Re-Doing the Boston Celtics Offseason Moves to Build a Legit Contender
Things have not exactly gone as planned this season for the Boston Celtics.
At 18-17 on the season, this really should need limited explanation. This is a franchise that was in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals a year ago, and now it is fighting to remain above .500. That is where their recent four-game winning streak has led them.
Naturally when things don't go well for a team with a lot of new faces, eyeballs and fingers start pointing in a couple of directions, one of which is a seat a few rows back at TD Garden, where Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge sits.
There were a lot of interesting moves made over the offseason for the Celtics. Ainge was putting forth an effort to re-build on the fly and leave no transition year between the end of the Big Three and the start of Rajon Rondo's team.
Though it is still fairly early, some of these moves have not panned out. So let's play the great second-guessing game and re-do the 2012 offseason for the Boston Celtics using that 20-20 hindsight and see what we can come up with.
Signing of Jason Terry
The deal: three years, $15.6 million
Naturally, with Ray Allen skipping town, the most attractive replacement on the market was Jason Terry. In terms of being an identical player, Ainge could't find a closer match.
Terry is an aging shooting guard who is one of the all-time great three-point shooters. His defense, like Allen's, leaves a lot to be desired. Still, he was a veteran guard with big-game experience and a penchant for dagger shots.
He is averaging 10.8 points in 29.9 minutes per game right now and shooting 36 percent from long range. Those aren't bad numbers, but considering Terry had to start 23 of the first 35 games, more production would have been nice. In fact, in December, Terry played 34.4 minutes a night but shot only 37 percent from the field.
An attractive option here would have been O.J. Mayo, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks for just $8.2 million over two seasons.
The Celtics, like the rest of the NBA, failed to see the potential that came with a change of scenery. Mayo had struggled through a couple seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies but is tearing up Dallas this season. He is averaging 18.3 points over 36 starts and shooting a gaudy 42 percent from deep.
Mayo is just 25 and would have the potential to be a long-term Celtic, unlike Terry, who seems like an end-of-career rental. Avery Bradley was a possible hindrance, as he is the Celtics starting shooting guard after missing the first 30 games of 2012-13.
Signing of Courtney Lee
The deal: four years, $21.3 million
As some added proof that Ainge was a little concerned with Jason Terry's ability to come in and be successful, he hedged his bets with Courtney Lee.
Ainge knew that Avery Bradley would be missing around 30 games at minimum and needed a fill-in starter. So Ainge picked up two marginal shooting guards, and Doc Rivers let them duke it out. Lee won the job to open the season, but some extremely lackluster play led to Terry's opportunity.
Since then, Lee has become a sort of energy player off the bench. He is able to get to the basket with greater athleticism than a lot of teams employ in their second units. He is averaging 6.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting.
The contract seems a tad lengthy for that type of production. So a more attractive alternative may have been to roll this extra money into the frontcourt.
This would take some guts on Ainge's part in thinking that Bradley would return without a hitch. Right now Boston is actually too deep at the shooting guard spot with Bradley, Terry, Lee and Leandro Barbosa all able to play the position. Minutes are scarce for all four, and Courtney Lee's role just doesn't necessitate a four-year deal.
Signing of Leandro Barbosa
The deal: one year, $1.2 million
Leandro Barbosa was signed by Danny Ainge late to bolster the backcourt. He has shown flashes in limited playing time.
He busted out of the gate with 16 points in 16 minutes in the season opener against Miami. Outside of a few other scoring outbursts, Barbosa's play has been limited. Now he has racked up three DNPs since Avery Bradley's return five games ago.
Barbosa's value is extremely limited due to the supreme depth Boston has at the shooting guard position. Boston's, as well as Barbosa's biggest issue is that he can't play the point guard position well enough to spell Rondo consistently. This hurts his playing time as well as Rondo's ability to rest during games.
Had Danny Ainge looked harder, maybe he could have found some inexpensive options with a little more point guard experience. Finding someone like that for $1.2 million is an impossible task, but if he had some extra cash saved from one of his other offseason deals (Courtney Lee), he could afford the likes of Jarrett Jack or D.J. Augustin.
Jack signed a decent four-year, $20 million contract with the Golden State Warriors and has produced at that level. He is averaging 11.9 points and five assists per game while shooting 41 percent from deep.
While Augustin hasn't panned out in Indiana (31 percent shooting), he may have had better luck with a top option ahead of him like Rondo. Augustin got just a one-year, $3.5 million deal from the Pacers to be their backup point guard.
Re-Signing of Brandon Bass
The deal: three years, $19.5 million
During his tenure as general manager, Danny Ainge has been prone to overreacting with some of his contracts. That is what happened after Brandon Bass played excellently for the Celtics a season ago.
He was pressed into a starting role due to some injuries and wound up helping Boston win some games down the stretch and into the postseason. So automatically, he became a necessity, as Ainge re-signed him after he declined a $4.2 million player option.
Since he signed his new deal, Bass has been coasting. He has dropped from 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game to just 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds. His elbow-jumper that was automatic all last season has become a little shaky, and he disappears when his minutes are limited.
This seems like a good place to note that he is making roughly the same amount of money as the player he was traded for initially, Glen Davis. Davis was averaging 16 points and eight boards through 25 games before a shoulder injury sidelined him.
Brandon Bass was viewed as a player Boston had to bring back, when in reality this money would have been better spent elsewhere.
If Boston could combine this with some extra money saved elsewhere (Jeff Green), then they could have gone after one of the players they currently seem desperate to trade for.
