Some may think the Boston Celtics have enough talent to pass on an Anthony Davis trade, but their Game 3 loss to the Bucks showed us why they can’t.
Talent usually wins out in the playoffs. In any given series, beating a team with more talent four times before they beat you four times is the reason you can count on Golden State to make the Finals every year. It’s the reason LeBron James made it to eight-straight Finals, and it’s the reason Celtics fans could be confident in their team making a deep playoff run despite an up-and-down regular season.
But it takes more than just raw talent. You have to find a way to put it together. The 2008 Celtics consisted of three future Hall of Famers at the end of their primes, chasing a title to polish off their careers. When LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they were all tired of experiencing individual success without winning in the playoffs. And then when Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, he was trying to win a championship with his individual reputation secured.
This year’s Celtics team is a different kind of super team. There is, of course, a mix of veterans starving for a championship, but most of the team’s core is made up of young studs looking to make their mark on the league. When your team is led by youth, that comes with its fair share of inconsistent play.
In Game 3 Friday night, the Celtics were simply out-played by a Bucks team not overwhelmed by Boston’s talent level. The Celtics fell back into bad habits that plagued them during the regular season, such as running too many isolations on offense, not attacking the paint to generate open looks, and letting misses negatively affect defensive effort.
Against a team like the Pacers, a five-minute stretch of poor play didn’t doom the Celtics like it has with the Bucks. The deeper you get in the postseason, the more talented every team is. Talent can win you a series, and it still might help the Celtics edge Milwaukee when it’s all said and done, but if you can’t count on your talent to play the right way every night, you either need to wait for those players to mature or make an upgrade.
This summer, when Anthony Davis is likely to get traded and Kyrie Irving is due a new contract, the Celtics can’t afford to wait. They’ll have to upgrade.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are terrific players. They’re way ahead in terms of their development regardless of their individual stats, but if getting David means trading one or both of them, the Celtics can’t afford to pass on it. If the Celtics are going to win a championship and compete for multiple like the ownership wants, they’ll have to continue to make difficult decisions in favor of accumulating more talent.
It’s likely the Celtics team that wins a championship will not be every fan’s favorite squad to root for. But it’s basically like a deal with the devil. You roll with players you’d otherwise not be a huge fan of (Kyrie Irving) in order for your team to have the best chance to win a title.