Rudy Gobert’s name continues to be tossed around in trade speculation as the Utah Jazz plot their next move.
Might the Boston Celtics — a team that could use a legitimate rim protector — be a possible landing spot for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year?
It’s a scenario that was debated on social media last week after a rumor stated Boston was weighing the idea of trading for Gobert, who is eligible for a supermax contract extension and scheduled to become a free agent next offseason.
On Thursday, CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn called Boston an “obvious fit” if Utah trades Gobert, although it’s by no means a slam dunk that the Jazz will dangle the All-Star center or that the Celtics will target him if he becomes available.
Here’s more from Quinn:
Boston is the obvious fit with three first-round picks (No. 14, No. 26, No. 30), two young big men (Robert Williams, Grant Williams) and, possibly, a big expiring salary (Gordon Hayward) to offer. Gobert instantly solves Boston’s Bam Adebayo problem, and possibly its Anthony Davis conundrum as well. But Brad Stevens wants his centers to shoot. Gobert doesn’t. Danny Ainge has made a career-long point not to invest in centers. Gobert needs a new contract, and it would not only launch Boston into years of luxury tax payments, but perhaps a repeater penalty down the line as well.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe also explored the Gobert situation in a piece published Thursday, noting that several rival executives have pitched the Dallas Mavericks as a potential trade destination.
The Mavs aren’t alone, though. Lowe acknowledged other teams, including the Celtics, might be able to build something “fun” in pursuit of the Jazz star.
Here’s more from Lowe:
You can concoct fun Gobert trades with Boston (Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, and picks), Atlanta, Sacramento, Washington, Brooklyn, and even the LA Clippers (with Ivica Zubac going back to Utah), but I’m not sure how realistic they are. For one, Utah will need a quality starting center back or risk imploding on defense. Several teams are wary of Gobert’s next deal.
The simplest outcome is Utah and Gobert finding a palatable middle ground between Gobert’s current salary and the supermax — perhaps something like a four-year, $135 million deal with incentives. Gobert is 28, so such a deal carries him through his prime.
So, let’s consider Lowe’s casually floated, hypothetical trade offer that lands Gobert in Boston: Smart, Williams and picks.
The Celtics have three first-round picks in the 2020 NBA Draft, as Quinn mentioned, which the Jazz might find appealing should they decide against throwing money at Gobert and instead opt for a rebuild of sorts.
Since Boston is facing a roster crunch, those selections are very much expendable, with recent reports indicating the Celtics are trying to package the picks in trades, either to move up in the draft or to land a veteran player.
The bigger question is whether Boston would be willing to part with Smart and/or Williams for Gobert, an elite defender on the cusp of a huge payday.
Smart, the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, is a defensive menace, as well, although his value stems from his energy and versatility. The 26-year-old is capable of guarding multiple positions with undeniable ferocity.
And Williams, a first-round pick in 2018, has flashed tremendous shot-blocking potential — a hallmark of Gobert’s game — in his first two seasons. The 23-year-old’s best days of patrolling the paint likely lie ahead.
Plus, there’s the issue of whether Gobert even would be a fit in Brad Stevens’ system, which values big men who can shoot and ultimately might not extract the most value from Gobert’s skill set.
All told, the Gobert-to-Boston chatter is a fascinating thought exercise, if nothing else. The Jazz (44-28) finished in sixth place in the Western Conference this past season — after three straight seasons of finishing in fifth — and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, so there’s a very real chance they’ll look to make some changes.
Maybe, just maybe, that’ll open the door for a few productive conversations with Danny Ainge as the Celtics look to solidify themselves as NBA title contenders.