Merely days into the 2013 free-agent signing period, the Boston Celtics are a completely new team…without having signed a single free agent.
Today, we’ll recap all of the moves that Boston’s president of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ainge has made and assess grades based on their quality.
Doc Rivers’ Exodus
Initial reports had Rivers going to Los Angeles with star forward Kevin Garnett in exchange for some combination of DeAndre Jordan and draft picks. However, that proposal got squashed due to league rules that stipulate that coaches cannot be traded for players.
Rivers, who had three years remaining on his contract with the Celtics worth $21 million, was permitted to leave for Los Angeles. In exchange, the Clippers will give Boston its 2015 first-round draft pick without protection.
Rivers’ deal with the Clippers is the same three years, $21 million that he would have gotten in Boston.
The move to the West Coast enables him to continue coaching a contender.
The Celtics, however, were taking actions to begin the rebuilding process. Unloading such a high salary with the intent to rebuild would have been senseless. Instead, Ainge acquired a future asset.
The Celtics started their offseason roster transformation with a blockbuster trade, the details of which nearly derailed the excitement of the NBA draft.
In what appeared to be an effort to appease Garnett and career Boston veteran Paul Pierce, Ainge swung a trade that landed the two, as well as guard Jason Terry, in Brooklyn.
The initial details of the trade were not consistent with the official deal, which netted the C’s Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph as well as first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Boston also has the option to exchange first-round picks in 2017.
Humphries is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Brooks, Joseph and Bogans can all be released next summer.
The trade primarily serves as a method of clearing cap space. Unfortunately, Boston is stuck with Wallace’s lame duck contract that owes him just over $10 million in each of the next three seasons.
The rest of the value in this trade lays in future draft picks. However, there is no way of telling how good the draft picks will be until they are happening before us.
Brooks, should the Celtics opt to keep him, has good upside and may develop into a quality 2-guard.
That aside, this transaction is basically a massive salary dump. Garnett, Pierce and Terry were due nearly $34 million in salary this season alone.
Now, the team simply faces the uncommon quandary of having too many players on its roster.
The Celtics had the 13th and 53rd picks in the 2013 NBA draft.
No surprise, Ainge drafted an offensively skilled big man in the first-round, taking Gonzaga star center Kelly Olynyk.
Thus far, having played a few summer league contests, Olynyk has shown that he was a quality pick. In four games, he is averaging 19.5 points on 57.4 percent shooting, eight rebounds and 2.3 steals in 26.5 minutes per game.
Second-round pick Colton Iverson, a big man from Colorado State, has been much less impressive, which is to say he has not impressed at all. He’s averaging 3.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and nearly five fouls in only 17 minutes per contest.
Olynyk is proving to be worth the Celtics’ first-round pick and is sure to have an impact playing in the starting lineup this season.
Brad Stevens Hired As New Coach
Finally, after a couple weeks and many drastic roster changes, Boston announced the arrival of its new head coach, Butler University’s Brad Stevens.
Stevens—at only 36 years of age, due to be 37 at the onset of the 2013-14 season—is the youngest active coach in the NBA. He also has no prior experience at the pro-level.
However, he is revered as a bright young basketball mind and a very capable teacher of the game.
At Butler, where he routinely fielded rosters with inferior talent, he led his team to four Horizon League regular-season titles and two National Championship appearances.
Coincidentally, it was the advice of Doc Rivers—whom he replaced—that helped him decide to leave the college ranks. Doc recounts the tale.
I told him that he'd be an excellent NBA coach, and he's ready for it. "Whether you want to leave Butler or not, now that's up to you." I said "that's a personal situation," and it's funny because I told him, I said, "I'm going through that right now, and I don't know what I'm going to do." Maybe the fact he saw me leave, he thinks, "Well (expletive), I'm leaving too."
Now, Stevens has a six-year contract, a roster that is being reconstructed and a staff that is still slowly taking shape.
A young coach with a knack for teaching young men the game of basketball and a staff that is known for its quality use of analytics is probably just what the Celtics need as they build for the future.
Overall Grade: B
This may seem high considering what the team lost. However, considering the age of the Celtics stars, Ainge was faced with two options. Either cut the stars loose, allowing them to compete elsewhere while jump-starting the rebuilding process... or, keep them and continue trending toward being a mediocre team incapable of winning it all and too good to win the lottery.
With the forthcoming crop of talent in the 2014 draft and the possible free-agent class of the same summer, rebuilding was the better choice.