Can We Stop Pretending Gordon Hayward Makes the Celtics Title Contenders?

Note: I wrote this blog minutes before the Celts for some reason traded Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris, literally going against me saying how much they need him. That’s the BTB difference.

I can’t believe I even have to write this, but here goes. Yes, the Celtics added Gordon Hayward this week, and I’m not trying to discount him as a player. He’s a really solid player. In a league that values length and shooting ability more than ever, adding a 6’8 All-Star who shot 39.8% from three last year is a great move. He doesn’t do anything particularly poorly, as he’s a pretty solid all-around player. But to pretend he’s the difference maker that puts this team ahead of the Cavs, as well as the Warriors? That’s BANANAS. Here’s why.

Hayward, Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford gives you a really nice trio of All-Stars. This team would be a for sure title contender ten years ago. But it’s a different league now. The Celts have three nice players, who at their best are All-Stars. The Cavs have three All-Stars, who at their best include a Top-5 scorer in the league in Kyrie Irving and one of the best players of all-time in LeBron James. The Warriors have FOUR All-Stars, who at their best include one of the league’s best two-way players in Klay Thompson, the reigning Defensive POY in Draymond Green, the best shooter of all time in Stephen Curry, and possibly the best pure scorer of all-time in Kevin Durant.

Now, I know what some Celtics fans might be saying. “But we’re way deeper than those other teams!” Fair point to make. The Celtics do have a lot of other intriguing pieces, such as Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and this year’s #3 pick, Jayson Tatum. However, at least one of the Bradley/Smart/Crowder trio is likely gone with the addition of Hayward. Bradley and Smart are the team’s two best defenders, so sacrificing one of them would be brutal, especially with the defensive liability that is Isaiah Thomas. Don’t get me wrong, I love Isaiah as a scorer, but he just can’t guard anyone. One reason the Warriors are so good is that despite Steph’s inability to defend guards like Kyrie, Klay is an elite defender who can handle the best guards in the league. If the Celtics want to compete with Thomas at the point, Bradley or Smart has to step up and be that guy, and even that may not be enough to “hide” Thomas on D.

This team got their doors blown off by the Cavs in the Conference Finals last year, with their only win coming in a game in which LeBron had only 11 points. That Cavs team then proceeded to get trounced by the Warriors in the Finals in five games. To pretend that the additions of Hayward and Tatum can change that is just not realistic.

I’m not trying to discount Hayward as a player or the Celtics as a team. As far as I’m concerned, his arrival firmly supplants them as the East’s second-best team. But their new “Big Three” doesn’t rival the Cavs’, the Warriors’ Big Four, or even the ’08 Celtics Big Three. If the Celtics got Hayward AND Paul George? Maybe they could’ve taken down the Cavs. If the Cavs got Paul George? Maaaaaybe they would take down the Warriors. But for now, we’re just gonna have to accept that the team in Golden State is too good, no matter how much we hate them.

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