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Malcolm Brogdon is the missing piece for the Boston Celtics


Boston Celtics, Malcolm Brogdon

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 02: Malcolm Brogdon #7 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles up the court against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center on March 02, 2022 in Orlando, Florida, Malcolm Brogdon is the missing piece for the Boston Celtics, Malcolm Brogdon is the missing piece for the Boston Celtics. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

After an incredible second half of the season, and with a talented roster centered around two All-Star level wings, the Boston Celtics appear primed to go one step further in the coming seasons.

However, as bright and exciting as their roster may look, one glaring weakness was magnified against the elite defense of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics sat on the precipice of an NBA title two weeks ago, yet, at the final hurdle, their turnover issues and need for a primary ball-handling playmaker became painfully obvious.

Malcolm Brogdon is the missing piece for the Boston Celtics

If you were to identify one area where the Celtics lost the Finals, it’s turnovers. They averaged 16.8 of them against the Warriors, which for context, is more than any team during the regular season. Golden State scored 20.5 points off these turnovers, which again, would have led the league during the regular season.

It wasn’t a total surprise, as turnover worries had plagued the Celtics in earlier series. The Warriors’ defense went to another level, though, ultimately exposing the one flaw in the Celtics system.

Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum were handed the keys to the Boston offense mid-season, asked to carry the ball-handling and playmaking duties without a traditional primary point guard.

The Celtics don’t need a star point guard, but they do, however, need a steady option for when defenses get aggressive and the likes of Smart, Tatum and Jaylen Brown start to struggle under the extra pressure.

So, what options does Brad Stevens have over the offseason? One realistic option who continues to come up in league-wide trade discussions is Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon. On Monday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported (subscription required) that the Pacers are “seriously discussing trades centered on Brogdon and Myles Turner”.

From a playstyle perspective, Brogdon may be the most ideal fit of any player the Celtics can realistically target. He’s proven himself to be an efficient combo guard, averaging over six assists across his last three seasons at the Pacers. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.8 last season demonstrates the sort of safe, consistent, and trustworthy ball-handling the Celtics are lacking.

The best aspect is his ability to be a contributor off the ball, as he’s not someone that will command the ball every possession. This would allow the likes of Tatum, Brown, and Smart to retain their fair share of ball-handling and playmaking duties. The former Rookie of the Year has shot over 44% on catch-and-shoot threes in three of his six NBA seasons.

Just as importantly, Brogdon won’t harm the defensive versatility that catapulted Boston’s run to the NBA Finals. At 6’5 and with a willingness to defend, he would fit in seamlessly next to Smart and Derrick White in a defensively imposing three-guard setup. Brogdon was Defensive Player of the Year at the collegiate level in 2016.

Brogdon is set to make $22.6 million this season and then $22.5 million for each of the next two. That salary is hard to get to from Boston’s perspective, although still plausible. From the Pacers’ standpoint, you’d likely find a trade partner willing to give up more than the Celtics ultimately will.

Sure, Boston could cough up future picks, but it’s unlikely they’ll convey into anything in the top 20 given the Celtics young roster outside Al Horford. Realistically, to acquire Brogdon, the Celtics would have to give up a combination of picks and youngsters in Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard. Then, they’d have to include Daniel Thies and Aaron Nesmith for salary matching purposes.

That’s four players to give up, three of which have shown to be NBA rotation players. Even then, there’s a good chance the Pacers find a better deal for the 29 year-old. If it were to go ahead, Stevens would need to be confident in his ability to acquire two to three quality role players on minimum contracts in free agency.

A trade may be difficult to complete, but Brogdon may theoretically be the missing ingredient to a championship. He’d address the Celtics major issue while fitting in seamlessly to Boston’s current defensive identity – a perfect fit.

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