Who will survive the Celtics' final roster cuts?
One week, folks. That's all we have left until meaningful NBA games finally tip off again for the Boston Celtics. The season is very close, so the C's coaching staff and management will be faced with a tough decision as they trim the final roster to 15 players.
With 16 guys with guaranteed contracts and a few others trying to leave their mark during the preseason, it is no surprise that cuts will have to be made:
Stevens: "We have 16 guaranteed (contracts) and you can only carry 15. In the next couple of days we'll have to (make a cut.)"— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 17, 2016
We already have an idea of which side most names will fall on that spectrum. Terry Rozier has proven his worth from his summer league take-over and his solid preseason play. Meanwhile, Ben Bentil is trending in the wrong direction after logging very few minutes in the preseason and failing to make a great impression with the time he did have on the court. The guys with non-guaranteed contacts seem to be on their way to Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws:
Caught up with Red Claws coach Scott Morrison, who said Damion Lee, Jalen Jones and Marcus Georges-Hunt are all likely to be Maine-bound.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) October 17, 2016
Once you take out the starters and the probable second unit (Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk), that leaves Tyler Zeller, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey, R.J. Hunter, and James Young. Which one of these players will get the boot?
Zeller is now the third highest paid player on the 2016-17 Celtics roster and will open the season as the backup center, so he's not going anywhere. Green was brought in this free agency for a reason and would've had to be brutally bad in camp to get cut in the coming days (he wasn't). As for Mickey, he may be the most promising rim protector that Danny Ainge possesses and therefore should have a spot on the roster.
That leaves three players: Young, Hunter, and Jackson. While many have assumed that it's a showdown between Young and Hunter for the 15th spot, I'm not convinced that Jackson is automatically in the clear. He may have received a guaranteed contract, but that was before Young and Hunter ignited a little bit of hope during the preseason.
Of those three athletes, the first I would give a spot to is James Young. The thing about him is that he is still, well, young. Despite being drafted a year before Hunter, Young is just 21-years-old. The 17th pick out of Kentucky has continuously added muscle and seems to have an improved jump shot, shooting 43% from three and 46% from the field this preseason. Both of those percentages are higher than Hunter's, which raises some red flags since shooting is suppose to be his specialty. I know it's just the preseason, but it may be the best indicator we have.
So, I think that it really comes down to Hunter and Jackson- which still isn't too difficult in my mind. Jackson is a very solid ball handler with a strong passing ability (something that is surely a team requirement to wear #9):
Demetrius Jackson has just 1 turnover in 40 preseason minutes. Impressive given his pace and daring passes.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) October 18, 2016
On top of his efficiency with the ball, Jackson's shot has shown promise as well-- the speedy guard has shot better than Hunter throughout the preseason (despite a smaller sample size).
My initial opinion was that the Celtics would keep Hunter since they could use the shooting option. But then I realized that he has only been decent and inconsistent at the one thing he is supposed to be good at- shooting threes. For that reason, R.J. Hunter would be the odd man out for me.
What's your take on who will make the final cut? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
Follow Erik on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by Matt Stone