Danny Ainge has many, many decisions to make during the incredibly important summer of 2014. What does he do with his two first round picks? Does he use the trade exception acquired in the Nets deal before it expires in July? Is there a mega-deal to be made for Kevin Love or another big star?
The answers to each of those questions will impact the future of the franchise for years to come. Like I said -- this summer is very important.
Also among the questions that need to be answered: what do the Celtics do with each of their seven "free agents". To be clear, when I say free agent, I'm counting unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, and players who have team options. Let's go through each of the seven, from lowest profile up to high, and gauge their chances of returning.
7. Chris Babb (currently on second 10-day contract) - Ainge's first free agent decision actually comes within the next week, when he needs to make a decision on whether or not to sign Babb for the rest of the season. If I had to guess, Babb will be inked to the same type of "multi-year" deal that Chris Johnson, Shavlik Randolph, Terrence Williams and D.J. White have received over the past two seasons, giving the Celts team options for each of the next couple seasons without any money guaranteed beyond this year. No reason to dump Babb for the final 15 games when he knows the system and the team desperately needs warm bodies for the stretch run.
But what are the odds that Babb actually returns next season? Eh, not so good. Unlike Johnson (we'll get to him), Babb has not been overly impressive either in the D-League (12 PPG, 6 RPG, 38% FG, 35% 3 PT), or in his limited playing time in Boston. He was called on because the Celtics were suddenly short on shooting guards, and he had familiarity with the team after spending pre-season with them. But I would certainly hope that the team can upgrade this spot in a major way this summer.
Odds of returning: 5%
6. Chris Johnson (signed through this season with team options in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17) - As we just mentioned, Johnson is technically under team control for several more seasons, but the Celtics can decline his option as soon as this summer if they so choose.
Johnson has been a really pleasant surprise, filling the "3-and-D" role perfectly for Boston since being signed in January. In 23 games with the Cs, Johnson has averaged 6.3 PPG and 2.4 RPG while shooting 40.5% from being the arc. Johnson's true shooting percentage of 56% coupled with his defensive abilities hint that he may be more than a flash in the pan, and someone that the Celtics could certainly decide to keep around next season.
The only thing working against Johnson is that his option is for $915,000, so the Celtics could save some money by bringing in an undrafted free agent in his place (with a salary closer to $500,000). But I think Johnson has a solid chance of being back, depending of course on how the summer goes.
Odds of returning: 40%
5. Keith Bogans (has a $5.3 million team option for 2014-15 that is fully non-guaranteed if he's waived at any point this summer) - This one is the easiest one on the board. Bogans was given over $5 million this season to help facilitate the Pierce/Garnett deal, but his option for 2014-15 (and for that matter 2015-16) is fully non-guaranteed if the Celtics (or any other team) waive him before the start of the season. That means that Bogans is basically an expiring $5.3 million deal this summer, a valuable chip for Ainge to use as a salary equalizer in a trade. But if Bogans is not dealt, he will absolutely by released.
Odds of returning: 0%
4. Phil Pressey (has a team option for $816,000 that must be exercised this summer) - What an interesting rookie season from Pressey. On the one hand, the kid is finishing up one of the worst shooting seasons of the past sixty years, hitting on just 28.4% of his 184 attempts. On the other hand, his point guard instincts are fantastic, and despite his lack of size, his quickness has helped him transition to the NBA game on the defensive end.
And despite his terrible shooting, the Celtics have been a better team with him on the floor (-1.7 points per 100 possessions) than they have without him out there (-5.8 PP100). While that obviously is not all a product of Pressey, he's clearly helping the team in ways that don't always translate to the box score.
Considering his tiny price tag, I expect Pressey to be back next season barring some mega-trade that results in a ton of players with guaranteed contracts coming back to Boston.
