They certainly haven't gotten worse, and with a full year of a healthy Rajon Rondo, improvement will very likely be seen record-wise. However, Marcus Smart and James Young aren't going to make the difference between what Boston fans saw last year and a legitimate contender. Not yet, at least.
Could the Celtics, as currently constituted, make next spring's playoffs? Quite possibly if things lined up and the Eastern Conference is as weak as it was this past year. They've added two very good prospects, one of which (Smart) may be the most NBA-ready player in the draft class.
Still, there are holes in the depth chart that weren't addressed Thursday night. There is still the matter of restricted free agent Avery Bradley as well.
This is through no fault of the Celtics front office. It took who it, and many others, felt were the best available options at Nos. 6 and 17. Some of the issues this team had last season simply couldn't be spackled over with those picks. Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge came away with two players who should contribute for the Celtics next season.
Still, chatting over the past 24 hours or so with my dad and a few friends who are Celtics fans, there certainly wasn't euphoria over Boston's draft. The excitement, perhaps still sapped from the 25-win season or lack of lottery luck, wasn't there.
That reaction wasn't necessarily aimed at Smart and Young. Both picks are definitely worth some praise and will give fans a lot of hope for the future. The reaction was simply one of knowledge that the team may not have improved drastically. After being involved in countless trade rumors, from sources both knowledgeable and fishing for attention, Boston simply took its two first-round picks and moved on.
That reaction gets one thinking about the next step, though. This 2014 offseason is still far from over, and Boston is still very much in the mix to get better quickly.
Bigger is Better
The most glaring hole for Boston prior to Thursday night was its lack of a quality, rim-protecting big man.
The most glaring hole for Boston post-draft is still its lack of a quality, rim-protecting big man.
Due mostly to the lack of a center crop in 2014's draft class, the Celtics were unable to shore up their frontcourt with a young big. Instead, Ainge had to draft two guards—or a combo guard and fringe wing if we're being exact.
That means that as of June 28, Boston's frontcourt depth chart still lists Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk and Joel Anthony. That isn't a fearful bunch, nor is it likely a playoff bunch. If things were to remain unchanged, the Celtics would once again have a very difficult time defending the paint or getting interior buckets in the half-court offense.
Outside of Olynyk, who is somewhat more of an agile perimeter player at 7'0", that frontcourt is very undersized. What the Celtics need is a legitimate big in the middle; a guy who can score over and through defenders in the post while providing at least a tall obstacle near the rim on defense. For lack of a better term, Boston needs a moose.
That animalistic reference actually works out perfectly when looking at Greg Monroe, a restricted free agent with the Detroit Pistons whose nickname is actually "Moose."
The 6'10", 24-year-old Monroe is a big, physical force on the inside. He is also incredibly reliable, having missed just three games in his first four NBA seasons, something that should ring loudly given the recent Joel Embiid news and projections of his recovery time. Over the last two seasons, with point guards like Brandon Jennings and Brandon Knight, Monroe averaged 15.6 points and 9.45 rebounds per game.
Defensively, Monroe isn't going to be the player fans are envisioning. He isn't the hyper-athletic shot-blocker that seems to be visualized with the increasingly hacky, overused term "rim-protector." He isn't Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka or DeAndre Jordan, but he sure could be Al Jefferson.
If Monroe becomes a 20-10 guy, not being a high-flying defender can be excused. With proper coaching and work ethic, there is no reason he can't become a solid defensive presence, learning to use his size and length in the way guys like Roy Hibbert and Marc Gasol have.
With Omer Asik being moved from the Houston Rockets to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night, that ship has likely sailed. This should make Monroe Boston's top target for the remaining summer months. Drafting Smart and Young on Thursday could easily make Bradley expendable, saving the Celtics $6-8 million, which could be used to make a large, possibly max, offer to Monroe.
One other name to keep an eye on is Larry Sanders, who isn't in the Milwaukee Bucks' good graces, according to Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. Jordan Hill is another possibility, who finished very strong with the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
Hitting the Broadside of the Barn
With the drafting of Smart at No. 6 overall, the Celtics added a very good young player to their roster and depth chart. However, they also added a guard who struggles shooting.
