Re-Grading Boston Celtics' Moves from Last Offseason
The Boston Celtics improved their team in the offseason of 2011—just not by much. They made only a handful of moves, and only one of them really turned out to be all that beneficial.
But can you find fault with Danny Ainge when he found a way to keep the Celtics competitive, even pushing the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals?
It was a great year for the Celts and even if it wasn't entirely due to their last offseason, it's worth taking a look at the roster tinkering that Ainge did do and to re-evaluate how it all worked out. In the end, it's the results that matter, and the results were good. So let's keep that in mind as we review a couple of dubious moves, along with one rather brilliant one.
1. E'Twaun Moore
E'Twaun Moore was just about par for the course for a guy that was almost never drafted. He appeared in 38 of the 66 games last season, but only saw more than 20 minutes of play on five different occasions.
It's not horrible. Most late second-round picks like Moore, selected 55th overall, don't even make the roster, and in Moore the Celtics are pretty sure they have a guy who can at least develop into a marginal role player. This was best evidenced on January 26th against the Orlando Magic, when Moore nailed all four of his threes en route to 16 points in just under 18 minutes.
I was covering that game and I swore Moore was on his way to really being something. It was only just now in reviewing the rest of his game stats that I realized I saw him having a career night!
2. JaJuan Johnson
When they say hindsight is 20/20, it's certainly not inaccurate. The Celtics drafted MarShon Brooks 25th overall in the 2011 draft and immediately dealt to New Jersey for JaJuan Johnson and a 2014 second-rounder. I guess Celtics fans may have been already scratching their heads at that point since Brooks was the second-leading scorer in the NCAA in 2010-11 and he had just fallen to the latter part of the first round.
Brooks proved in New Jersey that the Celtics had made a horrible mistake, eventually going on to make the All-Rookie First Team. Brooks put up 12.6 points per game in just under 30 minutes per night for the Nets, while the player he was traded for, 27th overall pick JaJuan Johnson, had only one flash-in-the-pan performance.
Against the Chicago Bulls on February 12th, he scored 12 points, grabbed four boards, and came up with two steals and a block. His best game hardly holds a candle to an average night for Brooks, so it's safe to say the Celtics regret this move. It happens.
Who knows, maybe the 2014 second-round pick will net the next Manu Ginobili, Ersan Ilyasova or another random foreigner who comes out to shock the NBA. But I still doubt that would validate this trade.
3. Keyon Dooling
The Celtics traded a conditional second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for combo-guard Keyon Dooling.
It's hard to get too excited about the addition of a career journeyman, but Dooling was pretty much just what the Celtics needed. He's an above-average on-ball defender and he can hit the open three. He handles the ball well and is usually a good free-throw shooter (80 percent for his career, but just 74 percent last year), so he is a useful player late in games when Rajon Rondo's horrific free-throw shooting is sending fans into panic fits.
I'm not going to say Dooling was any kind of huge key to the Celtics' success, but he's good for what they needed him for: 15 minutes a night of decent play off the bench so Rondo can catch a breather.
4. Chris Wilcox
Chris Wilcox proved to be a bit of a swing and a miss, but it wasn't really his fault. Wilcox was one of two Celtics players last year to suffer from a heart condition (the other being Jeff Green) and it sidelined him in mid-February. Up until that point, Wilcox had been doing what he usually does: providing valuable minutes off the bench and proving to be a capable backup center in a league so sparse with them.
The Celtics realized Wilcox's value and re-signed him this summer, so he'll be back to play a full season, we hope. He's not going to blow anyone away statistically, but at one point Wilcox seemed to be a budding superstar. For three seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, he put up between 13.4 and 14.1 points per game while snagging seven to eight boards per night.
At only 29 years of age, it's a bit perplexing as to why he still couldn't be doing that, but at this point Wilcox is what he is: a player who is capable of providing a spark off the bench while the Celtics rest whomever they decide they are going to start at center this year. It could be Fab Melo; it could be Kevin Garnett playing out of position; it could even be Jared Sullinger playing out of position. Just don't expect it to be Wilcox.
5. Brandon Bass
Ainge's best move of the offseason was trading Glen "Don't Call Me Big Baby" Davis to the Orlando Magic for Brandon Bass.
As for why the Magic made the trade for Big Baby, one need look no further than their whiny and disgruntled superstar, who insisted they go and add the overweight LSU product.
The Magic's loss was the Celtics' gain. Bass had already displayed immense potential and work ethic, and when I saw him during Dwight Howard's charity event late in the lockout summer, he was the only player on the court in game shape, leaping over the lazy bodies around him for dunk after dunk. While I realize charity games aren't exactly a measure of aptitude, it sure didn't seem to be otherwise, either.
Bass was one of the most impressive players for the Celtics during the postseason last year after posting a career high of 12.5 points per game during the regular season. In the playoffs, Bass had several games which were crucial to the Celtics' success. He posted double figures in 12 of the 20 playoff games and his standout game came against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 when he put up 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while also grabbing six rebounds and swatting away two shots.
His mid-range jumper is impeccable and he offers so much more than Big Baby ever could or ever did. The Celtics undoubtedly "won" this trade.
The Celtics were one of the success stories of the 2012 playoffs. Most didn't expect them to get past the second round, which would have been a matchup between them and the vaunted Chicago Bulls, but Derrick Rose's injury (and Philadelphia's advancement to the second round) paved the way for Boston to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
As I mentioned in my introduction, it's difficult to say that any of the moves of last season were a direct cause of the Celtics' success last year, but sometimes the biggest waves are made by just keeping the boat still.
Ainge knew he had a roster capable of competing without wholesale changes; the team had just won a title two seasons prior, and the Big Three remained in decent enough shape to keep the ship sailing full steam ahead.
The result was the minor tinkering we've discussed here. This offseason brought greater change, but we'll evaluate that when the time comes!
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