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The Boston Celtics may look very different in October.


Change is coming, and while a significant part of the core who took this team to the Eastern Conference Finals is likely to be back in green come fall, it is by no means guaranteed. Even if only the players who have no guaranteed money for next season were to move on, we'd still be talking about as many as seven players - and those with guaranteed deals aren't necessarily safe, either. With so many assets and such lofty aspirations, an influx of new faces isn't just probable - it's certain. Whether those assets are traded away, consolidated, or cut to make room for a top-tier free agent, new and stashed draftees, or some combination thereof, the one constant this summer is going to be...change.

This won't necessarily be easy, for them or us. We fans and writers have grown rather attached to the current roster even with its warts, and you can be sure a team as reliant on chemistry as this one to have as well. Before the whirlwind comes to leave its mark, let's take a look at last season's roster, and take a guess who'll still be with us come training camp. I've broken it down into several tiers based on value, cost, and skills, flavored with a dash of team needs of each player's skills.

(ALMOST) DEFINITELY COMING BACK

In the quest for Banner 18, no roster spot is certain. If the right move - emphasis on right - becomes available, any player could find themselves on the hoof, packing their bags for a new city to build their personal future in. That said, there's a few players who may be mostly immune to the possibility of being traded. Mostly.


Isaiah Thomas
You knew he'd be on this list. It's pretty damn hard to find a player putting up his production on the offensive end of the floor - hard as in almost impossible. Finding them dead last in the draft is a singular experience, and having the foresight to snatch such a player up after multiple teams miss the utility of such a player borders on the surreal; yet, here we are. But there's a flip side to this coin, too - it's quite easy to find a player putting up similar production on the defensive end of the floor. If your goal is butts in seats, the defensive ding Isaiah's game gives a starting unit is not so important. But if you want to beat the best, it's going to take some work to hide. And it's far from the easiest decision to commit to such a player long term, before you know if you can assemble the roster capable of both meeting your team goals and able to do so with a major (though, admittedly, improved) weakness baked in. Add a potential surgery that could diminish offensive production should it go less than optimal, and there's a lot of things to think about. Mercifully, Thomas has said exactly what we need to hear to put us at ease, giving the brass time to make up their mind.


Al Horford
Apart from people who only read one or maybe two columns from a box score and know so little about basketball I've probably already wasted too much time typing about them, most Celtics (and basketball) fans have all the evidence they need about Al's value to Boston and the sport. If you're looking for a scorer who piles on points or a board crasher who scrapes the glass for rebounds, you've got the wrong guy - but if you need to hide a player defensively who can also serve as a secondary floor general, capable of spacing the floor and drawing defenders while returning the favor on the defensive end, well, you've got him locked up for years to come. And the man's family might just be one of NBA Twitter's most ardent admirers of the storied organization and fanbase as well, even after a few knuckleheads talked out of their neck in his inaugural season in Boston.


Jaylen Brown
Not even a year ago, more than a few Celtics "fans" were booing the selection of Jaylen (cut that crap out and leave it for New York Knicks fans, for real) on draft night. By the end of the series with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a legitimate argument could be made for the young lad as being Boston's best player. Let that sink in. Our rookie - not even a candidate for Rookie of the Year despite the pathetic field of nominees and numerous starts on one of the top four teams in the league - went toe-to-toe with the most dominant player in the league...and held his own. No small feat that, yet for many of us, Jaylen was proving his value months before that went down. He' still got a ways to go in many areas, mostly on defense, but apart from making errors from inexperience, few players in the league fit this team or the direction the sport is headed better.

LIKELY TO RETURN


Avery Bradley
Avery is the longest-tenured Celtic, and that's not by accident. He's been the most important player on the team offensively besides Isaiah, and has gradually and steadily improved his game over the years, adding ballhandling and scoring to a hard-nosed defensive ethic that has by itself earned him league-wide renown. There are only a handful of players who can bring what Bradley does to the table, and none of them are making less. This last bit's the rub, ironically, as he will be eligible for an extension this summer. Can Boston sign the free agent(s) they want, pay Isaiah and Avery? Only the latter two can say for sure, and a lot may depend on what happens this summer in terms of trade and free agency. We'll know soon enough.


Jae Crowder
Yet another example of Danny Ainge finding treasure in another GM's detritus, Jae has grown into one of the league's most valuable contracts, a quintessential "three-and-D" wing able to erupt offensively or smother some of the league's hardest covers 2-4. The most ridiculous part of it all is the fact he's only making about $7 million a year to do it, and he's locked up until the 2020-21 season, too. As such, cost-controlled talent like this with such versatility is key for teams who will need to add costly superstars to really compete for a title, and oddly enough, are as likely to send Jae packing for such a star as he might be for accommodating absorbing a whale of a free agent salary.