Odds of returning: 75%
3. Jerryd Bayless (unrestricted free agent) - True or false: Jerryd Bayless is the most average guard you've ever seen? I literally cannot remember a more "meh" player at the guard position for the Celtics. He's a decent scorer (14.2 points per 36 minutes), but not all that efficient (41% FG, 32% 3 PT, 48% true shooting), capable of playing the point (4.9 assists per 36), and average on the defensive end. Nothing flashy, nothing terrible, just kind of there for 20 minutes per night.
With that in mind, I don't see him returning to the Celtics if the team has the type of summer any of us want them to have. Maybe if August rolls around and he's still available and the team really needs a back-up guard they would consider him. But he'll be 26 next year and is finishing up his sixth NBA season, meaning what you see is what you get. And re-signing a decent combo guard without much upside isn't exactly a move I'd like to see my rebuilding basketball team make.
Odds of returning: 20%
2. Kris Humphries (unrestricted free agent) - Disclaimer: I've been perhaps the biggest Humphries homer in the world this season. Love the guy. Love what he brings to the team (energy, rebounding, ability to run the floor, solid defense), love his sense of humor, and love how he showed up this season in fantastic shape and has not complained once despite not getting playing time early in the season.
The only negative aspect of Humphries? That ugly $12 million price tag, about double what he's worth. But that contract expires this summer, and Hump will hit the open market, likely getting somewhere in the $5-8 million range (seen people say he'll get $10 million, can't see it happening one year after Millsap got $9.5 million. Don't use that last contract he got from the Nets as a barometer..the Nets are insane). If Humphries can be had for something like 3 years, $18 million (basically the mid-level exception), I'd love to see the Celtics get involved. He continues to display elite rebounding instincts (10.5 per 36 minutes), and has started blocking shots at a better clip than ever before (1.7 per 36). The tenth year big man is also having the best offensive season of his career, shooting 51% from the field and 83% from the line.
If someone overpays for him, I would absolutely let him walk, but if the money is right this is the type of role player that winning teams have.
Odds of returning: 40%
1. Avery Bradley (restricted free agent, Celtics can match any deal) - The best player on this list is also the toughest one to answer. Bradley is an incredibly unique player, perhaps the best on ball defender in basketball, who has more than doubled his career scoring average in his fourth season (14.3 PPG).
However, he has several warts that cannot be ignored. First, there's the injury question, as Bradley has missed 12, 32, and now 19 games over the past three seasons. He's only 23, but has already undergone double shoulder surgery and now has been unable to shake a nagging ankle injury. Players do not generally get healthier as they get older, so this is a definite red flag. There's also the question of Bradley's offensive skill-set, and whether or not it's one you really want out of a shooting guard. I broke it down here, but basically: Bradley is bad at getting to the basket and average shooting the ball from deep, and his offensive game is reliant on hitting mid-range jumpers (something he has become quite good at). But mid-range jumpers are the least efficient shot in basketball, leaving Bradley with an ugly true shooting percentage (49.3%) and poor numbers in terms of the points he creates per possession.
So with very clear pros and cons: what should the Celtics offer him this summer? He reportedly declined a 4 year, $24 million deal in October, instead looking to get $8 million or so on the open market. But if that's the number, I'm staying far away. The Cs have two first round picks, and could grab a guard with their first pick (Dante Exum, Marcus Smart) or their second one (Nik Stauskas, Rodney Hood, Wayne Selden), giving them a cost controlled player in their backcourt alongside Rajon Rondo.
But if the market for AB is dryer than expected ($5 million or so per season), I'd still strongly consider making an offer. You don't see players with Bradley's defensive acumen come around very often, and for the right price that skill-set is valuable, despite the offensive limitations.
I'm starting to lean towards the "Bradley is a goner" camp, but it's far from a guarantee.
Odds of returning: 45%
So if you couldn't already tell, I'm expecting a big time roster shake-up this summer. The Celtics have two draft picks and a ton of assets on the table for trades. As the rebuild continues to develop, it's a smart bet that we'll see a major turnover in terms of personnel. Especially with the fringe guys right on the roster bubble.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13
For more of my articles, click here
Michael Dyer 3/13/2014 04:12:00 PM Tweet Edit