For the Celtics, is Bradley Beal Worth What They’d Sacrifice?

The Celtics managed one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NBA history during the season, from under-.500 not even qualifying for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament to back-to-back wins by winning the NBA title.

But the Bucks are in the process of getting Khris Middleton back. The Heat could bring a third star to Miami like Bradley Beal or Donovan Mitchell. Even if they don’t, the Heat edged Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, putting Jimmy Butler in an open transition three by a point and 16 seconds in the series-winning matchup.

Miami did so despite Tyler Herro not playing games four through six and his groin injury limiting him to seven minutes in Game 7. Luck, including health, is essential to achieving and winning the championship in any sport. And it’s not as if the Celtics haven’t also struggled with injuries, including a compromised Robert Williams, who played through a torn meniscus in his left knee. But a healthy Herro and rotation upgrades could be enough for the Heat to avenge this year’s playoff loss if there’s a rematch in 2023.

And then there are the nets. Corresponding Shine Charania from the athleteAlongside other NBA reporters, Kyrie Irving is taking his $36.9 million player option for the 2022-23 season.

While the possibility of Brooklyn progressing without Irving and Kevin Durant was legitimate, maintaining their best path to a championship with the former playing for his next contract is an ideal result.

Boston also needs to watch out for teams in the west and a competitor, especially when it comes to an opponent in the east that’s shaping up to be a championship contender.

But when it comes to roster building, the focus is on the inside. The Celtics’ identity lies on the defensive end, where they were the best team in the league last season.

So when it comes to a potential acquisition of Beal, one has to understand that the cost would likely include one of their defensive anchors, Robert Williams. Al Horford would also need to be involved in the deal, which would take Boston’s identity in a different direction.

But maybe it’s worth it. After all, Williams is struggling to stay healthy, Horford is 36 and who knows how well Marcus Smart will age given his style of play.

It’s fair to survey the landscape, reflect critically on the Celtics roster and believe the team must increase their margin for error in order to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. And Beal is a three-time All-Star, former All-NBA player, and someone who’s averaged over 30 points in two of the last three years.

He’s also an underrated presenter, having handed out at least 4.5 assists per game in each of the last five years, including handing out a career-high 6.6 last season albeit in 40 games due to left wrist surgery, which shortened his campaign.

The 6’1″ Beal has had a respectable 4.7 rebounds in each of the past two seasons and averaged 4.1 boards over his career. And while one might wish he were two inches taller at his height with a seven-foot wingspan, teasing him defensively isn’t as easy as teasing an undersized point guard.

You could also look at his shooting accuracy from beyond the arc and note that he hovered around the league average three times in the last four years before posting a 30 percent three-way average of 5.3 attempts per game last season. Score shooter crashed. But he was compromised by his left wrist injury.

And for it to work in Boston, Beal would likely need to reduce the number of shots he gets after starting 19.3 last season, 23 the year before and 22.9 in 2019-20. This could make him a 37-38 percent three-point shooter. In his first five years in the NBA, Beal floated around, at times topping the conversion of his long-distance views with a 40 percent clip, often attempting 4.1-4.9 per season.

However, winning him over for a package with Timelord, Horford and first-round picks would make it pretty difficult for the Celtics to find a center they can trust defensively in the playoffs. It would also increase the load on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown defensively.

Additionally, deviating from a two-big-man lineup to play Tatum primarily with four could create problems on the glass. Boston grappled with that in the playoffs, particularly when substituting for Williams or Horford.

And despite underperforming for most of last season, the Celtics finished the season in 12th place in points per game, scoring 111.8 points, less than two shy of the seventh Jazz (113.6) according to the NBA. com. They also rose from 18th in the January 1 offensive rating and finished the season with the ninth-highest points per 100 possessions.

While it’s entirely possible that Beal, Tatum and Brown will make the sacrifices necessary to mesh offensively and form a trio that will take Boston to Banner 18, a more measured approach seems like a better use of resources.

The Celtics can maintain their defensive identity, use their $17.1 million trade exception, the largest TPE in the NBA, to bring a veteran winger off the bench and their rotation with the $6.3 -Add a backup center for mid-level taxpayers.

Not only does that seem more practical, but given the sacrifices and financial constraints of taking on Beal and Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka preaching their desire to build on the identity established last season, it’s a more realistic prognosis like that Celtics will tackle this off-season.

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