Celtics Life writers grade Ainge's summer and predict the upcoming season on ESPN
ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg was kind enough to invite Celtics Life to contribute to it's Summer Forecast series. Here are Forsberg's and Celtics Life's columnists' predictions to some pressing questions:
1) On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, how would you rate the Celtics' offseason?
This armchair general manager's assessment? If we were on Star Search we'd probably go 3 ½ stars. Depending on the moves made to trim down to the 15-man roster, Boston has potential to nudge to a 4-star rating before the season tips.
But, ultimately, only time can tell us just how good Boston did this offseason. Time will tell us how the Celtics did at Nos. 6 and 17 in the draft (remember, everyone loves their rookies this time of year). Time will tell us if it was worth rolling the dice on Turner. Time will tell if being patient this year will pay dividends in the future.
But Boston sure seemed to get as much as possible out of what little it had. It parlayed a $10.3 million trade exception from last summer's Brooklyn deal into Zeller, Thornton (and his expiring deal) and a future first-round pick). Boston got a decent-sized trade exception and a potential second-round pick for helping Humphries land in Washington.
What Boston makes of those new assets will help determine just how good the Summer of 14 truly was.
4 stars. Considering the hand the Celtics were dealt (landing sixth in the lottery), I think Ainge has put together a very solid offseason. Expecting to bounce back into contention after just one year isn't reasonable, and Ainge made the smart decision to be patient, rather than make a major deal just for the sake of doing so. Boston looks to be in great shape to pull off something big next summer, and I think Ainge deserves some credit for not forcing the wrong move when the right one just wasn't out there.
4 stars. I give the Celtics’ offseason 4 stars; pretty good for a team I’m predicting 32 wins for [Editor's note: Hey, spoiler alert, that's Monday's forecast]. For starters, I though Ainge killed the draft. Smart is going to be a good player right away and should have a bright future. Young is a project, but a very intriguing one that can clearly shoot the ball. The main reason Ainge gets 4 stars is because he didn’t screw anything up. In an age where GMs tend to take what they can get and sign players to lengthy/pricey contracts that they regret before the All-Star break, Ainge showed us his patience. I’m looking at you, Josh Smith. At the same time, Ainge didn’t get 5 stars because he was unable to land a legit talent to pair with Rondo. While everyone is waiting for a 2007-style offseason, the right move is to deal Rondo and go all in on the youth movement. At this point, it’s all about building for 2015 and beyond.
2) Predicting the final regular-season record. .
Consider us among the more optimistic. We have Boston pegged to go 30-52, a modest five-game improvement. Some of you are scanning next season's projected roster and wondering where those additional wins are coming from, especially in an Eastern Conference that appears to have beefed up a bit.
The Celtics played in a staggering 49 games that were within five points in the final five minutes last season. That was tied for the fourth most in the league and Boston was a cringeworthy 15-34 in those games, its .306 winning percentage in those tight games the second worst mark in the league (behind only Milwaukee at .250).
The guess here is that, in Brad Stevens' second year on the bench, the Celtics will find a way to win a few more of those close games that slipped away. We don't expect a huge improvement, it's still a young roster thin on players that have shown an ability to thrive in clutch situations. But younger players will learn from last season.
The league average in those close games was nearly a .500 winning percentage. If Boston were to climb towards that, it'd be a nine-game improvement. We're not expecting that, but the Celtics will find a way to win more of the type of games that slipped away last season and that will help them take a small step forward in the win column.
Thirty wins won't be much to get excited about, but it would still be progress.
25-57. Yes, I'm predicting Boston will finish with exactly the same record as one year ago. The C's may be slightly more talented than last season with the additions of Smart and Evan Turner, a full season of Rondo, and more mature and experienced versions of Sullinger and Olynyk. But what they no longer have is a first-year head coach and a group of guys looking to prove themselves after a franchise-altering blockbuster trade. I don't expect a repeat of the optimistic 10-12 start from last season.
25-57. The Celtics will be entering the 2014-15 season with a combination of new and veteran talent, high level contributors entering contract seasons, and for the first time in a long time, a healthy roster. While these factors could see Boston getting off to a hot start, it won't last. The East has gotten tougher through free agency and Boston's lack of "fireworks" in the offseason will likely keep them in the basement of the conference. To paraphrase Kevin Garnett, every game will be a bar fight -- I just don’t see the Celtics winning more than 25 of them.
3) How will Boston's season end?
After pegging Boston to shuffle up towards 30 wins, I voted in the "competitive but miss playoffs" category. The real question here is whether Boston will be closer to those teams that just miss the playoffs in the East, or closer to the basement.
In ESPN's national summer forecast, our experts predicted a pretty sizable dip at the bottom of the East standings, and it starts with Boston. The Celtics finished 12th in the voting at 28 projected wins, but that's five games behind Detroit at No. 11. The poll suggests that Boston, Orlando, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia will remain huddled at the bottom of the East standings.
You can make the case then that, even at 12th in the East, Boston would be part of Tankville. But the guess here is that Boston wins enough games to hover closer to those that fade from playoff contention late than the surefire high lottery teams.
Tankville. Barring any surprising mega-deals, everything the Celtics have done so far this offseason points towards going for a major overhaul next summer. With that in mind, it only makes sense to yet again sink towards the bottom of the conference standings. One thing is for sure though, it won't be a Sixer-esque tank job.
Tankville. It won’t be for lack of trying, but the 2014-15 Celtics will finish in the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They’ve got a roster built to compete, but not to win. Without signing another top-tier free agent to pair with Rondo, the Celtics lack the firepower to make a run for the playoffs. If Ainge finds a home for Brandon Bass, Rondo, and Jeff Green the Celtics will be re-signing their lease in Tankville. If not, they’ll probably still finish out of playoff contention.
Competitive. Although the East is still not as competitive as the West, the conference absolutely improved from where it was last season. The Celtics will be able to compete on a nightly basis, but 32 wins will not land them a playoff spot. Failing to land a star (like Kevin Love) means Ainge has to go all in on the 2015 offseason –- with many preparatory moves along the way in 2014-15. Prepare for another lottery appearance.
Agree with Chris, Mark, Padraic, and Julian? Disagree with them vehemently? Leave your answers to the 3 questions in the comments section.