Smart shot 42.2 percent overall last season with a dreadful 29.9 clip on 5.3 three-pointers per game. In the NBA, things won't get any easier, and the three-point line is farther away.
He'll pair with Rondo, who shot just 40.3 percent during his return from injury last season. While Rondo's shooting woes are wildly blown out of proportion by his detractors, there is concern about his outside game and even his willingness to shoot at times. Hopefully, that changes with his health and relatively new leadership role.
Bradley, should he be kept around, entered the league with shooting troubles of his own. He has come a long way since then, but the numbers don't exactly help Boston's cause here. Bradley shot 43.8 percent last season, which also happens to be his career average. He developed a fairly reliable three-point shot, as least from the corners, but Boston needs more.
With the Celtics' top three guards unable to draw a lot of defensive attention on the perimeter, it will make it even tougher for their already undersized bigs to score inside or to even get the ball.
This is why the Celtics went with Young at No. 17. He is a smooth athlete with some semblance of a perimeter game. Unfortunately, he isn't the deadeye shooter many were hoping would fall to Boston. Nik Stauskas was gobbled up early in the draft, and the Chicago Bulls traded up a few spots to nab Doug McDermott before Boston could think about doing the same thing.
So, during the remaining offseason, Boston really needs to find shooting help. Jeff Green can hold his own on the perimeter, but Jerryd Bayless is a free agent and could be gone, meaning the Celtics could really use a hand out there.
If Boston doesn't use its cap space elsewhere, it could attempt to price out Houston for Chandler Parsons or New Orleans for Anthony Morrow.
The Celtics could also wind up taking a flyer on someone like Nick Young, Jimmer Fredette or Jodie Meeks. Otherwise, Boston will have to go the trade route. One suggestion could be Lou Williams, who had a rough year with the Atlanta Hawks, shooting just 40 percent over 60 games. He picked up a couple DNP-CDs towards the end of the year and saw just 19 minutes per game in the postseason, after playing 24.1 minutes per game during the year.
Going Big-Game and Big-Name Hunting
The most common sentiment among those I have spoken to who aren't flying high on Boston getting Young and Smart is that the Celtics didn't make a flashy blockbuster move.
In fact, no one did, which is somewhat surprising given the buildup. No picks in the top nine were traded for, Kevin Love is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, those green No. 9 jerseys are still valid, and the futures of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have not yet been determined.
After a month of nonstop swirling rumors regarding major deals, the biggest trade was probably Omer Asik, who averaged 5.8 points over 48 games last season.
Luckily for both Boston and the rest of the NBA, this offseason is still in its infancy. Just because the Celtics didn't make a draft-night trade akin to 2007's Ray Allen news or last summer's Pierce and Kevin Garnett bombshell doesn't mean that the roster you see now will be the roster you watch at TD Garden this winter.
Especially for Celtics fans, it is important not to give up hope that the proverbial fireworks are on their way. In many ways, Boston's competition may have just thinned out if we are talking about a major move to bring in Love, Anthony or someone of similar stature.
Those who had picks ahead of Boston on Thursday night had trump cards to beat the No. 6 pick, especially in a draft that had its tires pumped to the bursting point. Those trump cards are gone now, with the top lottery teams all settling for their draft picks.
The same might be said about those teams offering ready-to-play guys. If the Golden State Warriors were going to put up Klay Thompson as a part of their Love package, it likely would have happened on draft night.
Now, the Celtics can play to their negotiating strength, which is all those future picks that may eventually hold the same luster some of this year's picks held prior to Thursday night.
While many teams have dropped out of the field of suitors for big trade names, the Celtics remain. They can do so because of a smart, fearless—at least for his job—shot-caller in Ainge and all those stock-piled assets from the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, along with their own picks.
Keep in mind, Boston didn't successfully trade for Garnett until July 31. In 2012, the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum-Andre Iguodala trade happened on August 10. Over two months later, on the verge of a new season, James Harden was dealt by the Oklahoma City Thunder to Houston.
So don't fret or get down because your team didn't cause tweeting analysts' thumbs to fall off Thursday night.
There is a lot of time left, and Danny Ainge may just have his hand on the clock.
We should, you know, hang out sometime...@3rdStringWalsh