|Patriots 2014-2015 Position Review: Running Back||Looking Back: Grading the Celtics at the Trade Deadline||Bruins Dissapoint at the Trade Deadline||Bruins Acquire RW Brett Connolly|
The Celtics’ 2013-14 season unsurprisingly came to an end after 82 regular season games, as Boston missed the playoffs for the first time since the pre-Big Three era in 2006-07, bringing a close to a period that saw the C’s win their record 18th NBA title and an additional Eastern Conference Championship. General manager Danny Ainge has undeniably done a very good job of planning ahead, going through with his promise to trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for future assets, and stockpiling a total of nine first-round draft picks over the next five years by dealing several role players as well.
The next step in the rebuilding process will be the Draft on June 26, where the Celtics will have three selections which will hopefully help guide them back to the playoffs sooner rather than later. But Ainge’s history suggests that the rookies won’t be the only additions to the roster, as few NBA GMs are more trade-happy than Boston’s. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Celtics’ roster as it currently stands ahead of the official start of free agency, and what we might expect from the offseason.
Coming off a 25-57 season, and knowing Ainge, it’s hard to call any player on the roster untradeable, but the two players that come closest are the two young bigs, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. Olynyk got his rookie season off to a slightly underwhelming start, but finished red hot, averaging 25.7 points over his last three games. He finished the season with averages of 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Sullinger, coming off back surgery, recorded 13.3 ppg and 8.1 rpg in his second year as a pro.
As for the two guys who were expected to lead this team into the new era, their positions didn’t become any clearer. Jeff Green played all 82 games and led the team with 16.9 points per contest, but he didn’t really do enough to convince the doubters that he can be the number one player on a championship contender. Rajon Rondo, the one true superstar on the team, played just 30 games after his recovery from knee surgery, and posted solid averages of 11.7 points and 9.8 assists.
Forecast: The Rondo trade rumors aren’t going anywhere soon, and in fact there’s a good chance that they’ll only intensify with him set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season. There will be interest from teams, and Ainge will listen, but he won’t trade Rondo unless he thinks the price is right. Green could also be a free agent, but has a player option for 2015-16. If Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens decide that he isn’t going to lead the Celtics, he could very well be on the block as well.
Probably the most prime candidate for a change of scenery is Brandon Bass, another upcoming free agent, who was typically inconsistent and ended up averaging 11.1 points and 5.7 boards. As for Gerald Wallace, who played in 58 games before undergoing season-ending meniscus surgery, his $10.1 million salary is the only thing preventing a trade that, in all fairness, both he and the team would probably welcome.
Three players are set to become free agents this offseason: Jerryd Bayless, Avery Bradley and Kris Humphries. Bayless was acquired mid-season from the Grizzlies in a trade designed to dump Courtney Lee‘s contract, and ended up being one of the Celtics’ best players, averaging 10.1 points in 41 games since the move. Bradley missed 22 games with several injuries, but was very solid when he did play. Bradley really proved without a doubt that he’s more than a defensive specialist, averaging a career-high 14.9 ppg and shooting 39.5% from three-point land.
Humphries, who by all accounts benefited from the move to Boston following his highly publicized foray into the gossip pages, had 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in what could be his sole season with the Celtics, and ended up securing a spot in the starting lineup down the stretch.
Forecast: It seems clear that the Celtics are very high on the homegrown Bradley, who is a restricted free agent, and would like to keep him in green long-term, so expect them to be aggressive on that front. As for Bayless and Humphries, both of whom were brought in partly because of their expiring contracts, as good as they were (and they were good by this year’s standards), it says here that Ainge, firmly in rebuilding mode, will most likely let them walk and pursue their fortunes elsewhere.
The Celtics got notable contributions towards the end of the season from two undrafted players: Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey. Pressey, who was signed as a free agent last offseason, struggled early on with the well-known issues that kept him out of the Draft in the first place, namely questionable decision-making and shot selection. But as Rondo continued to sit out the occasional game, Pressey grew into the role of sole point guard that he had to fill on several nights, and his play improved significantly. He recorded double-digit assists in four of the last six games of the season after doing so just once in the first 76, and finished with averages of 2.8 points and 3.2 dimes.
Johnson was originally signed to a 10-day contract, which was later extended, and took full advantage of what was his second shot at the NBA after a brief stint with Memphis in 2012-13, averaging 6.3 points in 40 games. Chris Babb, who also joined the team on a 10-day deal, was less successful in his attempt to crack the rotation, and ended up appearing in just 14 games.
One of the biggest question marks on the roster is Vítor Faverani. The Brazilian rookie looked set to make a splash with a very impressive start, but his playing time started to peter out towards the end of December. He spent time in the D-League and didn’t play with the Celtics after January 28. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 boards in 37 games.
Forecast: The Celtics are stuck with Joel Anthony for another season, as the veteran center predictably exercised his player option for 2014-15 and is virtually untradeable given his high salary. The terms of Babb’s and Johnson’s contract extensions are not known, but it’s likely that they can be released at no cost to the team, which means that Babb, at least, will probably not be with the team much longer.
Johnson and Pressey both proved that they at least deserve to be on an NBA roster, so expect the Celtics to afford them the chance to fight for their spot, regardless of what positions are addressed in the Draft. Faverani’s place in the long-term plan is unclear, and it’s a safe bet that, unless he’s traded as part of a package deal, he could see more D-League time next season.