The Boston Celtics signed Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal Tuesday, prompting some to speculate that they are legitimate NBA title contenders.
Before the Celtics can topple the Warriors, they must first topple the Cavs – and that likely won’t happen in 2018.
“They need to be worried about the Cavs. Putting them against the Warriors at this point is, I think, getting ahead of ourselves,” NBA-TV’s Jared Greenberg said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I would say Gordon Hayward helps significantly. I would say, though, that they are still one or more pieces away. But in the NBA right now, in the seismic shift of roster construction that we’re seeing and how teams go about building their rosters now has changed so significantly that it’s about collecting the most talent possible. It’s not necessarily about the right fit or about the system; it’s about making sure you put as many great players on the court as possible so you can match up with the Warriors and with the Cavaliers. Gordon Hayward doesn’t put them on Cleveland’s level, but it is a huge step towards closing the ginormous gap that there was between Cleveland and everybody else in the East.”
Thus, even with Hayward and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics don’t have enough to overtake the Cavs in the East. That, however, isn’t Hayward’s fault – or Tatum’s, for that matter. Yes, Tatum was the No. 3 pick in the draft, but take a look at the top five or six picks over the last several seasons. Outside of John Wall and Anthony Davis, who are the franchise-changers?
“Only those two guys, within their first five years in the NBA, have been the best player on a teams that’s gone to the playoffs,” Greenberg said. “So when you look at the NBA and how you need to build a roster, you can’t count on (young) guys to be the difference-maker in the playoffs in their first five years in the NBA.”
But make no mistake: Hayward, who averaged 21.9 points per game last season, makes Boston better. For some people, Hayward is still known as That Guy From Butler Who Almost Made The Shot.
Well, he’s come a long way since then.
“He truly is one of the better scorers in this league, and he’s played on a team that hasn’t put a premium on the offensive end,” Greenberg said, referring to Utah. “So his numbers have looked a little bit suppressed because they don’t play the typical style . . . that Boston will start to take advantage of. Him being there now – with Tatum and Jaylen Brown having the chance to grow and not have the pressure to be the stars – is really, really important.”