Thursday, November 30 2023

Celtics choose talent over emotion with bold Jrue Holiday trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

In the NBA, talent is king. And not even a Time Lord can deter a team’s quest to stockpile as much of it as possible.

The Boston Celtics bookended their offseason with jaw-dropping trades that returned All-Star talent. Three months after acquiring Kristaps Porzingis in a deal that sent out defensive stalwart Marcus Smart, the Celtics secured Jrue Holiday in a deal that shipped off Robert Williiams III and Malcolm Brogdon.

Holiday’s resume includes two All-Star appearances (2013, 2023) and five All-Defense selections. But it’s the 2021 championship he won with the Milwaukee Bucks that made him especially intriguing to Boston.

The Celtics now have a player who knows what it takes to get to the mountaintop. For all their talent and successes, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown haven’t been able to get over the last hump and secure a banner. Holiday arrives after playing a pivotal role in helping Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks to a banner.

It also doesn’t hurt that Holiday was just jettisoned by the Bucks as the headline piece in Milwaukee’s trade that returned Damian Lillard. Holiday shouldn’t lack for motivation against Milwaukee. And the Celtics and Bucks seem on a collision course for Eastern Conference supremacy.

Much like the Smart deal, the Celtics are setting aside emotion in a unrelenting quest to secure the banner that has evaded them despite some insanely talented rosters over the past half decade. Boston now has four legitimate All-Star level players in Tatum, Brown, Porzingis, and Holiday, all while keeping Derrick White and Al Horford on the roster.

Boston will enter the 2023-24 season with as much top-end talent as any team in the NBA. If Brad Stevens’ roster overhaul works as intended, Boston should very much be in the title mix next June.

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Brogdon’s 15 months in Boston were a fast burn. The move to add him was universally praised as Boston shipped out only end-of-the-roster pieces and a first-round pick, all to add a player who bolstered an inconsistent bench and was dubbed the “missing piece” from Boston’s 2022 title quest. Brogdon won Sixth Man of the Year but his defensive deficiencies were highlighted during Boston’s postseason run and an arm injury limited his overall postseason impact.

A failed attempt to include Brogdon in an original deal to acquire Porzingis added another layer of complexity to Brogdon’s future in Boston. The team was left crossing its fingers that Brogdon would be healthy and happy this season — all with limited communication between the two sides in advance of the season — and his name was certain to stay in trade rumors.

Sunday’s deal eliminates that uncertainty, while upgrading the guard position. Boston added an All-Star talent capable of accentuating the team’s best players, all while reestablishing some of the defensive DNA that was lost when the team had to send out Smart instead of Brogdon as part of the Porzingis acquisition.

The pain point, of course, is having to include Williams III in the deal. When healthy, Williams III was a difference-maker who pushed Boston’s ceiling skyward. Coming off his first truly healthy offseason as a pro, there were hopes that Williams III could take his game to new heights, particularly given Boston’s health woes at the center position.

But the Blazers held firm in their desire to maximize Holiday’s value. Williams III joins fellow new addition Deandre Ayton in Portland’s new-look frontcourt that gushes with potential. The Blazers get two first-round picks and can try to flip Brogdon to a contender with the potential to add more young talent and draft capital. Portland deserves credit for finding a way to maximize the return on Lillard’s departure.

When Stevens took over as president of basketball operations two years ago, the big question was whether he would be able to detach the emotion that exists when you coach players. Would Stevens be able to make the difficult decisions with a focus on the ultimate prize?

The answer has been a resounding “Yes.” From trading Kemba Walker in his first days on the job, to now dealing both Smart and Williams III this offseason, Stevens has routinely made the difficult decision with a singular goal of improving Boston’s title chances.

Removing emotion is not easy. Just ask the guy pushing these keys. Williams III was a joy to watch and a pleasure to chronicle. His athleticism and explosiveness were unlike any player Boston has had in recent memory. The Celtics don’t make their 2022 title surge without Williams III’s exploits and we’ll forever wonder how he might have further evolved in Boston.

But you have to give up talent to get talent. The Celtics have potentially shortened their title window and complicated the path to keeping high-end talent around the core of this team. Alas, Stevens will worry about that another day.

Title windows don’t last forever in the NBA. Winning a championship is Boston’s only priority and it simply cannot keep waiting to take that next step. Anything short of a title this season will bring some even more difficult decisions about the future of the team next summer.

Adding Porzingis and now Holiday gives Boston the best chance to win a title right now. The departures of Smart and Williams III undeniably add a layer of uncertainty to what’s ahead and there is never any guarantee that a team will find the chemistry needed to reach its ultimate goal.

But talent is king. And the Celtics are going all in on it this season.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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