Boston Celtics & Gordon Hayward Become Eastern Conference Contenders
GM Danny Ainge created this scenario by hustling his peers. He swindled Brooklyn of multiple lottery assets and stole Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix with one of the lesser first-round picks in his stockpile. With Hayward signed, the Celtics now possess the flexibility to build the final blocks of a championship team through whatever means they choose.
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Boston Celtics Win The Biggest Free Agent Prize
After whiffing on the Jimmy Butler and Paul George trades, the Celtics were in danger of suffering the same fate as the rest of the eastern conference, which witnessed elite players migrate to the western conference at an alarming rate. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers were unable to secure an upgrade to their rotation, despite numerous trade rumors involving Kevin Love.
Inking Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal worth $128 million salvaged the offseason, making the Celtics the only eastern team to significantly boost their lineup at this point in the summer. Cleveland may somehow find a way to land Carmelo Anthony, but rumors point to the Houston Rockets as the most likely destination for Melo’s championship aspirations. The Toronto Raptors resigned a lineup that earned a second round sweep, and the Washington Wizards spent most of their cap space matching an offer sheet for Otto Porter.
The rest of the eastern conference consists of tanking teams and borderline playoff squads, neither of which will pose any threat to the top four of Cleveland, Boston, Washington, and Toronto. If anything, the Celtics should thank their eastern rivals for draining the conference of elite talent. Butler, George or Carmelo to the Cavaliers would have destroyed any chance of defeating Cleveland. Instead, Boston’s closer to the finals because they’re the only team that didn’t stand still.
Celtics Can Choose Their Winning Recipe
Danny Ainge has been extremely judicious with the lottery picks gifted to the Boston Celtics, much to the chagrin of fans who wanted to land a big fish via trade. Danny’s patience paid off, creating a situation where the cupboards have been stocked with nearly every type of asset imaginable.
Whenever a notable star hits the market, Boston pops up in rumors because few teams can offer as many picks, prospects and players as the Celtics. As one of the most legendary franchises in North American pro sports, the Celtics will remain a top destination for free agents in the foreseeable future, especially if the front office continues to function at an elite level. If trade and free agency dries up over the next few years, Boston may fall back on developing through the NBA draft.
Isaiah Thomas became a Celtics legend during the 2017 playoffs, so the possibility that he may not stay is an unpopular idea. Should Mighty IT leave, Gordon Hayward ensures that Boston still possesses an elite scorer and playmaker. Regardless of what transpires over the next few years, the Celtics will be able to make the personnel moves necessary to build a championship contender.
NBA Championship Window Is Brief And Cruel
The Oklahoma City Thunder serve as a warning to other franchises that don’t take full advantage of championship talent. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were all on the 2012 Thunder team which made the finals. They were expected to remain contenders for several years, but injuries, poor trades, and Golden State limited Oklahoma City to a single shot at a ring. In hindsight, GM Sam Presti likely wishes he went all in on the opportunity.
Boston is on the precipice of their own championship window with the acquisition of Gordon Hayward. Good health and a smart trade or free agent signing could boost the Celtics past LeBron into the NBA Finals, giving the franchise a solid chance to win it all for the first time in a decade.
Boston should use their considerable leverage, or risk losing this opportunity to unforeseen events, including the potential rise of Philadelphia and Milwaukee into eastern powerhouses.
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