On the heels of a two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs, who were in the midst of a four-game losing streak and playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations, joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich on Thursday.
While discussing the state of the Celtics, Stevens said: "We have a lot to fix."
He added that for the team to get better and become more consistent, it will either take internal improvement or "roster tweaks."
As much as Stevens would like to see the Celtics have their rotation intact far more often than it has been, he acknowledged "that doesn't happen very often in the NBA, especially in COVID times."
Between the acquisitions of Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder and Grant Williams' development, the Celtics have upgraded their depth from a season ago. Perhaps, better fortune on the health front would allow them to capitalize on that, and they'd climb in the standings -- Boston's currently 10th in the East and has the same record as the 11th-place New York Knicks. However, as Stevens admits, they can't count on that.
Even if they could, as much as it would help, it wouldn't change the reality this team isn't good enough at making shots from beyond the arc or facilitating. It's hard for a team to achieve consistency and have postseason success when it can't claim either one of those as strengths of their offense.
The Celtics can make tweaks to their offensive system to get more out of it, they rely too heavily on scoring out of isolation, and players should cut more frequently. All of that would go a long way. But between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline, they should be searching for shooters and individuals who can create quality scoring chances for their teammates.
When it comes to facilitators who can bolster this team's passing prowess, a look into realistic options for them to trade for will get posted on Friday. But the Celtics have quality facilitators who are good at creating for their teammates in different ways. The need to get better from long-range is more pressing.
Here's an examination of potential options to address that issue.
The Celtics pursued Harrison Barnes last season, but the Sacramento Kings kept him through the trade deadline in a failed quest to end the NBA's longest postseason drought. The Kings are again on shaky ground, sitting 11th in the Western Conference. Perhaps, this time, they're more inclined to sell.
The 29-year-old Barnes is knocking down 42 percent of the five threes he's hoisting per game, which, for a season, would represent a career-best for him. Cumulatively, the tenth-year veteran is a 38 percent three-point shooter.
But Barnes, who's making $20.3 million this season and $18.4 next year, also has a well-rounded offensive game, he has a high usage rate (19.6 percent) but averages less than two turnovers per game, he's a versatile defender, and he's grabbing 6.1 rebounds per contest.
It's worth noting the Celtics' most sizable trade exception, the one created in the deal that sent Evan Fournier to the Knicks, is worth $17.1 million. That means that along with making an offer enticing enough for Sacramento to part with Barnes, Boston would have to include the necessary contracts to make the math work.
If the Celtics want to add a reliable marksman without compromising their depth, Doug McDermott fits the bill, and he'd slot in nicely alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Though he's in health and safety protocols at the moment, playing for the Spurs in his eighth season, McDermott doesn't require many touches to maintain his efficiency. He averages less than ten shots per game, but he's connecting on 41 percent of the 5.2 threes he takes per contest. 4.2 of those are of the catch-and-shoot variety, and he's converting on 40.9 percent of them, per NBA.com.
McDermott's effective as a standstill shooter and working off screens, and he's reliable no matter where he's shooting from, but does most of his damage above the break, knocking down 40 percent of the 105 threes he's taken from there this season, according to NBA.com.
Over the summer, the former Creighton Bluejay joined the Spurs on a three-year deal that pays him $13.7 million per season.
The Portland Trail Blazers are in the midst of a disastrous season, and they're 12th in the West. While the spotlight is understandably on what will happen with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Norman Powell is a less costly option, and he fits alongside Tatum and Brown.
He's figured out how to work effectively off of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet while with the Toronto Raptors, and now, Lillard and McCollum in Portland. This season, he's taking 13.6 shots per game; even if that figure gets slightly reduced in Boston, it shouldn't affect his efficiency. To that end, Powell's knocking down 39.4 percent of the 5.5 threes he's hoisting per game.
Now in his seventh season, the former UCLA Bruin is making 44.3 percent of the 3.5 catch-and-shoot threes he's taking per game, per NBA.com. According to the league's database, he's also generating the second-most points per game on spot-ups this season, behind Jaylen Brown.
Powell's deficiencies on defense might be a dealbreaker to some. But he wasn't a liability on the Raptors, and the Celtics have the personnel to ensure the same is true in Boston.
As for his contract, the 29-year-old Powell signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Blazers during the offseason. He's making $15.5 million this season; his annual take-home incrementally rises, topping out at $20.5 million for the 2025-26 season when he'll be 32. That's palatable for a team's fourth option, and Powell's contract could be helpful in a future trade.
Buddy Hield is a better three-point shooter than any of the Celtics role players. However, for the fourth-straight season, his three-point percentage is declining.
A part of that has to do with him taking those shots at a higher volume. When the decline started in 2018-19, he went from attempting an average of slightly more than five threes per game to 7.9. He's taken 9.6 or more each of the last three seasons.
In 40 games, almost exclusively coming off the bench, Hield's converting 38 percent of the 9.6 shots he's taking from beyond the arc per game. That's still plenty respectable, but bringing on a three-point specialist with the red flag outlined here, who's making $22.5 million this season and $20.5 million in 2022-23, plus has another, albeit more manageable $18.6 million on the books for 2023-24, is riskier than the other options presented on this list.