Predicting Boston Celtics' Final 15-Man Roster
While the Boston Celtics' rebuild hasn't peaked to the point of anyone's liking, small steps have been taken to move forward into the creation of their 2014-15 roster.
There will be a lot of familiar faces returning for the Celtics, hopefully with improved games to go with them. There will also be a few new names to learn and follow. Boston waved goodbye to a couple players this offseason, and it isn't over just yet.
Those listed on the roster right now aren't necessarily the same players who will be donning the green jerseys come Oct. 29, when Boston kicks off its season with a home contest against the Brooklyn Nets.
There are still moves that could possibly be made and a training camp to go through to test some of the newcomers.
With all that in mind, let's see if we can work out who will hitting the floor at the TD Garden on a regular basis come opening night.
First and foremost, it appears Rajon Rondo will, at the very least, start his ninth season with the Boston Celtics.
Rondo's name has been thrown around in trade rumors, and it will likely continue until the day he retires. Still, he remains in the only NBA home he has ever known and is poised to have a successful year in his first full season back from an ACL injury.
He spent 30 games late last season shaking off a year's worth of rust and trying to get accustomed to some new teammates and a brand new head coach. When he begins the 2014-15 campaign, he will be playing for quite a bit.
There is a new contract, perhaps a max-level deal, on the horizon if he has a strong season. There is also his reputation, both as a player and person. Both have come under fire in recent years. This season, he will have the opportunity to be a captain and to be the definitive best player on a team.
The Celtics have looked into building a younger, faster squad around him, and it will be interesting to see if that pans out.
Should it not be going so well after a couple months, there is always the possibility he is moved before February's trade deadline in order for Boston to further dive into its rebuild.
Of all the Celtics players listed on the roster right now, Avery Bradley may be the most stable.
Fresh off inking a four year, $32 million deal, Bradley looks to be tied to Boston for the foreseeable future.
Boston's defensive-specialist shooting guard was a free agent this summer, but the Celtics wasted no time in giving him just what he wanted.
Bradley improved in small increments last season, with the most noticeable bump in his three-point shooting. He developed a minor knack for getting open in the corners and hit on 39.5 percent of his 3.3 three-point attempts per game.
Still, Bradley missed 22 games and hasn't shown an ability to stay healthy since being forced out of the 2012 playoffs with shoulder problems. If he is able to play a full season alongside Rondo, Boston's backcourt may have something going for it.
Even with rookie Marcus Smart on his heels, that new deal has to have Bradley feeling at least pretty comfortable with his current and only NBA digs.
In his rookie season and second summer league performance, Kelly Olynyk has given Celtics fans a fair amount to be excited about but hasn't shown enough to be considered a particularly strong trade asset.
Olynyk made the All-Rookie Second Team last season, averaging 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. He came up especially big in some late-season contests when his minutes were expanded. After another solid handful of games in the summer league, he could be a front-runner to start at pseudo-center for Brad Stevens in 2014-15.
Olynyk's impressive agility and handle for a player his size (7'0") were on display in Orlando this summer, and he is one of Boston's most promising young players.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he hasn't shown nearly enough to attract the kind of eyes that could make a potential needle-moving deal with the Celtics. According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Minnesota head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders reportedly didn't think much of him when listening to the long line of Kevin Love suitors, and the Celtics won't be just giving him away.
The Canadian-born big will make $2.075 million next season, so he is plenty cheap and has two similarly-priced team options after that. The Celtics will be keeping Olynyk around and seeing what happens with their 2013 lottery pick (No. 13).
Much like Olynyk, Jared Sullinger has shown glimpses that make many think he could become something real in the future. However, those glimpses haven't been quite consistent enough to allow president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to dangle him as a legitimate trade asset.
Sure, there are a lot of teams out there who would gladly take on an inexpensive rebounder with very good hands and loads of potential, but they aren't willing to pay top dollar for it just yet.
Because of that, Sullinger will likely return for his third season in Boston this fall.
He answered a fair amount of criticism during his sophomore campaign when he played in a respectable 74 games, making 44 starts, after missing half of his rookie year with back issues. Averages of 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds are certainly promising, and the three-point shot in its infancy is, at the very least, intriguing.
Just because Sullinger couldn't be used to facilitate a deal like Al Jefferson did before him doesn't mean all is lost. It will be very interesting to see how Brad Stevens continues to mold him in their second year together.
The Celtics just have to hope that he comes to training camp in good shape and without any of the troubles that reared their ugly head last fall.
After Marcus Smart was taken on draft night, it was believed that either Avery Bradley or Rajon Rondo's time in Boston was limited.
However, Bradley was signed to a four-year deal not long after, and Smart still has a ways to go before dreaming of usurping Boston's four-time All-Star.
