Biggest Issues Boston Celtics Must Address This Offseason
It goes without saying that an NBA team finishing 25-57 has a lot of issues in need of addressing.
That is what the Boston Celtics are facing at this point. They enter the offseason littered with uncertainty and without many sure-fire fixes lined up.
Certainly the draft will help, with two first-round picks coming in. However, Boston's season was just good enough to shrink their chances at grabbing a top-two or three pick. Even with those two players coming in, this is already a very young team.
The Celtics couldn't do a lot of different things this past season. All those small, individual miscues and failures led to their 25-win season. Those are all issues that the front office and individual players must take a hard look at.
Then they can make a collective view of the franchise's future.
Height and Rim Protection
The most glaring issue, because it was so obvious to see on the court, was the Boston Celtics' lack of an interior presence.
Barring a good couple weeks from Vitor Faverani, the team played virtually the entire season without a center. The frontcourt was a conglomeration of Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk. None of those guys have the size and skill set combination to play center at this level.
Boston allowed 105.2 points per 100 possessions this year, 20th-best in the league. Opponents shot a 24th-best 46.5 percent from the field against the Celtics, per NBA.com.
Because of that hole in the middle, you've heard a lot of harping on the fact that Boston needs a rim-protecting big this summer. That could come through the draft, with a guy like Joel Embiid or the free agency/trade market with guys like Greg Monroe and Omer Asik.
While any of those options do sound appealing, this issue goes beyond simple rim protection. Having a legitimate starting center helps sort out the depth chart and allows Brad Stevens to more clearly define roles. Instead of trying to fit in four or five power forwards, he can use each player in a way that promotes their strengths.
Boston has the assets to make a move somewhere this summer. The most glaring need is currently at the 5.
As we said, this was a relatively young Boston Celtics team.
Rookies like Kelly Olynyk, Phil Pressey and Vitor Faverani saw extensive minutes, along with guys like Chris Johnson and Chris Babb getting brought in late. Jared Sullinger was in his second NBA season and Avery Bradley was playing his third year as a regular. They also had a rookie head coach in Brad Stevens.
Teams with that much of a youth overload are rarely going to win in the NBA. Boston had a bunch of guys unfamiliar with playing with each other, or in Stevens' case, coaching these players. Continuity will help that, but Boston needs an injection of veterans as well.
Part of the reason for Boston's poor record of late, with Rajon Rondo on the floor, is that there is no one out there capable of checking and balancing him. He is brilliant with the ball, but can't dominate it quite as much as he thinks he is forced to with a team like this.
Having a respected and capable veteran presence out there will allow Rondo to play off the ball every so often, helping ball movement and overall offensive versatility.
Nobody on the current roster has gained that level of respect from the point guard, and nobody probably deserves it just yet. However, this is an important issue that needs addressing or the losses will continue piling up against Rondo.
Clear More Cap Space
You can get excited over the facts, but there is still a lot to keep in mind when it comes to the Boston Celtics' finances.
Yes, they are clearing a great deal of money off the books with Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Jerryd Bayless and more becoming free agents this summer. However, there are some caveats.
First, the amount they are clearing doesn't leave them free and clear of the salary cap. They were well above it this season, and will now be just a bit below it. The freed up money also is partially already spoken for.
Two first-round picks will be making around $5-8 million next season, depending on where Boston lands in the lottery. Another chunk of that cash could also go to keeping Avery Bradley in town, though it remains to be seen what other offers he gets.
Quickly, the naturally occurring capital is being spoken for. In order to continue their offseason overhaul and overall rebuild, Boston must acquire and accumulate more cap space. That means selling off some of their higher-priced players for smaller contracts and picks.
Danny Ainge has a big bag full of goodies which he can wheel and deal this summer. He shouldn't be too afraid of sacrificing one of his valuable future picks to get someone else to pay Gerald Wallace $20.2 million over the next two seasons.
We already spoke a little bit about continuity and how it can help a young team like the Boston Celtics.
What is good for those on-court players could also be a valuable asset to the sidelines. Brad Stevens lucked out with some of his assistants this year. Guys like Jamie Young and Jay Larranaga stayed with the franchise after Doc Rivers was traded to Los Angeles. They helped ease the transition for both the players and Stevens.
They are also guys who may have had head coaching jobs elsewhere, had they chosen to look a little harder. Another guy who had those same opportunities was Ron Adams.
"He is the first guy to tell you that you did something right, but he’s also not afraid to say, ‘We need to do this differently, or we need to change this, or this probably will be tough to do,’" Stevens told The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes. "It’s not easy to be the guy who says that. And I really appreciate that. It’s one of the reasons I brought him on."
There are already three coaching vacancies in the NBA, with the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz on the market for new leaders. There are also sure to be college and overseas jobs for the taking.
If Boston loses one or two of those top assistants, it will undoubtedly mess with chemistry and continuity. This is a matter that isn't easily addressable, but something to keep an eye on nonetheless.
The Shooting Guard Position
The most intriguing offseason storyline for Boston, outside their lottery pick in June, should be what becomes of their shooting guard position.
Avery Bradley had a roller-coster season that ended on a pretty incredible upswing. In April, he averaged 22.4 points per game, while shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 52.9 percent from beyond the arc and 92.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Overall, he had a solid year, but once again missed a significant chunk of games, (22) leaving question marks about his health and durability as a starting NBA player.
Monetarily speaking, Bradley turned down an extension offer early in the 2013-14 season. Reportedly, that was a deal worth $24 million over four years. He was clearly hoping to prove himself worth closer to $8 million per year, which he may have done. What he didn't do was prove he could stay healthy for a full season.
If a team swoops in to try to steal Bradley for $8 million this summer, the Celtics may be better off looking elsewhere to fill that newly-created hole. A guy like Gordon Hayward, also a free agent this summer, is an option. As are free agents like Lance Stephenson and Nick Young.
This is the position in Boston that could see the widest array of possibilities over the offseason.
Finally, a major issue for the Boston Celtics is their lack of star power.
There are some very likable guys on this roster. However, with the exception of Rondo, there may be no one with star qualities.
Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green and Kelly Olynyk may be solid NBA players for a long time, but in terms of star power, there is a fair amount to be desired.
The ultimate goal for Danny Ainge and Boston's front office has to be getting a star to Boston. It may happen via their lottery pick this season. It may happen with a trade to bring in a Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony or Greg Monroe. No matter the route chosen, Boston's biggest issue is they don't have a team capable of going to legitimate battle in the postseason.
Rondo is a proven postseason talent. Nobody else on the current roster can claim that. Granted, nor can Love, Monroe or lottery pick X.
Boston has a tradition of success and star power to uphold. The biggest issue is that their 25-win team didn't have that caliber of star power. A full year of Rondo may be worth five or 10 more wins, but that still isn't getting you anywhere.
All these other issues certainly need addressing, but they also will all serve as pavement to solving this big issue.