Report Card Grades for Boston Celtics' 2014 Offseason Moves
With the LeBron James bombshell dropping early Friday, July 11, per Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, the season can officially kick off and we should see a lot more dominoes falling in the near future, including some additional Celtics maneuvers.
For now, though, Boston has largely held serve with their rebuilding plans. They hung on to both first-round picks for June's draft, taking Marcus Smart and James Young, both of whom were recently signed.
They re-upped with shooting guard Avery Bradley, who was a restricted free agent for a remarkably short time. The one move of note they made ultimately cost them next to nothing and won't immediately move the needle much.
Still, there is much to discuss and plenty of grades to hand out, even while school is out of session.
Let's hit the Bleacher Report classroom and see how Danny Ainge and the Celtics are faring this offseason.
Avery Bradley Signing
The first stop on this train around the schoolyard is the Avery Bradley signing.
While we won't need to call Danny Ainge's parents or have them sign off on his report card, this could have gone better for the Boston Celtics.
The skinny is that Boston is bringing back their 23-year-old guard, whom they drafted No. 19 overall back in 2010. He was a restricted free agent, and Ainge quickly locked him up to a four-year deal worth $32 million. While the deal isn't final just yet, it was reportedly agreed upon on July 2, per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
That July 2 date is important because of how early it was. Boston agreed upon terms with the Bradley camp less than a week after drafting the similarly styled Marcus Smart No. 6 overall. Except Smart is bigger and stronger and actually capable of handling the basketball and running an offense, at least at the college level.
Bradley was a solid player for the Celtics over the last few years, but he struggled mightily to stay on the court. Since missing significant playoff time in 2012, he has played in 110 of a possible 164 regular season games. That is 67 percent, which, since we are grading here, is a D+.
There is potential in Bradley, though, so this grade won't be as poor as a D+. He was an All-NBA defender in 2013 and brought his three-point shooting from 31.7 in 2012-13 to 39.7 this past season. His most valuable skill is something that can't be taught, and that is effort.
Still, this signing seems almost unnecessary, altogether or at least in its timeliness. Altogether, Boston drafted Smart, who was among the more NBA-ready picks available this summer and could certainly give you everything Bradley does and potentially more. It is the timeliness, though, that is really off-putting.
Boston owed Bradley nothing. They drafted him and crafted him. They were patient and when it was time, allowed him to surpass Ray Allen. There should have been no rush in that sense to get this deal done. Not to mention the fact that Boston had matching rights. Was another team really going after Bradley hard enough to offer more than $8 million annually?
Ainge sometimes does this thing where he feels it is his responsibility to lock up a player before anyone else can speak to them. Jeff Green's contract seems almost reasonable now, but coming off heart surgery, Ainge locked Green up immediately to a long-term deal worth more annually than he was making prior to the health concern.
This Bradley situation is dangerously similar to that. What is keeping Ainge from some inquisitive looks is that Bradley is a solid, proven player, playing at a position that is as scarce as they come in the league. Quality off-guards are hard to come by, so if Boston had to overpay for one, that is alright.
They just didn't have to do it so quickly.
No. 6 Pick: Marcus Smart
Second period today is Marcus Smart and the No. 6 overall pick in June's NBA draft.
By virtue of their 25-57 regular season, a lousy coin flip and some ping-pong balls, the Boston Celtics owned No. 6 overall this summer. With Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon and Dante Exum off the board, the Celtics opted for Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart.
Even in a suit and, to be honest, a pretty dapper bow-tie, Smart looked like a tank. The 6'4", 220-pound guard was a monster to everyone he faced in college, racking up steals at an impressive rate. Opting to stick around in college meant he got an extra year of experience before making the professional leap.
The five players drafted immediately after Smart were Julius Randle, Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh, Elfrid Payton and Doug McDermott. With those players on the board, Danny Ainge looks to have made a wise choice in going with Smart.
In four Summer League games, Smart posted 13.5 points, 4.5 assists, four rebounds and 2.2 steals. His shot looked no better than it was in college, but there is time to improve that.
With Boston's decision to re-sign Avery Bradley to a four-year extension, it doesn't appear as though Smart will be counted on in a huge way immediately. For the time being, he will likely battle Phil Pressey and Marcus Thornton for Boston's third guard role.
