By Bob Kerr
Should he stay or should he go?
With the 2014-15 season just about over, most Celtics fans can agree on two seemingly contradictory things.
1. This team was eminently likable.
2. It also needs to be upgraded at nearly every position.
With that in mind, and so much roster turnover due this summer with contracts coming expired and rookies coming in, it’s a good time to take a closer look at this roster and try to suss out who is here for the long term, who is a short-term piece, and who will be gone by next year’s trade deadline if not this summer.
The following assessments are a completely unscientific combination of what I hope to happen and what I expect to happen. (Spoiler: don’t expect to see many people here for the long term):
I have big muscles
Earlier in the year I thought he was shamelessly gunning for a contract. I think it is undeniable he came into camp after his last deal in less-than-optimal shape and has played uninspired ball during the waning years of the Rondo era. Now, I wonder if he didn’t just let his skills atrophy while essentially spacing the court for Pierce and Garnett, picking up dimes from Rondo, and giving less-than-great effort from a coach (Rivers) who was too busy looking to his next job to demand great effort from his players any longer.
Like nearly every other player, Bass blossomed under Brad, and the system suits him. He’s not a great creator but he’s now allowed to more of an attacker in addition to his shooting, and he occasionally bangs and bullies, which we need. Despite some inspired efforts on his man defense (he played Anthony Davis of all people as well as anyone has all year), his help defense is still pretty lousy.
So do they keep him? He wants to stay. The Celtics were too good this year to get a draft pick that they could trade for veteran help, so with two or three rookies coming, it’s probably easy on the coaching staff to have someone like Bass who doesn’t rock the boat, doesn’t need to be taught how to play, and doesn’t need any coaching up. I’d prefer the position upgraded, but I think he stays on the relative cheap. Verdict:
I think I should stay
What we have in Bradley is someone who struggles to create any shot for himself that isn’t a long two, is positively dreadful on the fast break, only a passable ball handler, and an occasional defender. Advanced stats seem to loathe him. Clutch stats seem to love him. He’s fairly dependable and has led the team in scoring on some big wins. It was recently reported that teams offered the Celtics a low first-round pick for Avery, and Danny said no. I’m not discouraged by those lowball offers, but I am encouraged by the interest—it means he has some value in a future “youth and picks” package for a talent upgrade, and I suspect that is how he’ll be used sometime in the next year. He’s redundant with Smart, Thomas, and Turner, anyhow. Verdict:
I want to stay RIGHT HERE
If you put Crowder’s head and his heart into Jeff Green’s body, you’d have a perennial all-star. Alas that’s not the case, so we’re left with a guy who can look terrible and incredible in the same game (OK, not unlike Green), but on the balance kills himself to compete, might actually be the team’s heart and soul, and brings more to the table than he takes off. Zach Lowe recently speculated that some teams are going to give him a big offer on potential. I don’t think there is potential there; what you see is what you get. But I like what I see, and I think the Celtics do too. I see him staying at mid-level money. Verdict:
Tell me I don’t look like Furio Guinta
There’s not much here to dislike, is there? He’s crafty, he’s competitive, he’s got a sweet stroke, and an awesome name. He seems like he’d be the most fun Celtic to hang out with in the parking lot of an Allman Brothers concert since Bill Walton. That said, he’s slid out of the rotation since Thomas came back from injury, and there’s probably a reason for that. He’s two steps too slow or four inches too short to play in the NBA, and so next year he probably won’t be playing in the NBA. Verdict:
I think I’ll go there
Many Celtics fans have enjoyed watching Jonas this year, and I suspect it’s in part because he’s the anti-Kelly—next to Kelly, Jonas Jerebko practically moves like prime KG out there. Make no mistake, however: Kelly Olynyk is the better basketball player. If Jerebko were better, he’d be playing more than 18 minutes a game on a team that desperately needs length and athleticism. Jerebko is short on talent on both ends of the court, and seems to have a hoops that is IQ slightly below average, but he is built like a prototypical ballplayer, he has a great motor, and on occasion a decent nose for the ball. All of these are things you say about incoming rookies, however, and he is not one. I like him fine, but if it seems sometimes as if he’s playing for his NBA life, that’s because I suspect he is. Verdict:
I can fly!
