What Malcolm Brogdon fixes for the Celtics and what they have to fix themselves

There’s an idea that the last thing missing from the Boston Celtics roster is a true point guard, and it feels unfair to both the Celtics and point guards in general. The idea of ​​a “true point guard” itself is idealistic and outdated; The modern NBA favors attacking playmakers, who can cause breakdowns on defense and force help into rotation, rather than referees or pass-first guys who aren’t really the league’s superstars these days.

The “true point guard” and what it means might as well be a myth of the mind. Chris Paul aside, how many “real point guards” are there in the NBA that are an improvement over the real point guards we have instead?

Speaking to the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, Marcus Smart put it best: “We had star point guards, and yet this so-called non-point guard is the only one who got them to the finals.”

Boston’s trade for Malcolm Brogdon comes against this backdrop of positional controversy. The trade represents great value for the Celtics and an undeniable win: Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan and a 2023 first-round pick for Brogdon. Aside from Theis, none of these players were a significant part of the Celtics’ future rotation, and even Theis was on the sidelines in the playoffs.

This isn’t the trade that will cure all of the Celtics’ ailments, even if it helps. Brogdon is adding a versatile offensive skillset to the Boston backline, a player who can dribble, shoot and pass as an outlet for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, or otherwise initiate their offense himself.

He’ll be more dynamic than stationary catch-and-shooters like Payton Pritchard or Grant Williams, and probably even more so than Smart or Derrick White. His 3-point percentage, which has fluctuated in recent years, should be trending higher with easier spot-up opportunities, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off Tatum or Brown to conserve their energy. He’ll grease the wheels and make things easier.

This is a great trade in part because he’s not a true point guard, instead being able to contribute with and without the ball – and at 6ft-5 and 230lbs he fits right into the Celtics’ switch scheme that has evolved developed into one of the best defenses in the league.

The Celtics never had a point guard problem. Their problem certainly wasn’t Smart, who provided a perfectly willing addition to the team’s stars on offense while embracing the cackling and wild identity of their defense.

However, neither Tatum nor Brown are advanced playmakers, and it was part of the Celtics’ downfall in the NBA Finals that the Golden State Warriors were able to punish Tatum and Brown by boxing them up with extra defenders. Given that we’re talking about a streak that still had six games to go, that’s a marginal thing, but it’s fair to argue about it.

I keep getting the image of Draymond Green digging into Brown’s drives and forcing a turnover every time Brown picks up his dribble.

In general, Boston’s offense tended to stagnate and rely on jumpers rather than playing around the ball or gaining much downhill momentum. In reality, the Celtics are not very or deeply exposed.

This isn’t an existential roster or positional crisis that comes with having Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown as your top two players. So Boston has two mid-wingers that can go for 50 any night, each with two powers and explosive one-on-ones. You have it as good as it gets.

Their “problem”, which is by no means fatal, is only that they have reached the NBA Finals, where the level of play is at the highest possible level. In the finals, every player is held accountable down to the smallest detail and the smallest mistakes in their game. It’s the grandest stage in basketball, where the best teams stand at the end of the gauntlet.

There won’t be many weaknesses in the game, and anything resembling one will be milked to the best of their ability. That just means Tatum or Brown have to get better, which isn’t a crisis at all. They’ve gotten better throughout their careers, and you’re hoping that the first taste of the Finals will shed some light on the last few skills they need to work on as already great NBA players trying to become championship stars.

In this case, it’s their play, passing and handling. Tatum and Brown have already established themselves as good players in all of those categories – they can create fiendish leg combinations right out of the Kobe-Bryant bag, and they have enough reps on the ball to instinctively make pass reads against defense.

To become the alphas of a championship team, those skills must get even better and pass an even more rigorous test. This includes processing multiple progressions of help rotations to see the open man at the end of the chain, or protecting dribbling against two or even three defenders on drives or other similarly challenging in-game situations that will present themselves. The bar would never be set less than high.

From that point of view, of course, it’s not a problem that the Celtics wanted to solve with Smart or Brogdon. Any solution that starts with introducing another initiator to take the ball out of Tatum or Brown’s hands will be a non-starter.

Brogdon will alleviate the problem, as did Smart last year, but this is an issue specific to Tatum and Brown’s games and responsibilities they need to improve on. Encouragingly, everything we’ve seen so far suggests they can and will.

As we just saw, this is a foundation that’s as good as any in the Eastern Conference or the NBA overall; They defeated the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Two That Was, top seeded Miami Heat and reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks. They were two games away from beating the Warriors.

We’re not even talking about Tatum or Brown having to become LeBron James to get over the hump. At this level, where the best goes against the best, small wins can make all the difference. The Celtics are getting close. They’ll go as far as Tatum and Brown take, and there are few situations in the NBA where you’d rather be.

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