Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Random Thoughts (July 6, 2016)

Now that I've spewed out my incoherent venom on Kevin Durant's move to the Warriors, I'm ready to tackle the Celtics.

Missing out on Durant was a big blow to Danny Ainge's plan to make the Celtics a championship contender in 2017 and beyond.  As the news broke that Tom Brady was going in to the Celtics meeting with Durant on Saturday night, it really looked like Boston was going to become his home for the next several years.  When he announced he was bound for the Bay Area, the news hurt.

Losing Durant is not a total disaster.  Ainge was able to recruit Al Horford away from Atlanta and the presence of Horford in Boston makes the Celtics significantly better.

Horford's stats may not blow you away.  He has career per game averages of 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds and his career years in 2012-13 (17.4 and 10.2) and 2013-14 (18.6 and 8.4) do not jump off the screen and scream "SUPERSTAR" but he is a major upgrade at power forward/center over last season's crop of Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Jerebko.

Keep in mind that with the Hawks he was pared with Paul Millsap, another good scoring big man, and Horford sacrificed his own numbers for the greater good of the team.  That's what winners do.  At Florida, where he played his college ball, he sacrificed personal glory to instead win back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.  Horford is a winner.  And he's coming to Boston to win.

I love the idea of Horford playing for Brad Stevens.  In his three seasons as an NBA head coach, Stevens has proven his ability to maximize individual player strengths as well as to find the way to best take advantage of the combined talents of his group.  Get ready to see Horford getting wide open looks from the foul line area off a pick-and-pop with Isaiah Thomas, use his passing skills to find baseline cutters for open dunks, and score easy buckets in the low post.  It's going to happen. Horford will be an All-Star in 2016-17 and should post numbers similar to his top years of 2013 and 2014.

Ainge probably has at least one more significant move up his sleeve.  He possesses the right to swap first round picks with the Nets in 2017 and owns their 2018 pick outright as well as having dibs on Memphis' 2019 first round pick and a future first round pick from the Clippers.  Ainge also has a deep roster of young, affordable, and talented players to use in a package to add another impact player.

One move that I'd like to see Ainge make now is a trade with Chicago that would land Jimmy Butler in a Celtics uniform.  There were rampant rumors on draft night that the Celtics and Bulls were working on a Butler-to-Boston trade but it fell through right as the Celtics tabbed Jaylen Brown with the third overall pick.  A potential deal looked dead after that but with the Bulls investing a 2-year, $28-million contract in Rajon Rondo, the rumors of Butler wanting out of Chicago are starting again and Ainge still has the assets to land him in Green.

The Celtics should be able to land Butler by using next year's Nets pick (which should once again be in the top five of what is expected to be a deep draft), Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and James Young.

The Bulls would land two terrific wing players in Bradley and Crowder, a promising wing scorer in Young, and a likely high lottery pick that will help their rebuilding process.  I wouldn't be shocked if Jaylen Brown was either included in the deal or substituted for Crowder.

Boston would add an All-Star wing player who can score and defend and would form a formidable trio with Horford and Thomas that makes the Celtics a threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.  It would also keep the Celtics in the mix to add to their roster in free agency next summer when the salary cap will jump to approximately $110-million from its current limit of $94-million.


The Red Sox have six representatives in next week's MLB All-Star Game and four of them - David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. - will be starters.  Those four will be joined by pitchers Steven Wright and Craig Kimbrel.  Dustin Pedroia is a candidate to win the fan vote for the final spot on the roster.

Ortiz, Betts, and Bogaerts have been outstanding throughout the first half of the season and while Bradley has seen his performance dip a little recently, he is also deserving of his spot.  Wright has been one of the best stories of 2016 so far, leading Boston's rotation as the team contends for a playoff spot when he was considered a long shot to win a spot in the rotation back in Spring Training.

Kimbrel is the one selection that doesn't seem worthy of the All-Star Game due to his struggles in non-save situations (he's 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 14 such appearances) but his overall numbers are not terrible (1-3, 3.66, 1.063) and in 19 save situations he's posted a 0-1 record with a 1.45 ERA and 0.643 WHIP.

It will be interesting to see what Dave Dombrowski does as we get closer to the trade deadline.  The Red Sox have enough talent to make a World Series run but they need serious upgrades to their starting rotation and bullpen.

One way for Dombrowski to get some help would be for David Price to pitch like David Price.  After 18 starts in Boston, the $31-million man is a pedestrian 8-6 with a 4.64 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, and has already allowed 16 home runs in 116 innings.  For comparison, between Detroit and Toronto last year Price was 18-5 with an A.L. leading 2.45 ERA, 1.076 ERA, and only allowed 17 total home runs in 220 innings.  Price needs to be better and if he's not, this team will struggle to qualify for the playoffs.

To realistically have a chance to win the World Series, the Red Sox will need to add at least one starting pitcher and at least one impact relief pitcher in addition to Price and Kimbrel pitching to expectation.  There is no dominant team in the American League so using his deep pool of prospects to add a couple of much needed arms may be worth the gamble.


Enjoy Steven Wright, A.L. All-Star, tonight.

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