Re-Signing Jeff Green
The deal: four years, $36.2 million
Easily the biggest complaint you'll find of Danny Ainge's offseason was the signing of Jeff Green to a sizable, long-term deal.
One year removed from heart surgery that forced him to miss an entire season, Ainge saw fit to give Green $9 million a year. Even after Green contributed very little to the Celtics in the 2010-11 season following his trade to the team.
This was another example of Ainge overreacting. He made a mistake with the Kendrick Perkins-Jeff Green trade, and now, a year and a half later, he is still trying to make it appear worth it. Throwing money at a mediocre Jeff Green didn't solve a lot of Celtic problems. He is not the Paul Pierce of the future and now has one of the worst value contracts in the league.
Since it didn't appear that Green had a whole lot of suitors, and a lot was made out of his willingness to stay in Boston, (showed up at games during his recovery even though he wasn't on the team's payroll) could Ainge have saved money and gotten him for cheaper?
Were that to happen, add it to the money saved from Brandon Bass and you could feasibly go after one of the bigger free agent prizes in the frontcourt.
Inexpensive, available bigs with rebounding skills were Chris Kaman (one year, $8 million), Robin Lopez (three years, $15 million), Elton Brand (one year, $2.1 million) and Marcus Camby (three years, $13 million).
Some bigger fish were Roy Hibbert (four years, $58 million), Ian Mahinmi (four years, $16 million), Omer Asik (three years, $25 million) and Kris Humphries (two years, $24 million).
Re-Signing Kevin Garnett
The deal: three years, $36 million
There was never any real danger of Kevin Garnett going elsewhere; it was either retire or return to the Boston Celtics. Ainge made that decision fairly easy for Garnett, by offering him fair market value to return.
While it remains to be seen if this was the right decision for the Celtics, it is clear they need him right now. The issue is, they need him because his $12 million a year hasn't allowed them to pursue younger bigs who can log more minutes.
When all is said and done, Garnett's No. 5 may be hanging in the rafters right next to Paul Pierce's No. 34 and right now it appears the Celtics can't win without Garnett on the floor.
What Ainge needed to find out was if Garnett would have returned for a few fewer dollars, if it meant getting a legitimate frontcourt mate for him. Right now Boston runs three undersized power forwards and Garnett, with Jason Collins getting comic relief minutes. If Garnett took a more significant pay cut, Boston might have been able to attract players like Carl Landry.
Landry signed in Golden State for just two years and $8 million. He has come off the bench for 34 games and has averaged 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, while shooting 53 percent from the floor.
Maybe Boston could have gone after Ersan Ilyasova, a rebounding machine a year ago with some range on his jumper. He is back with Milwaukee for five years and $40 million. Ilyasova isn't getting a ton of minutes and is averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Another intriguing option was Sacramento's Jason Thompson. A legitimate seven-footer who re-signed for five years and $30.1 million. He is averaging 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Signing Jason Collins and Re-Signing Chris Wilcox
The deals: one year, $1.3 million each
In the search for a backup big man to help out Kevin Garnett, Danny Ainge landed on Jason Collins, Chris Wilcox and Darko Milicic.
Now that Milicic is gone and Chris Wilcox is injured yet again, Collins has actually seen some playing time of late. Those minutes have pretty much been nothing but a foul-fest, however.
The 34-year-old center has actually started seven games this season, but has played in only 15 total. He has a season highlight of four points, four rebounds and five fouls in the Christmas Day win over Brooklyn.
For the money, Collins has been just fine. Still, there were other options if you added his salary into some of the money saved on Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass.
Boston could have maybe made a play for a more high-energy reserve big like Reggie Evans, who went to the Nets for three years and $5 million. Evans is now grabbing 8.7 rebounds in just 21.1 minutes per game.
Wilcox has been a great addition when healthy. He has the ability to run the floor better than Collins, which allows him to score on fast breaks ahead of most frontcourt players in the league. He is, however, out once again with a thumb injury.
Drafting Jared Sullinger
The deal: taken with 21st overall pick in 2012 NBA draft
This is one move that is making Danny Ainge look very good this season, especially after Sullinger's 12-point, 16-rebound effort in a Jan. 9 win over Phoenix.
Sullinger has grown throughout the season and is turning into a real inside force rebounding the basketball. He has grabbed nine or more in three of the last four games and is starting to score a little bit as well.
He is averaging 5.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on the season.
Looking beyond him at who was available in the draft is a list of players who are still a mystery.
Festus Ezeli (No. 30) and Draymond Green (No. 35) have played some influential minutes for Golden State. John Jenkins (No. 23) has shot very well in limited minutes for the Atlanta Hawks.
It is currently tough to make the case for Boston going anywhere else with this pick.
Drafting Fab Melo
The deal: taken with 22nd overall pick in 2012 NBA draft
Boston's second first-round selection in the 2012 NBA draft has been a significantly different story.
Fab Melo was grabbed up by the Celtics franchise immediately after Jared Sullinger. Although Melo has had a definite impact playing basketball this season, it has not been for the Celtics. Melo has played the entire season in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws.
There, Melo has actually produced some solid numbers. He is averaging 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.9 blocks over 26.8 minutes in 12 games. He leads the D-League in blocked shots and is shooting 50 percent from the field.
Although he hasn't made an impact with the big league club yet, again there weren't many options behind him in the draft.
The player everyone wanted, Perry Jones III, has played only 12 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He too has spent nine games in the D-League.