The draft is over, and Rajon Rondo is still in Boston, and Kevin Love is still in Minnesota. To this point, the Celtics situation is clearly fluid. They still have the assets to make a run at a star to pair with Rondo, and they also have plenty of time to check out the trade market for their point guard if they decide to hand the keys to Marcus Smart.
Simply put: we have no idea what the Celtics are going to look like come opening night.
But there are a few things I want to see the Cs do besides the possible mega-moves involving Love or Rondo. Here are three.
Bring in a legitimate center
The Celtics have three point guards, a plethora of 2s, three players who can play small forward and a stable full of power forwards. But when it comes to the center position, they are woefully thin.
Last season guys like Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk spent far too much time "protecting" the paint, a skill that falls far outside of their actual skill-sets. Going into training camp this year the only true centers on the roster are second year man Vitor Faverani, who we still don't know much about, and veteran Joel Anthony, who is 32-years-old and hasn't been a rotation guy since 2011-12 (not to mention Anthony is only 6'9". When he was younger he was athletic enough to make this work. Now? Doubtful).
So my task for Danny Ainge: Find a (near) seven-footer who can play in the middle. Ideally, someone with a pulse, but I'd honestly settle for just about anyone who can play 25 minutes per night in and prevent the lay-up lines we saw at times last year.
The Cs lost one of their possible targets in Omer Asik, who was dealt from Houston to New Orleans last week. This leaves Larry Sanders of the Bucks as the one trade possibility that stands out, and someone the Celts should at least kick the tires on.
The plusses of Sanders: freakish athlete, holds opponents to one of the lowest field goal percentages in the paint when he's on the floor, likely available from Milwaukee for the right price.
Minuses: He's about to get expensive (4-year, $44 million extension starts now), he got into a bar fight last year that resulted in an injured hand, he loves marijuana to the point where he seemingly chooses it over a pro basketball career at times, he's not a very good offensive player.
Obviously taking Sanders on at $11M/season until 2018 is a huge decision, and one the Celtics should only make if they feel that he's their center of the future as they continue this rebuild. If this is the case, I'd offer up Keith Bogans, Brandon Bass and the 2015 Clippers pick for Sanders, allowing small market Milwaukee to save $38 million between now and 2018 while also picking up an asset in the Clips pick.
If the Celtics deem Sanders too pricey, they need to turn their attention to the free agent market. Veterans like Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor could be interested in a 1-year deal to re-establish their market value, or the Celtics could try and clear enough space to go after Marcin Gortat (if they do not re-sign Avery Bradley this is do-able).
You might be asking: if the Celtics aren't going to be very good, who really cares about getting a center? Well the answer is simple: development. Olynyk and Sullinger will never be centers on good teams -- never. Sure they can play small stretches at the C, but neither is an option against a team with a good center, nor a team with a great wing player/guard who can get to the rim at will. We saw the Cs interior defense fall apart last season because of this, and it's foolish to keep putting their good young power forwards in a position to fail. Stick them in the position their meant to play and allow them to work on things within their skill-set. Don't ruin their defensive confidence by matching them up with Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Andre Drummond and Brook Lopez.
Move Jeff Green
Before the draft, Steve Bulpett of the Herald said that the Celtics had a potential suitor for Green should the team decide to go young. Personally, I think it's time to talk to that suitor and make something happen.
My asking price for Green would be pretty low: An expiring contract (Green has two years left on his deal if he does not opt-out next summer), and a semi-valuable asset. Maybe it's a highly protected first round pick, or a pair of second rounders or a young rotation player. I certainly do not expect anything crazy in return for Uncle Jeff, but I do think it's time to move on.
While Green certainly has the ability to play great, he may be the most inconsistent player in basketball, and he absolutely needs to be the 4th/5th option on a team to truly succeed. Guys who routinely score in the single digits and don't add a ton of additional value (rebounding, passing) are not meant to be top-three options on a team. At least a good team.
And I know there are people out there who still believe. "Just give him a full season with Rondo", "Give him another year in the system", "Remember the game winner vs. the Heat!". But Green is just too fickle a talent to be part of this rebuild at $9 million per season. The Celtics gambled two summers ago that he could flourish in the role of go-to guy once Paul Pierce left, but he just does not have that in him. Move him this summer, clear the space for 2015-16 and give the minutes to James Young, Chris Johnson and others.
Oh and while we're at it, can we deal Bass too? I mean his contract is expiring so if we can't get anything for him it's not worth it, but the dude is a picture perfect role player on a contender. Let's snag a second round pick or something for him and make that happen.
Utilize the trade exception
At this point I'm of the belief that Love, nor any other star will be joining the Celtics this season. Hence why I'm looking to move Green and Bass, giving their minutes to younger guys while shedding salary.
Along the same line of thinking, I'd like to see the Cs take a shot at picking up a future asset with their trade exception before it expires July 12th.
A reminder of how the exception works: The Celtics can deal the exception for a player who makes $10.3 million (the size of the exception) or less. The team cannot deal the exception for multiple players, and they cannot use it as part of a bigger deal for someone making more than $10.3 million.
With that in mind, there are really two ways the Cs could use it.
1. Deal it to a team desperate for salary relief in exchange for a player
- Musical chairs: NBA edition is about to go down, with Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry and others about to become free agents. With those guys available we're going to see teams desperate to shed enough salary to make a run at one (or two) of them. The Celtics could take advantage of this and offer the exception up in exchange for an unwanted player and a draft pick. Examples: The exception for Jeremy Lin and a 1st round pick, Exception for Steve Nash and a future pick, Exception for Tayshaun Prince and a 1st (semi-related, how about a Green for Prince and a pick swap? Prince expires next summer and the Grizz are looking to upgrade. Green could be the fourth option in that offense and be reunited with BFF Courtney Lee), ect. If you're not going to use the exception to be better in 2014-15, use it to add another asset. It's important that if the Celtics do this, they acquire a player with only one year left on his deal to avoid clogging their books in future seasons.
2. Take a chance on a young player
This one would be harder to pull off because there aren't a ton of guys that fit into the "young yet overpaid" group, but maybe the Celtics could swing a deal for a guy like Derrick Williams of the Kings, who Sacramento is trying to deal. The Kings are simply looking to get Williams' $6.3 million salary off the books, and the Celtics could make that happen with the exception. Boston could give Williams plenty of playing time, and see if there's something that Brad Stevens can get out of the former #2 pick that Minnesota and Sacramento have been unable to do (While Williams may indeed just be a bust, I do not trust those organizations one bit when it comes to talent evaluation).
Williams' career numbers are not all that bad: 15 points, 7.4 rebounds per-36 minutes, 13 PER. And he's still a great athlete and just turned 23-years-old. This would be akin to buying a lottery ticket, hoping that Williams "sees the light" in Boston. If he does, you own his rights next summer as a restricted free agent. And if he doesn't, you let him walk without having given up anything for him.
Anyway, those are three non-Love, non-Rondo things I'd like to see happen. What about you?
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