola Vucevic or Aaron Gordon the Magic’s Player to Target?
The Celtics being linked to Gordon is nothing new. In fact, back in late December, John Karalis of the Locked On Celtics Podcast called the athletic 6-foot-9-inch forward the No. 1 trade target for the Celtics and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge.
However, since then Ainge has come and publically voiced his desire to acquire “shooting with size” ahead of the March 25th trade deadline. In reality, those comments may point more towards Gordon’s teammate Nikola Vucevic as the preferred target over Gordon himself.
Vucevic bolsters a declining salary, checking in at $26 million this season, and is under contract through 2022-23. On paper, the 2019 All-Star selection seems like an ideal fit. Yet, pursuing Vucevic would mean going all in if you are Boston, meaning moving draft capital and a slew of up-and-coming players – maybe even Marcus Smart.
As for Gordon, he comes in on a cheaper salary (18.1 million) when compared to Vuc and could likely be had for a far more reasonable price. Still just 25-years-old, Gordon offers intriguing upside on both ends of the court. He’s also been fairly productive (when healthy) this season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Furthermore, he’s shot a career-high 36.9% from beyond the arc. While not sharpshooter territory, his continued development from deep range could land him in Ainge’s good graces as we inch closer to the deadline.
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