VIDEO: Contrary to popular belief, Celtics vastly improved with addition ... and subtraction
By Nick Ashooh
Whenever a blockbuster trade goes down in the NBA, the first reaction always seems to center around who "won" the deal.
After the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Nets 2018 first-round pick, that's all NBA Twitter wanted to talk about.
Plenty seemed to feel the Celtics got worse this offseason, especially defensively, and looked at it as a regression from last season's Eastern Conference Finals team.
Others were confused.
Some just wanted an excuse to make another Earth joke.
LeBron James took the high road at least.
There's way too much overthinking with this trade. It's simple, the Celtics are a better team than they were last year.
Just on talent alone, any reasonable person would see that a lineup of Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown has a higher ceiling than Thomas, Horford, Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Kelly Olynyk.
Where did the "you need multiple stars to win in the NBA" narrative get lost in all this? When was it forgotten that the Celtics lacked more than one punch when it came to closing out games?
It was forgotten when the identity of the Celtics looked like it was changing. Yes, losing Bradley means a great perimeter defender is missing, and yes Olynyk was a hard-nosed guy that helped shape that defensive image as well. But this team can still keep that identity while adding more talent on the offensive side.
Believe it or not, the Celtics have players to do both.
Defensive Win Shares is something used to estimate the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense. The league leaders in Defensive Win Shares from 2016-17 were Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. Some of the best defenders in the game today.
It has credibility.
Bradley ranked 107th on this list. Olynyk came in at No. 120.
Horford was 45th last year, Marcus Smart was 49th. They're still in Boston.
Even better news for the Celtics, newcomers Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward were higher than Bradley and Olynyk too. Morris was 76th, and Hayward was all the way up at 20th. Hayward also came from a Utah team that was the best in the NBA in points allowed (96.8). The Celtics ranked 15th.