Ainge went with what seems like a sure-thing instead of being romanced by the glitz of possible superstardom in a Randle or Vonleh. He is building a foundation right now for a future, and both physically and hypothetically, Smart is as sturdy looking as they come.
No. 17: James Young
That bell means we're off to third period, where the Boston Celtics held pick No. 17 in June's NBA draft.
On the chalkboard, it reads that Danny Ainge and Co. went with Kentucky freshman James Young, reaping the first of those future assets earned from the Brooklyn Nets' blockbuster last summer.
Boston in desperate need of some young shooting when their second first-round pick rolled around. Unfortunately, the likes of Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas and even Zach LaVine, were off the board at that point.
Choosing from a group that likely included Gary Harris, Rodney Hood and Jordan Adams, the Celtics landed on Young.
Just 18 years old until mid-August, Young really is young. It will be some time until this pick is ripe for the grading, but in the meantime there is a lot to like. At 6'6", the former Wildcat has excellent size and if he adds some muscle weight, he could spend a decent number of minutes at the small forward spot.
As a freshman, he shot 34.9 percent on 235 three-point attempts, showing he has budding and growing range on his jumper. He was also able to get to the free-throw line 4.4 times per game, which is a solid number at the college level, especially for a guy who shot so much from the perimeter.
Young was unable to play in the Summer League due to a car accident, which makes it harder to judge Boston's decision to take him. Hood and Harris had an extra year of experience, which Ainge seemed to value with his first pick. Hood had a better year shooting the basketball as well. Neither may have the eventual potential of Young, though, and at No. 17 that is the direction the Celtics were looking.
Cleveland Cavaliers Trade
The Boston Celtics sat down at lunch without much in their pale, but they came away with the makings of a pretty solid trade.
Sure they had to swallow down that three-day old egg salad sandwich of a Marcus Thornton contract, but they got an excellent dessert option in young seven-footer Tyler Zeller, as well as a tasty asset to be named in 2016.
What Boston gave up, was a conditional future second-round pick. Danny Ainge was able to utilize that big trade exception, acquired in the Paul Pierce deal, that was set to expire on July 12.
While there is little eye-catching about this deal, particularly after the Cleveland Cavaliers signed LeBron James, making that 2016 first-round pick (top 10 protected) likely in the late 20s, it is a solid, positive move.
Thornton's deal is for $8.58 million, but it expires at the end of this season. He could still be used to facilitate another trade, though not in a package until Sept. 10. He is just 27 years old, but he had a down year this past season. He is a career 36.1 percent three-point shooter, something the Celtics were lacking on their current roster.
Zeller is potentially the real prize. A 24-year-old seven-footer who was buried in Cleveland during his second NBA season. In Boston, the center position is relatively vacant, which should provide plenty of opportunity for Zeller to grow. He saw just 15 minutes per game last season, but the per 48 minutes numbers were solid (18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds) and he isn't a free-throw shooting liability (74.5 percent career).
Considering that his trade exception was about to expire, Ainge made a crafty move here to acquire some assets and future potential for little-to-nothing out of his own pocket.
At report card time, my dad would always ask if I avoided Jacques Cousteau, (stayed above C level). The Boston Celtics have done a solid job of doing that and more through the first section of their offseason.
The Avery Bradley signing, like both draft picks, will be judged more fairly over the next couple of years. If Bradley continues improving his offensive repertoire and manages to stay on the floor for 75-plus games, that $8 million a year is worth it.
Danny Ainge stayed within himself during the draft and took a couple of very nice young players, avoiding most risks, while still gambling a bit on potential.
The trade was very nice, though their willingness to accept Thornton may signal that Boston is packing it in for another year. Of course, Zeller could very well develop into something real, but one can't be sure that would be enough to keep Rajon Rondo here next summer.
Even in their worst-case scenario of Rondo leaving for nothing in return, Ainge may have set himself up with Marcus Smart to take over.
These haven't been the fireworks Boston fans were promised, but there is still time. Until then, Ainge may just be building the foundational barge with which to set off those pyrotechnics from.
Overall Grade: B+