I’m still convinced they got Kelly because they knew Minnesota wanted him and were hoping to swing a Kevin Love deal. Well, that didn’t happen. Kelly has a strange tendency to look like shit until you check the box score and see he led the team in +/- (he’s the Bizarro Brandon Bass in that regard). His ball movement is pretty great for his size, his shooting is passable, and he can actually drive to the basket, even if posting him up results in a 30% chance of him falling over. His help defense and pick-and-roll defense are both pretty woeful, but—and perhaps I’m alone on this island—his man defense is actually slightly better than its rep. I feel like if he cut his hair and grew a chiseled beard, we’d all think he was like 10% better than we do now. He doesn’t “suck,” but we need much more athleticism and/or toughness from that spot. I wonder if Minny would still be interested? Verdict:
Nepotism is alive and well in the NBA
I actually really like Pressey, but young, third-string PGs are like lottery tickets; if you don’t hit the jackpot, pick up a new one for a dollar. Pressey seems like a great kid, and he has actually swung a couple of games this year, but he’s no jackpot. Verdict:
Yes, I did just punch you in the testicles
The good is obvious to anyone who watches the team regularly. He’s got a great attitude, he’s a team guy, a leader, and a pest to opponents. He moves the ball efficiently, he has a big effect on games without filling the box score, he pushes tempo, and he tackles loose balls with great instincts and unpredictability. OK, so some of those loose balls are swinging between the legs of opposing players, but you get my drift.
The negatives are just as obvious: his shooting comes and goes, and his ability to attack the rim is nonexistent. The shooting may improve with better teammates and looks—and getting him in the corner and catch-and-shooting rather than his pretending to be Steph Curry up top—but his inability to drive or finish is troublesome, especially as he is built like a fullback, so though there isn’t room for physical development. Still, he’s a de facto PG and it’s prudent to expect gifted PGs to drastically improve from year 1 to year 3.
I keep wishing he’d model his offense after Pacers-era Mark Jackson, but when you’re hoping your rookie learns to play like an old man, well, mama there goes that ceiling. All this said, give me a team with 15 Marcus Smarts any day. He’s my favorite rookie since Pierce. Verdict:
So far in Sully’s career he’s dropped in the draft, struggled with back issues, had the cops respond to a domestic violence call at his house, developed into a 3-point bomber who can’t make threes, went down with an injury while his team was in the playoff hunt because he couldn’t stay in shape, gave a long interview to Jackie MacMullan about getting in shape and then returned to court looking heavier than before. It’s not even worth discussing him—he won’t be in the league in 5 years, if not sooner. Hopefully we can rope in a sucker to give up value for him first. Verdict:
Hey I want to be here LONG term!!
He came to the Celtics after being cast aside by two teams in 10 months, which is a big red flag given his production. So, I’ve watched him closely for signs that he’s an asshole, and I’m seeing a guy who is always smiling, is the first off the bench to congratulate teammates, who constantly communicates, who seems to be very well liked. My conclusion is that Phoenix mangled this trade deadline about as badly as a team can.
The downside to Thomas is that he’s fairly easy to swallow up with a bigger defender, he can dominate the ball too much, his own D is so-so, gets sloppy with the ball at times, and I don’t love him as a team’s “best player.” The upside far outshines all of that; he’s a microwave scorer who gets to the line better than any Celtics guard of my entire life, and that counts for a lot, especially when there are better offensive players to go with him.
Is a piece going forward or a value asset that came on the cheap? It’s hard to say. Ainge claims to love him, which indicates he’s here to stay. Ainge also claims to have loved him since college—which is a nice sentiment, except Thomas went #60 in the draft and the Celtics drafted Jajuan Johnson at #27 and E’Twaun Moore at #55. You love the kid and went with Moore at 55? Come on, cut the shit, Danny. Verdict:
Nice knowin ya
Do you buy low and sell high on Turner, while he’s still got a year left under contract? He’s pretty well cost controlled for a guy who does everything he does, even if he uncorks a few appalling turnovers a game. His value around the league is no doubt close to nil, but Danny should be making calls. Who wants him? Evan is one of those weird players who is more useful as a 30-minute guy than a 16-minute guy (which is part of the reason his Pacers stint was a disaster), but at the same time if you’re playing him 30 minutes a game, where are you? The answer: the 8 seed, at best. The Celtics have higher aspirations than that. The Kings don’t. My suggestion is to shuttle him and the Clippers pick off to Sacramento for the likes of Stauskus, and let him spend year mumbling to Cousins about how much better it is in Boston. Sorry, Evan. Verdict:
“Make sure those checks clear”
James Young, NBDL Maine Red Claws star
There’s nothing to discuss—he barely played, the team isn’t cutting bait on him now, and he has no value. So he’s staying. Verdict:
He’s been one of the nicest surprises of the year for the Celtics, but I’m not sure I want them to be the one to pay his next contract. That’s coming due. I like him at maybe Nick Collison money, but he may be getting more than that. Better to look for someone who defends the tin and ideally the pick-and-roll better. There are too many better centers on the market and in the draft to think Danny is sticking with Zeller—unless the saturated center market actually means Zeller has to a accept a lower rate. Verdict:
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