Who Should Replace Kyrie If He Leaves?


Reports have surfaced that Kyrie Irving has decided to move on from Boston. Apparently, he has narrowed his possible future teams to either the Lakers or the Nets.


Boston will likely pursue the All-NBA guard regardless of the report, but the Celtics should also be prepared to move on. If Irving does in fact leave, here are some candidates to replace him in the Celtics’ starting lineup.

Ricky Rubio

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Career Averages: 11.1 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 SPG

Rationale: Ricky Rubio has put together a solid career since being drafted fifth in the 2009 NBA Draft. With the Timberwolves, Rubio averaged an impressive 10.3 PPG accompanied by 8.5 APG. In his final season in Minnesota, Rubio averaged a career high 9.1 APG, good for fifth in the league.

In his Utah days, Rubio has improved his scoring by almost three full points per game, but his assists have dropped. Utah has forced Rubio into a role that focuses more on scoring rather than facilitating, which he excels at. With lack of depth and scoring around him, Rubio has had to more field goals and carry a larger load on the offensive end. Should he come to Boston, he could return to a role more comfortable to him, one that brings out his strengths.

With Rubio seemingly ready to leave Utah, Boston would be a great destination. He would find himself surrounded by offensive talent. Guys like Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and potentially Marcus Morris would support Rubio on the court. He would be surrounded by scorers who would help him play how he knows best once again. Rubio’s top four player efficiency ratings in a single season all came in Minnesota when he averaged no fewer than 7.3 APG and no more than 11.1 PPG. Rubio is at his best facilitating, and could be a huge boost to the Celtics’ offense next season.

Rajon Rondo


Career Averages: 10.4 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.7 SPG

Rationale: Rajon Rondo is a fan favorite in Boston. While playing alongside Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen he managed to capture the only thing that can satisfy a Boston sports fan: a championship. A Rondo return would certainly please the fans, but it would likely have a positive impact on the team as well. Brad Stevens quickly named Rondo a captain before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Rondo also possesses the same skills that Rubio does, but might come at a cheaper price given his age and possible willingness for a “hometown” discount.

Rondo’s best years were in Boston, and as his career starts to approach its end he may be interested in finishing where he started. That’s all speculation, but it wouldn’t be unwise for him to return. After winning the championship in 2008, Rondo didn’t average fewer than 8.2 APG for the remainder of his time in Boston, a number he’s only hit twice since leaving. His facilitation would be happily welcomed by the Celtics, and he’s still enough of a scoring threat around the rim and in the midrange to help Boston reach its full potential.

Elfrid Payton

Alex Goodlett

Career Averages: 11.1 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG

Rationale: Elfrid Payton is yet another solid passer to insert into the Celtics starting lineup. I promise, he’s the last player whose passing abilities I’ll focus on so much. But let’s be real, passing the ball is what he’s best at. Payton shoots the ball 30 percent from deep, and just 63 percent from the line in his career. Let the man take layups and drop dimes.

Payton hasn’t had to carry a large scoring load yet in his career, but his scoring could actually increase in Boston. Playing alongside new levels of talent he hasn’t yet played with, Payton might have more opportunities to score while defenders double and flock to some of his potential teammates. Even with that style of defense, Payton would likely increase his assist numbers as well. Last season he upped his assist numbers to 7.6 per game, the highest in his NBA career. Playing with guys like Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic (briefly) and Anthony Davis (briefly) definitely benefited Payton. He was able to find guys who were more open and more likely to put the ball through the hoop, something he would definitely find more of in Boston should he decide to sign with the Celtics in free agency.

Jeff Teague

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Career Averages: 12.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG

Rationale: Jeff Teague spent a good part of this past season on the sideline, playing in only 42 games, the fewest in a season in his entire career. Teague is clearly aging. At one point Teague was considered one of the quickest and most explosive players in the league. Now, he’s an aging veteran who played his past couple seasons for a bad, small market team. With a new head coach that Teague hasn’t played much with and all the drama going on in Minnesota, it might be time for a change of scenery.

As Teague draws closer to the end of his career, he may want to chase a ring like many players do. If that’s the case, Boston would be a great fit. Boston was one game away from the NBA finals last season and they could be in a similar if not better situation next year. The Celtics desperately need leadership and a strong, veteran presence on the team. Teague is a quiet leader who doesn’t let his own ego get in the way. He plays team ball and wants to win, and Boston could provide a perfect fit to do both. The Timberwolves shouldn’t demand anything unreasonable for Teague’s services, and the Celtics would likely manage to keep core pieces together in a trade for the veteran.

Quinn Cook

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Career Averages: 7.4 PPG, 1.9 APG, 2.0 RPG, 0.3 SPG

Rationale: Quinn Cook is used to winning. At Duke, he won the NCAA championship in his senior year. Last year he won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors. But perhaps now it’s time to leave and take on another challenge. The young guard is in a great spot now playing behind Stephen Curry. But if he wants to achieve new heights, he’ll eventually have to leave the future hall of fame-er’s shadow.

In his career at Duke, Cook shot 43 percent. In his NBA career he’s shooting 47.4 percent, including 41.8 percent from behind the arc. Cook would provide a valuable scoring threat to an already stacked Celtics lineup. Additionally, he’s used to playing around other stars, and realizes when to get his own and when to let others shine. He knows he’s never the best player on the court, and plays a great style of basketball to maximize his effectiveness. Cook could slide in comfortably among the other young players on the Celtics, but bring knowledge about winning the others don’t yet have. He would be a solid addition to the locker room and the lineup. Trading for Cook would probably free up cap space for the Celtics to sign a bigger free agent this offseason as well.


About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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