The Eastern Conference is wide open, and the Celtics should go for it.
Yes, the team needs to add a big man by the Feb. 6 trade deadline for the inevitable playoff collision with Philly — we all know it’s going to happen. That seems to be priority number one, considering the Sixers have dominated the paint in their three wins over the C’s this year.
But there’s another name the Celtics should highly consider trading for.
No, the 6-foot-3, 31-year-old with a host of past knee and ankle injuries won’t help the Celtics’ rebounding stats or guard Joel Embiid. And no, this isn’t just based on Rose’s name and past MVP status.
Rose, whose Pistons travel to the TD Garden tonight (7 p.m. tip), is exactly what the Celtics need.
Rose is not-so-quietly having his most efficient year since winning league MVP as a 22-year-old with the Bulls nine years ago.
I say not so quietly because at last check, he was fourth among East guards in fan All-Star voting. Sure, name recognition factors into that heavily, but he’s put up the stats to back it up.
Rose is leading the Pistons in both scoring (18.0 ppg) and assists (5.8) while coming off the bench. He’s one of the front-runners for the Sixth Man award, and, if he were to win, would become just the third player in league history to win both league MVP and Sixth Man — joining Bill Walton and James Harden.
The Celtics need bench scoring.
We all know the laundry list of injuries (torn ACL, both wrists, both ankles, neck, etc.) which derailed what was shaping up to be a Hall of Fame career. Both the Timberwolves and Pistons — where Rose has played the past two years — have cut his minutes and scheduled rest days to preserve his body.
But Rose has rewarded the teams who have encouraged his comeback with savvy leadership and an adept scoring touch off the bench. The elite explosiveness and bounce that captivated the NBA during the turn of the last decade aren’t there anymore, but he’s still a top-end slasher who’s shooting a career-best 49% from the field.
Then you factor in that the Celtics are the fourth-worst team in the league in bench scoring (29.0 ppg).
No offense to guys like Brad Wanamaker or rookie Carsen Edwards, but Rose would be an immediate upgrade.
CAN IT WORK?
A criticism of the Celtics now is that there are already too many mouths to feed.
How would adding a scorer like Rose help that?
Well, if the Celtics are serious about adding a big man — like Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, Clint Capela, etc. — then they’ll, of course, have to give something up. The odd man out seems to be Gordon Hayward, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown growing into legit All-Stars this season.
Rose is under contract for this year and next for an affordable $7.3 million, and, at 14-27, the Pistons are a mess. Drummond has been in constant trade talks, Blake Griffin (knee) is out indefinitely and Detroit is already one of the younger teams in the league.
It makes sense to go full tank-mode.
Trading first-round picks Romeo Langford and Grant Williams for Rose would match contracts, and the Celtics could throw in any number of their plethora of draft picks. If they truly do embrace a rebuild, you would think the Pistons would welcome two young, promising players and more picks.
RED ROSES TURNING GREEN
Rose would be an excellent sub behind Kemba Walker, and he would pair well with the defensive-minded Marcus Smart on the second unit.
And the Celtics (27-11) — currently second in the East — have already beat the other top contenders in the conference, save Philly. The team needs to go for it, even if it means sacrificing young assets and future picks.
And Rose has the mindset, too.
When asked what he thought about potentially winning the Sixth Man award, he said: “We’re losing right now, so it’s hard to have crazy expectations or think of it that way.”
He’s an experienced veteran, he wants to win, he fills an immediate need and he shouldn’t be too hard to get.
So have fun watching Rose tonight, and hope that he’s wearing green sometime soon.