Since being drafted by the Celtics, Smart has done pretty well endearing himself to the fanbase and management. There have been no reported issues, and he has been seen doing various charitable deeds over the summer.
While playing with Boston's entrant in the Orlando Summer League, Smart made some noise with his offensive penetration and defense. The shooting was shockingly poor, but there is time to—if not correct that—get it under a bit more control.
For now, Smart isn't untradeable, but Boston isn't parting with him for anything less than an upgrade. They appear to believe that he can play with or behind Rondo and Bradley or are just viewing him as insurance on the chance a Rondo deal does emerge or he signs elsewhere next summer.
As rough as it sounds, $20.2 million over two guaranteed years for a guy who can give you maybe 15 minutes per game at the wing just isn't desirable in the NBA.
Gerald Wallace was the price the Celtics had to pay for all those Brooklyn Nets draft picks they acquired last summer.
If his contract lasted just one more year instead of two, Ainge would have likely already found a move to make and included him as an expiring deal. Because he is signed through 2015-16, there just isn't any interest.
With the addition of Evan Turner into Boston's fold, Wallace should be pushed down in the rotation a bit more. He'll still be there as a somewhat capable backup until James Young hopefully matures, but at this juncture and at that money, it is very difficult for him to be part of a winning system.
Since Ainge isn't going to be willing to attach a pick to him just to get rid of that contract, he'll likely remain in Boston until he becomes an expiring contract next summer.
One minor move the Celtics made in July was to guarantee Phil Pressey's contract for next season.
The backup point guard will make just about $816,000 next season.
Pressey signed on in Boston as an undrafted free agent last summer and actually carved out a decent role for himself with the lowly Celtics. He played in 75 games and made 11 starts while averaging 15.1 minutes.
His shooting was beyond atrocious at 30.8 percent, but Pressey's ability to run an offense was pretty undeniable. He averaged 3.2 assists in those 15.1 minutes per game, demonstrating that he clearly had one NBA skill.
On such a cheap deal that isn't guaranteed beyond this coming season, there isn't much reason not to continue giving Pressey a seat on Boston's bench. Likewise, no one will be beating down the door to make a trade for him.
Given that Boston already made the effort to guarantee his contract, the likelihood of there being some sort of training camp competition for his roster spot is low. What there will be is a competition for minutes, and Pressey is dangerously close to losing almost all of his.
The one decent trade Ainge was able to make this year brought in Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller.
Zeller will play the third season of his NBA career in green after hitting a sophomore slump that wasn't nearly helped out by his former team. After a solid rookie campaign—7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game—Zeller was put on the back burner by a team that went after Andrew Bynum and then Spencer Hawes when Bynum didn't work out. He also suffered due to a slightly healthier season from Anderson Varejao.
There just wasn't a spot for Zeller to learn and grow. Boston, which has a complete dearth of centers, should give him that spot and opportunity. He'll compete right away for the starting job and should see his fair share of minutes through another rebuilding year.
Zeller can't be packaged in another trade until Sept. 10, but even then, it is unlikely he'll get dealt again. While Boston did this deal more to get rid of an expiring exception, it needed a young center and will want to see what it really has in Zeller.
Until he shows that last season was a fluke, he won't be considered a serious trade asset, either.
In advance of Rondo returning from his ACL injury, the Celtics needed to clear a roster spot and space in the backcourt. The move has little to do with acquiring Anthony.
He averaged 7.1 minutes over 21 games with Boston last season, serving as very deep frontcourt depth. The Celtics have younger guys like Sullinger, Olynyk and even Brandon Bass who came before him on the depth chart.
By opting in, he will cost the Celtics some money and financial flexibility this offseason, but it wasn't unexpected. Anthony won't get nearly $3.8 million on the free-agent market, so he made the smart decision to get his money while he can.
Tough to blame him, but even tougher to find a spot for him in this rotation. It will be equally tough to move him at that price.
Marcus Thornton came over in the same trade that netted the Celtics Zeller this summer.
At $8.575 million for just one more year, he has the type of contract that could be moved as an expiring deal to help some team looking for cap space next summer. However, the Celtics are also one of those teams.
With Rondo's deal expiring in 2015, Boston has to find the extra money to try and pay him while also making a move to bring in someone worthy of being labeled a second star. That freed-up $8 million will certainly come in handy in doing both of those things.
There is also the issue of shooting. As sad as it looks right now, the Celtics need Thornton's shooting to be at least a respectable basketball team. Right now, their backcourt features subpar shooters in Rondo, Bradley, Smart, Pressey and Evan Turner. Thornton is a 36.1 percent career three-point shooter and can get very hot from outside.
If the right deal comes along, Thornton's expiring contract could certainly serve as the necessary salary filler to facilitate it. However, Boston could use him and his future cap space in a lot of different ways, making him more valuable than one may imagine.