PROBABLE TO RETURN


Marcus Smart
If the game were only played on one end of the floor, Smart would be right up there with Isaiah and Al. Marcus brings a brand of aggressive coverage like no other player in the league, a bulldog able to wrest the ball away from the strongest players, and fast enough to provide coverage to almost any player in the league in short bursts. This makes him a valuable part of any team trying to compete at a high level, especially considering he's still on a rookie deal next season. However, as more than a few of us are acutely aware of, Smart has a bad habit of shooting the team out of the game some nights, taking shots he should have known he's not very good at years ago. The rookie-scale aspect is another factor which might work against him, depending on what ends up happening with other moves; as a restricted free agent after next season, Smart may end up too rich to keep, and Danny hates letting assets walk.

QUESTIONABLE TO RETURN


Kelly Olynyk
Speaking of restricted free agents, Olynyk now is one, and like Marcus, could very well end up priced outside of Boston's future as a result. His amazing performance in Game Seven in the Washington Wizards series certainly will help inflate the dollar amount of his next deal as suitors hope to see more off aggressive Kelly in the future, but Celtics fans know that that guy only seems to show up every eighth or tenth game. That doesn't mean other clubs will know or care - or that Olynyk will stay the maddeningly inconsistent player he can be at times. Given Boston's limited cap space and free agency aspirations, there's a chance Kelly could be with Boston next season, but it's dependent on a lot of things going right.


Tyler Zeller
Zeller is in a similar - if crappier - boat; while his deal - $8 million - would be a handy tool to make a deal with one of Boston's bargain-basement contracts match salary with the kind of star the Celts are looking for, the league has largely moved away from the things Tyler does well. He's an old-school, back-to-the-basket big who isn't even the best of that sort by a lot, can't score away from the hoop, and can't defend in space. This limits the number of teams who'd actually want to deal for him apart from making a trade legal, though he does have minimal situational utility on a roster in the right situation.


Terry Rozier
Of the three on this section of the list, Terry probably has the best odds of returning if no major free agent is signed. That last bit may be crucial, though, because he's going to have to be moved one way or another if Boston is going to sign any player with more than six years experience. But Rozier has shown heaps of promise this season, and could end up being a player looked upon as a steal given he was selected outside of the lottery (even though, at the time the consensus was that R.J. Hunter and he would have made more sense selected in reverse order); potential free agents may want to ask themselves if a small discount for one season might not be wise if it allows them to retain enough depth to maximize their value to their new team.


Jordan Mickey, Demetrius Jackson, James Young
These three are listed together simply because there's not too much to talk about. All have shown some promise at moments this season, Jackson more so in the NBA D-League, and both Mickey and Young has contributed a handful of meaningful minutes with the parent club. None of them have shown enough to warrant a second thought should space be needed, but if things break their way, don't be surprised to see one or several back in uniform next year.


Jonas Jerebko
The Swedish Larry Bird might just come back next year, but capable, flexible wings are in demand, and unless Jonas wants to stay badly enough to take a significant discount via the Mid-Level Exception, which Boston could offer Jerebko at a little under $8.5 million a year for up to four years. This is probably several million less than Jonas could get on the open market, but it's questionable whether he'd also get the years he might from a team that knows his game well.


Gerald Green
Like a lot of players on this roster, Green may have played his way into a larger paycheck than Boston might want to pony up, though in this case, we're probably talking double or triple the paltry $980,000 he earned with the Celtics this year. Gerald can still provide important rotation minutes if there's space on the roster, but cap concerns might not make that an option for him.

ALMOST CERTAINLY GONE


Amir Johnson
Much like the heading he finds himself in, Amir's ankles are on their way out. He can still put in very solid nights on occasion, and can probably contribute as a key rotation player for a season or three more, especially if he improves his shooting beyond the arc. But his days as a starter as well behind him now, and given all the factors piled on top of Johnson's health going south in a hurry suggests the only chance Amir rejoins the Celts next season is on a vet minimum or Bi-Annual Exception (about $3.3 million).

So, there you have it. Not one member of the roster is an absolutely certainty to return, but the guys nearer the top of this list certainly have a lot better chances with a team likely to be among the most active in the offseason from top to bottom. If one of your favorites gets hit with the axe, take a little consolation in the fact that it's probably for a move worth making, as Danny has more than demonstrated his reluctance to make panic moves for the sake of looking busy. In just a few short weeks, the first pieces will begin to fall into place as the NBA Draft descends upon us on the 22nd of June. Until then, enjoy the afterglow of one of the better seasons in recent memory for the Celtics - and the promise of even better times to come.

For more stories about the offseason on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.




Photo via CSNNE.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 5/30/2017 02:19:00 PM Edit
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