How Can Kevin Durant Fit With The Celtics?
With the NBA Finals fast approaching, Boston Celtics fans are growing ever more anxious about what could possibly turn out to be a huge offseason. Celtics fans are hoping Danny Ainge will make a splash through trades, the draft, and with biggest splash coming from free agency where they hope to land super star Forward Kevin Durant.
Durant is currently playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals battling it out against the Golden State Warriors in hopes of taking a trip to the NBA Finals. Durant hasn’t stepped on the hardwood to play in a Finals series since 2012 when he and the Thunder lost to LeBron James and his former team the Miami Heat in five games. If Durant were to lose to the Warriors or were to lose in the Finals the way they did in 2012, or worse, Durant could be looking for a change in scenery.
Let’s hypothetically say one of those options became a result and let’s fast forward to mid-July were the initial free agency has finished. The Celtics have just lured Durant away from the Thunder and every other team in the NBA, and signed him to a one year deal with a player option. Lets go even further after the league approves of the signing and Durant passes his physical, what kind of an impact does that make on the Celtics? More so, what will happen to Jae Crowder?
Crowder has emerged as a favorite to many Celtics fans and has become a valuable asset to the team because of his elite defensive prowness on opposing teams elite wing players as well as the tremendous amount of energy and emotion he provides on the court.
The 2015 – 2016 season was a solid one for Crowder as he improved in every per game average category from the 2014 – 2015 season. Crowder also accumulated the highest amount of Defensive Win Shares this season with 3.5 than any other year he has been in the league.
The problem with Jae Crowder is he primarily plays Small Forward which is Kevin Durant’s primary position and thus causing a dilemma for Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens. No one expects Crowder to start over Durant, which only fixes part of the problem, the real issue is what will Stevens and the Celtics do with Crowder? There are a few options the Celtics can chose to pursue if this predicament were to arise.
The first would be to talk to Jae Crowder about coming off the bench as a sixth man behind Shooting Guard Avery Bradley, Kevin Durant, and possibly the starting power forward. Crowder has always seemed like a team player who’s main focus is on winning, but like many players before him, there is the possibility he has become accustomed to have a starting role and playing 30-40 minutes a game. He has also could have grown quite fond of playing in the big moments in close games as well as feeling the immense amount of energy radiating from the crowd while he is on the court.
There is also the option of either Crowder or Avery Bradley potentially getting moved in a trade before the season begins. This option would just about solve the problem almost immediately since both players can play the Shooting Guard position.
At the draft lottery on May 18th, the Celtics were rewarded with the 3rd overall draft pick in this year’s NBA draft thanks to the Brooklyn Nets, who included the unprotected pick when they traded for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnet.
Avery Bradley has a higher chance to be traded as he is a more versatile player than Jae Crowder. Bradley ended the season as the Celtics second highest scorer with 15.2 Points per Game. After years of injuries plaguing his offensive game, Bradley looked like he had finally come into his own in the 2015 – 2016 season as he was able to score just about anywhere on the court. Bradley had his most efficient scoring season of his career from the field as well as the three point line when playing in 70 games or more. Bradley is also well known for being a pest on the defensive end, normally tasked with defending the opposing team’s best guard. Just about every team in the league is looking for players that are efficient on both ends of the floor and combined with a 3rd overall pick the Celtics shouldn’t have a problem moving Bradley or Crowder.
The last option and the most unlikely of them all, is that either Kevin Durant or Jae Crowder plays at Power Forward. This would most likely result in Danny Ainge having to pick between moving Sullinger, Olynyk, or Amir Johnson as those three take up most of the minutes at the Power Forward and Center positions. Unless the Celtics were to get another Center in return, there isn’t much of a chance that Amir Johnson would get moved so Ainge would be, in reality, choosing between Sullinger and Olynyk. If the Celtics were to choose at this option, Ainge would probably be more likely to move Sullinger as Sullinger has struggled with his weight which has slowed him down andrestricted the amount of energy he has.
The real issue with this option is neither Durant or Crowder very suited to be a starting Power Forward for a full season. Currently. Durant is 6’9” tall and weighs 240lbs with a lanky frame that wasn’t built for a full season at Power Forward. Durant would be continuously backed down in the post by stronger Power Forwards and would be easily boxed out which would add to the rebounding problem the Celtics already have.
As for Jae Crowder, he is 6’6”, 235 lbs. with a more athletic and stockier build. Crowder would is probably a little stronger than Durant but his height would a liability if Stevens decided to play him at Power Forward. Crowder would have trouble getting position in the post, whether it was to attempt to score or grabbing rebounds as well. He would be considered a mismatch against most Power Forwards as well as a liability on defense.
If Durant were to come to the Celtics, the best option would be for Ainge to trade Avery Bradley and have Stevens move Crowder to Shooting Guard. It would provide the Celtics with a taller line up while sustaining and possibly surpasing the fast pace play that they are accustomed to. It might cost them a slightly on the offensive end but Kevin Durant would more than make up for that.
All stats were provided by basketball-reference.com