6 Moves Boston Celtics Must Make Between Now and Start of Next Season
The Boston Celtics' rebuilding process may not have taken a step back at the trade deadline, but it certainly didn't leap forward.
Because of where they were and mostly still are, this coming summer is going to be the most important offseason the Celtics will have in years.
When you are a perennial contender, as Boston was for much of the past decade, the offseason is of little use besides rest. However, those highly anticipated and viewed playoff series now seem like a decade in the past. To a certain extent, the offseason has become the more important period for this franchise.
Between now and the 2014-15 season opener, a lot must happen in order for Boston to maintain its forward progress. Unfortunately, not even Danny Ainge can know the majority of what the next eight months will bring.
Be Careful with Avery Bradley's New Deal
The timing of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo's injuries continues to be both baffling and unfortunate. The Boston Celtics are fairly far into their experiences with these players but still don't totally know if they can be successful as a full-time, long-term backcourt duo.
Hopefully, Bradley can return soon and give Boston 20 or so games with Rondo before the summer starts and contract negotiations kick off.
What the Celtics must be careful of is overpaying him right out of the gate. We have previously seen Danny Ainge ink Jeff Green to a big deal with seemingly few other suitors driving up the price. Boston must keep in mind its ability to match and not immediately fork over the contract Bradley asks for.
His group reportedly turned down a four-year, $24 million deal last summer. While Bradley has certainly proven worthy of that deal, the injury concerns weigh heavily on his worth beyond $6 million per year.
The restriction on Bradley's free agency will allow Boston to see how its player is valued around the league. Chances are good that it won't be in quite as high of a regard as the Celtics hold him.
Draft an Impact Player
Perhaps no other move or decision will have more bearing on the Boston Celtics' future as who their first overall draft pick is this summer.
However, this is also completely subjective to how the Celtics finish this season and where the other lottery teams land. Boston's No. 1 goal of the summer should be to draft an impact player.
Boston's positioning among the NBA's worst teams may prevent them from getting one of the highly touted members of the class. Still, an impact player can be found deeper in the lottery as well.
Helping this along may be the fact that the Celtics have the ability to target specific styles and positions to accent their team. The current squad definitely doesn't need a point guard and is looking more and more to be set at power forward. At that middling stage of the lottery, it helps to narrow down the selection possibilities.
Of course, the way things have gone recently—five straight losses—the Celtics' draft stock is continuing to rise. With that, the chances of landing Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker also rise.
Come out of the Draft with Two Real Players
Not much can help speed up a rebuilding process faster than coming out of the draft with two solid, real NBA players.
Have a look at the Indiana Pacers, the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed, who zoomed to the forefront of basketball by some superb drafting. The Pacers exited 2008's draft with Roy Hibbert, Jarrett Jack and Brandon Rush. In 2010, they came away with Paul George and Lance Stephenson. A few years later, both those players were starting in the Eastern Conference Finals.
For the Boston Celtics, the gold standard is likely 2004, when they left draft day with Al Jefferson, Tony Allen and Delonte West. Jefferson was used to land Kevin Garnett, and West was used to trade for Ray Allen. That one draft massively helped deliver Boston years of success.
"We have a lot of options and a lot of assets to maneuver within the draft itself," Ainge told The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn. "Yes, the draft is exciting, but I’m not really thinking that much about the draft and yet every day I’m watching all the players that are in the draft, so I guess indirectly I am."
With two picks in the upcoming first round, it is important for a rebuilding team to come away with two immediate players. They may not be All-Stars or even starters, but two real NBA players would be a boost. Something like the Golden State Warriors' haul in 2012—Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green—would be helpful.
Missteps like JaJuan Johnson over Chandler Parsons, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas or Fab Melo over Mike Scott, Tony Wroten and Green will set the Celtics back. They are in need of immediate impact, whether for their own team or for trade value, like Jefferson and West were.
Shed One More Contract
Danny Ainge has done a solid job this season making sure to duck the luxury tax. However, much more can be done to make the Celtics a leaner and more efficient franchise.
They will already be shedding the contracts of Kris Humphries, Jerryd Bayless and Keith Bogans this summer, relieving about $18.2 million. Should they re-sign Avery Bradley, that takes $6-8 million off the top, along with $3-6 million for two first-round draft picks. Suddenly, the Celtics are passing the salary cap once again, without much improvement in roster quality.
To add a free agent or help facilitate a trade, it would be helpful if Ainge could dump one more of his unsavory contracts.
Gerald Wallace is, and will seemingly forever be, the top choice. However, his deal will still have two years and $20.2 million on it. Nobody wants to take that on for an eighth or ninth man.
Jeff Green is another option, with a slightly more appealing deal. Green is more like a fifth or sixth man, which, at $9 million, is still expensive. However, he is a younger player who can do a great deal more. He would bring much more in return if Ainge could find a partner this summer in need of a wing.
Other options for straight salary cutting include Joel Anthony and Vitor Faverani, both with fairly small contracts.
Retain Brad Stevens' Coaching Staff
Continuity is going to be an important factor in the developing of this team back into a contender. That means continuity for the players just as much as Brad Stevens.
The Boston Celtics surrounded their first-year coach with assistants who have been around the NBA for a long time and have a wealth of experience. That has made the transition from college to the professional ranks a bit smoother.
Of course, the six-year contract Stevens signed is also a comfort for him.
However, the deals of his assistants are rather unknown. Ron Adams, in particular, is a guy who might be looking at head coaching jobs this summer. A defensive specialist, he has helped guide Boston to a pretty solid defense despite problems like not having Rajon Rondo for much of the year and no starting center on the roster. Boston is No. 15 in defensive efficiency this season and gives up the ninth-least points per game.
Other coaches, like Jay Larranaga and Jamie Young, have been with the Celtics for a while and developed a relationship with players like Avery Bradley and Rondo.
Everyone is playing a part, and continuity should breed improvement.
Get Something in Return for Brandon Bass
Brandon Bass was excluded from the "Shed One More Contract" slide, because there is more that can be done with him.
With Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk improving and secured to cheap contracts, Bass' role with the Celtics can be filled.
At $6.9 million next season, Bass is a reasonably priced role player. It shouldn't be too hard to find a trade partner willing to take on that contract for one year. Boston can easily get something in return this summer that is more of a need than power forward.
Perhaps Bass could be coupled with one of their two first-round picks to move up into a more desirable spot in the draft. Maybe in the offseason, Omer Asik will be slightly more available and the Houston Rockets will be more receptive to a Bass package than they were during the year.
Either way, Bass deserves to be playing meaningful NBA games, which he is not doing now. He'll turn 29 this spring and has already exceeded expectations for a second-round pick. It would seem to be in both Boston's and Bass' best interests to find him a new team.