Here’s what Charles Barkley had to say about the Kristaps Porzingis trade and Joe Mazzulla’s new assistants


“I think it’s worth the gamble.”

Charles Barkley had good things to say about the direction of the Boston Celtics. Jessica Hill/AP Photo, File

The Boston Celtics made one of the biggest moves of this offseason, trading away fan favorite point guard Marcus Smart to acquire talented big man Kristaps Porzingis. This trade has drawn mixed reception over the past few months, as many Boston fans initially struggled to let go of Smart and let the oft-injured Porzingis headline this new-look Celtics roster.

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But plenty of others believe that the Porzingis trade was a good deal for the Celtics. NBA analyst and Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley went on “The Bill Simmons Podcast” and gave his praise to the Celtics’ front office for acquiring the Latvian All-Star.

“I think it’s worth the gamble,” Barkley said. “He doesn’t have to be your second-best player.”

Barkley is right. Most of the Celtics’ scoring and leadership responsibilities will go to their All-Star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In Boston’s system, Porzingis will likely serve as an off-ball scorer, a reliable shooter and the Celtics’ premier roll man defender in drop coverage, which Porzingis has excelled at throughout his career.

No one truly knows what role Porzingis will have other than head coach Joe Mazzulla, although his hand-picked assistants may have some input. This was the first year Mazzulla was able to pick his staff, a decision that Barkley also lauded on Simmons’s podcast.

“I gotta give coach Mazzulla a lot of credit for upgrading his coaching staff, because I thought his inexperience showed at different times,” said Barkley.

Mazzulla will sit on the Celtics’ bench surrounded by experienced assistant Charles Lee, former Celtics Phil Pressey and Sam Cassell, and even Amile Jefferson, Tatum’s teammate at Duke University. Barkley said that the confidence and strong presence of these four men will make a massive difference for the Celtics next season.

“[Mazzulla] didn’t have any strong assistants,” Barkley said. He should’ve gotten somebody, even during the season. The best he had was Damon Stoudamire, and he left mid-season. You need strong personalities on the bench, because all these guys got egos.”

Barkley’s praise indicates that the Celtics are trending in the right direction, and that they could be even better this season than they were over the past few years.