With Al Horford and Aron Baynes off to greener pastures, Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers should dominate the Boston Celtics in the paint.
However, now that he’s a member of the (insert free agency destination here), things are about to be a whole lot different when the Celtics face off against the Sixers this fall.
And to add insult to injury, the Celtics also traded away their second most tenured center in Aron Baynes to the Phoenix Suns alongside Ty Jerome (who was initially selected by the 76ers) in a move that was more or less just made to free up cap space.
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Sure, that decision, along with renouncing the rights to Terry Rozier more or less freed up the last bit of cap space the Celtics needed to sign Kemba Walker to a new four-year, $141 million deal, but sacrificing two max-caliber players for one in Horford and Kyrie Irving just isn’t good business in a league where talent wins out the majority of the time.
Ok, to be fair, the Celtics aren’t totally devoid of big men capable of playing the five, as they still have Robert Williams, their 6-foot-10, 240- pounds 2018 first round pick out of Texas A&M under contract, but with unless they plan on giving 33rd-overall selection Carsen Edwards a shot at the five, Boston is going to have to get creative to fill out their five minutes this summer.
I guess the team could always opt to use their mid-level exception on a quality stop-gap center like Enes Kanter, Dewayne Dedmon, or *gasp* Boston native Nerlens Noel, but going bargain shopping for a center in the Eastern Conference doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you ask me.
Why? Two words: The Process.
There’s an old adage in sports that states that you need to build a team to win your division, and while Al Horford has clearly seen better days at this point in his career, he’s still been an absolute menace when facing off against Joel Embiid in the playoffs (or really anytime).
Over the last two seasons, the Sixers played the Celtics 12 times, five in the playoffs and seven in the regular season. In those games, Embiid averaged about 23.6 points versus his career average of 25.3 points. While that’s not an amazing difference, the Celtics were able to hold JoJo to under 20 points in three of those games – two of which were losses.
Furthermore, the 76ers have a 2-10 record against the Celtics with Horford on the court, a pretty unimpressive stat that bothered Philly so much that the team even considered adding Horford to the fray to avoid having to face him multiple times a year (and who knows, maybe they did add him).
But with Al Horford on his way out-of-town (maybe to Philly), and no similarly talented replacement on the way to reinforce the Celtics’ front, Joel Embiid, and the Philadelphia 76ers should be able to run wild in the paint on Boston for the foreseeable future. For how lauded Danny Ainge is for his negotiating abilities, this seems like a grave miscalculation that could haunt Boston for years to come.