Fans in New England might not be interested in any players on the Orlando Magic after the Boston Celtics walloped them on Friday night despite playing without Al Horford and Avery Bradley, but it’s still a roster that is really worth looking at when it comes to striking a deadline deal.
30 point loss at the TD Garden aside, this team has three solid rebounding big men who could easily wind up on the trade market over the next few weeks. Here’s the skinny one each one.
When you ask for a “defense and rebounding” guy, Biyombo is taking that to an extremely literal sense because that’s all he can add to a lineup. The 24-year old center is a plus defender and plus rebounder but his 6.3 PPG average isn’t anything to write home about and it’s still a fantastic number for him with it sitting almost two points above his career average; he also doesn’t create for others and has averaged just 0.4 APG over his six year career. But total lack of offensive production aside, the defense and rebounding is all there which would make him a valuable asset for a team looking to improve in those areas. Biyombo averages 7.7 RPG with just a 24.5 minutes average per night and that gives him an average of 15.6 rebounds per 100 possessions; comparing him to the current Celtics, Tyler Zeller is leading the team right now with an average of 12.1 rebounds per 100 possessions.
Biyombo is a solid player, but the issue is he got a fat four-year, $69 million deal from the Magic this summer as a number of teams shelled out big money for role player and that might not be a contract that the Celtics want to trade into. He’s basically the exact opposite of what Kelly Olynyk is as a great defensive threat who is often found useless on the other end. They’re both elite role players in their own right, but Biyombo isn’t really a game breaker. We saw Olynyk have a huge stretch in the first half against Orlando on Friday night where he went 5-for-5 from the field and piled on 12 points in an eight minute stretch as he helped the Celtics go into the half with a 20 point lead. Olynyk – who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season – can swing a game by with his offense and he’s even a solid distributor who makes smart decisions with the basketball, so it might not be in the team’s best interest to bring in a guy for $17 million when his limited skill set doesn’t really make him a game breaker when Olynyk’s limited skill set does.
The Magic acquired Ibaka – who was entering a contract year – on from the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night and now they might look to shop him if they don’t want to risk losing the veteran big man over the summer. One issue that could scare the Celtics away though is the fact that he’s having a bit of a down year. Ibaka has averaged 2.4 blocks per game over his eight year NBA career – leading the league twice – but he’s averaging just 1.6 this year, which is his lowest total since his rookie campaign. With his paint defense down a bit, his rebounding has also been disappointing compared to the rest of his career. The 27-year old power forward is snagging only 12.5% of rebounds when on the court this year, which is a lower percentage than Tyler Zeller (13.5%) and Amir Johnson (12.8%).
Ibaka is averaging a career best 15.2 PPG right now and his improved ability to stretch the floor is a big reason for it. He’s shooting 39.3% from the arc while attempting four threes per game after averaging 0.9 such attempts per game over his career heading into his season. This will help Ibaka fit the offense as he won’t clog the lane for Isaiah Thomas, who needs a lot of that space around the basket in order to create offense. Teammates Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic both average more rebounds per game despite averaging less minutes this year, but they also can’t do anything on offense besides stand around the post and clogging the lane for Thomas might not be worth the rebounding improvement.
The best thing about Vucevic is his contract. While picking up the tab on Biyombo – a player who really only makes an impact on one end of the floor – for $17 million in each of the next three seasons, you’d only be paying a well rounded player like Vucevic a little over $12 million for the next two full seasons after this one. Unlike Biyombo – and even Olynyk, as the two players were compared above – this guy isn’t a role player because he does everything for you; scoring, ball movement, rebounding, rim protection. Since his rookie year with the Philadelphia 76ers when he barely played, the Switzerland born center is averaging 15.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.2 APG and 0.9 BPG.
A strong player in every area of the game with a great contract sounds really good, but it will also cost the Celtics a little bit extra compared to the other guys. A potential deal would likely include the expiring contract of Amir Johnson to match salaries and then it would pile on a solid daft pick package as well. It would be easier for them to move Ibaka because you might lose him in free agency anyway over the summer and taking Biyombo off their hands could be doing them a favor by taking the $17 million per year hit off their books.