The Boston Celtics didn’t make the splash that was expected this offseason, with so many future draft picks and cash available to pursue free agents. The Celtics entered the offseason with a wishlist that included Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, and Greg Monroe, among others, but none of those deals came to fruition.
Despite not landing any “big names,” Boston did make some solid moves. The Celtics acquired David Lee, Perry Jones, and Zoran Dragic in trades. The team also signed free agents Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, and Amir Johnson as well as drafted Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and Jordan Mickey, along with Marcus Thornton. Add those eight players — Marcus Thornton has not signed a contract with the Celtics and will spend next season overseas — with holdovers Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk, and the Celtics find themselves with a numbers problem.
The Celtics went 40-42 last season, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton believes Boston will make the playoffs again this upcoming season with the additions they made this summer.
“Consider the Celtics a sleeper to claim home-court advantage and/or win a playoff series. Boston had the East’s second-best record (20-11,.645) and fourth-best point differential (plus-2.9 PPG) after acquiring Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline. While the Celtics didn’t land a star this summer, the addition of veteran Amir Johnson strengthens their biggest weakness, interior defense.”
Boston currently has 17 players with guaranteed contracts, plus three others with non-guaranteed deals — Corey Walden, Coty Clarke, and Malcolm Miller — heading into training camp. Hence, the Celtics have a couple of decisions to make prior to opening night in order for them to get down to the 15-man roster limit. Waldon, Clarke, and Miller are expected to be assigned to the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics D-League squad, after training camp ends.
So, Boston has two options, and that is to waive or trade a couple of players. If they elect to waive players, the Celtics are still responsible for paying them their entire salary and if they go the trade route, they must either receive draft picks or it must be a 2-for-1 type deal — or the Celtics will be back in the same position that they are currently in. ESPN reports that Boston projects to have eight draft picks next season, including as many as four first rounders, that could help them make a trade sometime this season.
If the Celtics ultimately decides to waive players to get to the roster limit, the players most likely to get the pink slip are Dragic, Young, and Jones. With so many guards currently on the roster, Dragic has basically no shot of remaining with the Celtics, according to Fox Sports.
Boston basically did the Miami Heat a favor by acquiring Dragic, as the Heat needed to alleviate luxury tax burdens. The Celtics received Dragic, a 2020 second round pick, and $1.7 million (Dragic’s 2015-16 salary) in cash in exchange for a highly-protected 2019 second round choice. Last season, Dragic tallied 28 points in 16 games combined, with Miami and Phoenix.
For the sake of argument, consider that Dragic will be one of the casualties, but that still means the C’s have one more move to make.
Jones is another player that could get waived. The Celtics, as they did with Miami, helped Oklahoma City out by acquiring Jones. Boston sent a conditional second rounder to the Thunder in exchange for the 6-foot-11 forward, along with a 2019 second rounder and cash.
Jones, who was selected in the first round in the 2012 draft, struggled to find his niche in Oklahoma City. He averaged a career-high 4.3 points in 14.7 minutes of action last year. For his career, Jones averages 3.4 points and shoots 42 percent from the field, along with 29.3 percent from beyond the arc. Jones is scheduled to earn $2 million this season.
Mass Live’s Jay King wrote a problem with the Celtics waiving Jones is that he is “largely an unknown commodity [and] the 23-year-old theoretically possesses a load of untapped potential.” King continued “During his time with the Thunder, James Harden called Jones ‘probably the most athletic (player) on the team’ — while the team featured Russell (bleeping) Westbrook — and Kevin Durant labeled Jones the best athlete in the league. The 6-foot-11 Jones is a long, versatile wing who has strung together some impressive stretches on NBA courts, and there’s a chance he could look substantially better in Brad Stevens’ system. This is a guy with tools.”
Young may be the only other realistic option to be waived. Young is expected to battle R.J. Hunter, along with Rozier and Turner, for playing time.
Young averaged 3.4 points in 31 appearances last year with the Celtics. However, the soon-to-be 20-year was unimpressive during the summer league campaign. Young averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 27.4 percent from the field, and 24.4 percent from the three-point line in five summer league games.
The good news for Young is that King said general manager Danny Ainge is still high on Young’s potential.
The Celtics have several tradeable players if they decide to go that way. Sullinger and Turner are two names that have recently been mentioned as possible trade bait.
Grantland’sZach Lowe said the following about Sullinger.
“He’s had constant conditioning issues, he’s still a sub-30-percent shooter from deep after two years of hoisting, and he’s probably never going to be a plus defender. His agent, David Falk, does not mess around in extension talks. If Falk can’t get Sullinger a huge deal, he will have no qualms taking him into free agency.”
Sullinger is entering the final year of his contract. He appeared in 58 games and averaged 13.3 points, along with 7.6 rebounds, last year. Sullinger has also been injury prone, playing in just 177 games in his three-year career.
Turner is another trade possibility, and one rival front-office figure told Mass-Live that Turner “is not the best fit for the (Celtics) future.”
Turner is in his final year of his contract and is making $3.43 million. He is a fantastic playmaker, but struggles with his shot. Last year, Turner averaged 9.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds last year, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field, as well as 27.7 percent from beyond the arc.
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