One offseason acquisition of the Celtics that may or may not be finalized just yet is for free-agent swingman Evan Turner.
A handful of reports, including this one from USA Today's Zillgitt, were flying around in late July that had Turner agreeing to terms or actually signing a contract with Boston. While no exact terms have yet been disclosed, the word is that Turner will be signed for part of Boston's mid-level exception. In full, that number is $5.3 million, making Turner's predicted salary a bit less than that annually.
The reports do make some sense, so it is very likely that Turner will be playing for Boston in 2014-15. He's a young asset—a former No. 2 overall pick who fell on some bad luck situation-wise with the Indiana Pacers toward the end of last year.
Turner can play. At the time of his trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last year, he was averaging 17.4 points, six rebounds and 3.7 assists. He was also getting to the free-throw line 4.2 times per game. There is very limited outside shooting in his repertoire, but Turner as a slasher is talented and possibly still growing.
He will be 26 come October, but he is looking for a chance to resurrect a career that made a wrong turn somewhere after being trapped in a tough Philadelphia situation. Turner should be very highly motivated to make this work, and Boston could definitely use a player with the capability to play small forward, particularly if it ever does find a taker for Jeff Green.
With the No. 17 pick in June's 2014 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics selected James Young.
The University of Kentucky freshman could have maybe done with another year of seasoning in college, but he chose to enter the draft, and he is who Boston wanted with its second first-round pick. Young will turn just 19 this month and projects to be fairly raw this season.
Because of that, he'll likely spend some time with the Maine Red Claws, Boston's D-League affiliate. There, he will be able to play big minutes against pseudo-NBA competition under the watch of Boston's own coaches. It is the type of plan that certainly worked out for Bradley but may not have for Fab Melo.
The Celtics higher-ups certainly seemed pleased he was on the board for them in the middle of the first round and will likely want to keep him around and see what develops. The quicker he proves to have NBA length on his jumper, the quicker he'll be wearing green regularly.
It has been a long time since Vitor Faverani's hot start last year had him in early All-Rookie team talks.
Not long after, he was riding the Celtics bench. Now, word has come out that he got himself a DUI while driving in Spain.
The report states that while Faverani's blood-alcohol content was three times over the legal limit, there were no serious injuries in the ensuing car accident. Ignoring the idea of how much alcohol a 6'11", 260-pound man must imbibe to get three times over the legal limit, this likely won't hinder his NBA eligibility.
Faverani has one more guaranteed year on his contract with the Celtics, worth $2.09 million this season. After that, they could cut him and be salary-free or guarantee his similar contract for 2015-16.
After a November that saw him average 5.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, Faverani's role was heavily diminished. He finished the season with just 37 games played.
With an affordable contract, Faverani will still likely serve as a depth option in Boston's frontcourt for one more year.
As hard as one searches for a legitimate reason why Jeff Green will not be on the Celtics this coming season, one comes up just as empty as Ainge has.
The trial period for Green in Boston has extended for quite a while with very limited successes. However, when Ainge seeks a fellow NBA partner to take him off his hands, the phone lines are not being picked up.
Green will make $9.2 million this coming season, a steep price for a contending team to match, especially this late in the free-agency game. He also has a player option for the same price in 2015-16, and the Celtics already saw that situation play out with Joel Anthony.
So the prospect of getting an average small forward, who trades 40-point games for four-point games with shocking regularity, for two years and $18.4 million isn't appealing to other NBA teams.
Even the Indiana Pacers, who just lost Lance Stephenson for good and Paul George for an extended injury period, are somewhat unlikely as Green takers. They simply don't have the capital without going over the luxury tax to take him and don't have the necessary minor pieces that would serve as salary filler.
Because of all this, most signs point to Green being a member of the Celtics for at least another year.
In a similar situation to his current teammate Green, Brandon Bass is being shopped but to no avail.
Bass has value in the NBA and is actually a high-quality rotation player who has been a part of winning teams in the past. He is also on the right side of 30 for another season.
This coming year will be the final one of his contract with the Celtics. He'll pull in a respectable $6.9 million, which is suitable for the offense and defense he provides.
The issue is that Boston has a few younger, cheaper options that it would like to see develop during this rebuilding period as opposed to hanging onto Bass and the memories for seasons past. With him moved in a trade, the door for big minutes is open to Sullinger, Olynyk and Zeller in the frontcourt.
Since Bass doesn't shoot three-pointers, though, apparently his value isn't quite as high as some may think. Count Ainge among that group. He has what he believes is a real asset to a contending team in Bass but can't find the proper match anywhere.
Therefore, it looks more and more like Bass and Green will stick with Boston at least through the start of this coming season.