The 2013-14 Boston Celtics looked very different than the previous year’s squad, and there is a very strong chance that could be the case again.
The rebuilding Celtics spent this past campaign trying to figure out who should stick around long term, and now they are at the point where it is time to start making tough decisions.
The Celtics already lost one re-signing battle this offseason, with Joel Anthony picking up his $3.8 million player option, per CSNNW’s Chris Haynes.
According to Haynes’ source, “Although Anthony isn’t too thrilled with the current rebuilding phase of the organization, passing up a sizable guaranteed salary is not something he’s willing to do.”
Anthony’s situation was somewhat out of the front office’s hands due to his player option, but that is not the case in most other situations.
Boston has several players either on expiring deals or with complex contract situations that should not remain part of the franchise.
They aren’t all bad players, but they simply don’t fit.
The hardest part of Boston’s rebuild is behind them, but let’s look at a few tough (and some not so tough) decisions the Celts will need to make this offseason about letting players walk.
Let’s start off nice and obvious.
Keith Bogans is not going to be back with Boston in 2014-15, nor should he be.
The 34-year-old veteran scored a grand total of 12 points and hit three three-pointers…this season.
Those would be solid numbers for one game, but they came over the six games Bogans managed to make it off the Celtics’ bench.
In January, Boston announced Bogans would be excused indefinitely from the team via their website. He never made it back to the court.
In his prime, Bogans was a solid perimeter defender with smarts and lateral quickness, but his athleticism has waned since his heyday with the Orlando Magic.
Offensively, Bogans has never been able to do much besides hit the occasional open three-pointer.
He can’t create off the dribble and is not a particularly deft passer.
He’s technically owed $10.58 million over the next two campaigns but both are fully unguaranteed. Even a team playing to lose cannot justify bringing him back at that salary.
There’s value in having a veteran guard who can play defense on the ball, but not when the Celts already have a crowded backcourt with Rajon Rondo, Chris Johnson, Gerald Wallace and potentially Avery Bradley.
It isn’t Bogans’ fault he was grossly overpaid, but there is simply no way Boston brings him back for another season.
The Celtics acquired Jerryd Bayless primarily to shed Courtney Lee’s long-term contract, but he did have his share of moments in green.
Bayless, in typical fashion, provided Boston with some instant offense and playmaking both off the bench and as a starter.
He averaged 10.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 41.8 percent shooting overall and 39.5 percent from three in 41 games as a Celtic.
He’s a streaky scorer, one who jacks up lots of jumpers and isn’t afraid of taking big shots, which fit Boston’s needs for the latter half of the 2013-14 season.
More importantly though, Bayless is now an unrestricted free agent.
How the dominoes fall this summer will likely dictate if Bayless can put down some rare roots here. The Celtics must first see how the guard depth chart looks after navigating the draft, Bradley's restricted free agency, and any other free agent targets early in the offseason. At the right price, the 25-year-old Bayless provides nice versatility off the bench, but he has strides to make defensively.
The Celtics can match any offer on Bradley, so losing him is unlikely, but their weak offense could always use some additional punch.
Unfortunately, Bayless is simply not the player to do that.
He has never been much more than a volume shooter on mediocre teams, and his PER with the C’s was just 12.5.
Attacking the rim is also not something Bayless does nearly enough. With Boston, more than 70 percent of his shots were from 16 feet out or further, per Basketball-Reference.
He is still just 25 years old and could make strides, but given his lack of defensive prowess and position questions, bringing Bayless back is not a long-term solution.
Make no mistake, Brandon Bass is a quality NBA player; he’s just a victim of circumstance.
At 6’8” Bass isn’t suited to play much at center, and power forward is a position where Boston has plenty of young talent.
The 29-year-old had another solid campaign, averaging 11.1 points, 5.7 boards and 1.1 assists on 48.6 percent shooting, but that should not be enough to keep him around.
Bass is a well-regarded player in the C’s locker room and the winner of the Red Auerbach Award for the player who best embodies what it means to be a Celtic.
Rondo told ESPN about Bass, “He’s a great guy, a Class-A guy. He’s a great teammate, very unselfish and he competes every night. He takes great care of his body, on and off the court, and he’s always one of the first guys in the gym.”
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a future in Boston for Bass with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk in town.
Bass is owed $6.9 million in 2014-15, almost twice as Sully and Olynyk combined.
That’s not a crippling contract for a productive player, but it’s one that would fit better on a contender in need of a starting power forward that can hit jumpers and play solid defense.
With a talent-starved Celtics team, he was simply asked to do too much offensively. Ideally he should be catching the ball at the elbow and firing up shots.
An elite mid-range shooter, Bass hit 56.2 percent of his 10-16-foot jumpers, per Basketball-Reference.
Keeping Bass around for one more year would not be crippling, but Sullinger and Olynyk are both jump-shooting bigs as well.
The C’s need a rugged rebounder, which they may be able to get by re-signing Kris Humphries.
If Boston can get good value for Bass from a playoff team, they would be foolish not to do so.
To put it simply, there are many reasons the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy noted why Jeff Green was “eminently available” via trade in an article from late April.
Green had a season to forget as Boston’s main scoring threat, averaging 16.9 points but shooting just 41.2 percent from the field.
Having been a third or second option for most of his career, Green struggled somewhat to adjust.
He also regressed somewhat defensively, perhaps due to the increased offensive burden.
He attempted a team-high 14.3 shots from the field, but his average field-goal distance of 14.6 feet was also the highest of his career, according to Basketball-Reference.
There’s no doubting Green’s athleticism, but he lacks a killer instinct and the desire to consistently drive into the teeth of the defense.
Even Boston general manager Danny Ainge didn’t give Green a ringing endorsement, telling ESPN:
He became more a focal point of the offense and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game and I think he’s going to have a better year next year than he had this year.
Green is owed $18.4 million through 2015-16, but Boston might still be able to find a suitor who believes in his upside.
He can be explosive, but the Celts need more reliability from the 3 spot than Green can provide.
Green can play power forward for stretches, but his rebounding this year (4.6 boards per game), makes that a real risk for a team without an elite glass-eater.
Despite the increased role, Green did little as a playmaker, and his PER of 13.1 was eighth on the team, per Basketball-Reference.
Boston could hope that by bringing in more talent, Green could become a more efficient player again, but the safest bet is to try and offload him to another franchise.