It’s become clear, with or without Al Horford, the Boston Celtics need help in the rebounding department. Shooting guard Avery Bradley leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per game. Al Horford has only grabbed 6.5 per game and Amir Johnson regressed from his 6.4 he snagged last season. Any team with size can beat the Boston Celtics and they need to get tougher down low before the playoffs. There are a lot of bad NBA teams with good bigs. These are the players Danny Ainge needs to target by the NBA trade deadline.
PF Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers and Nerlens Noel have a rocky relationship. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and he 76ers have shown no interest in re-signing him. The 76ers don’t need Noel, but the Boston Celtics need someone like Noel. Noel would give the Celtics the rebounder and shot blocker they were expecting out of an underperforming Amir Johnson. A future first-round pick with a young player could get the deal done. Noel is set to return soon.
PF Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
It’s become clear the Denver Nuggets believe their future front court is Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. Kenneth Faried now comes off the bench after doing so only 11 times the previous four seasons. Faried still leads the Nuggets in rebounding and on pace to break his own rebounding record averaging 10 per game. He also excels in the transition game and brings high energy on a nightly basis. Amir Johnson’s expiring contract and a collection of draft picks could get Denver to sell.
C Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic traded for Serge Ibaka and signed Bismack Biyombo this offseason. They are taking away minutes from Nikola Vucevic and his numbers have dropped. He is averaging 26.9 minutes per game, his lowest average since joining the Magic. His 10.9 points per game is also his Magic low, but he’s still grabbing 10.8 rebounds. The Magic can trade Vucevic, start Biyombo, trade for a bench and acquire extra draft picks to continue their rebuild. The Boston Celtics could package Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson as bench improvements and everyone knows how many picks the Celtics have. Vucevic is cheap option with two-years, $25 million remaining on his contract after this season. The Celtics need a lot of cap space to pay Isaiah Thomas next offseason.
C DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The Boston Celtics need a superstar and DeMarcus Cousins is a superstar. Cousins is averaging 27.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He produces on both sides of the court and would take the offensive pressure off Isaiah Thomas. Thomas and Cousins were future teammates when Thomas started his career with the Sacramento Kings and they both averaged over 20+ points per game. It’s clear Cousins wants out and isn’t going to re-sign next offseason. Boston has Jae Crowder, young talent and multiple Brooklyn Nets first-round draft picks. Danny Ainge needs to focus his attention on Cousins.