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Celtics Trade Deadline Review…

…a little late, but…so be it…

So the NBA trade deadline came and went last week with Boston Celtic GM “Trader Danny” Ainge making ZERO moves.  I was kind of shocked when I read it, but apparently, this is the fifth consecutive deadline that Ainge has not made a deal.  Perhaps it’s time to retire the “Trader Danny” nickname?

The Celtics have a true core of five players that really carry the load:  Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart (yes, he is a key piece of the team…live with it).  If you wanted to combine Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter into a sixth, then go right ahead.  Though not ideal, those two should not kill you playing the “5”.

But that’s all folks.  You can shove as much Grant Williams down my throat as you want.  But although I appreciate the hustle and drive he shows out there, I have no interest in seeing this guy on the court when the playoffs arrive.

Speaking of “shoving someone down our throat”, Head Coach Brad Stevens has been trying to do this with Semi Ojeleye for almost three years running now.  Maybe in the right situation, “Shemi” may actually be able to play in the NBA?  I don’t know.  But I do know that this dude is atrocious and does absolutely nothing for me.  And please spare me with “he guards Giannis well, so he should play a lot against Milwaukee if they end up playing them” bit.  Please.  I think Ojeleye’s defense against Giannis is a little overstated.  But that is me.  Furthermore, if he can actually guard Giannis, why can he not guard anyone else in the league?  I think the 6 fouls he has per game is the most valuable thing about him.  Moving on…

Robert Williams?  I would have LOVED to have seen more of him this season to see what his raw ability could have added to the team.  But a hip injury wiped that out.  He is supposedly due back in March.  Can he add value coming off the bench for a few minutes a game?  Perhaps.  But can he be counted on?  Nope.

Romeo Langford?  Not this year anyway.  The 14th pick overall has missed a great deal of the season with a variety of injuries.  Now seemingly past all that, Langford had kind of a breakout game last Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.  you know, the “bottom of the conference” Hawks that is.  Then Romeo turned that progress into an ugly 6 minute stint against the much better Oklahoma City Thunder 2 days later.  I am not sure if the kid can play in the NBA over the long haul as of yet.  But he certainly isn’t ready now.

We could keep going through the rest of the roster, but I will spare you.  No one else can be trusted.  And since I spared you by not going through the rest of the names on the roster individually, please spare me any Tacko Fall comments as well.  Thank you in advance.

The point is, the team could use some help off the bench.  A veteran or two.  A big man to share the load with Theis and Kanter…or even overtake them in the rotation.  Some help anyway.

And…nothing.  So what does that mean?

I suppose big men such as Clint Capela and Andre Drummond were not real options because they don’t shoot three pointers and therefore were not a fit for Stevens’ system.  Neither does Kanter…though maybe that’s why, in his case, despite him being a rebounding machine, he plays less than 20 minutes a game here.

But what about other wings and ball handlers?  There weren’t any available?  Are you really satisfied with Brad Wanamaker Danny?  I don’t see it.

Salary cap issues?  Perhaps.  But those things have a way of working themselves out if a deal needs to get done.  And I am not talking about “throwing” a core player in a deal to make the numbers work.

Draft pick hesitation?  The picks the Celtics have coming up are almost worthless now.  Mid to late first rounders.  Not worthless, that is hyperbole.  But it’s not like having a pick in the top three.  I think you get my point.

Not wanting to give up on younger players?  I mean, Langford MAY be a player someday.  Not guaranteed.  Robert Williams MAY be worth holding on to.  But not necessarily.  Grant Williams MAY be a decent bench player in this league going forward.  Carsen Edwards?  Disappointment.  I thought he would be able to come off the bench and hit some buckets.  Hasn’t happened this year.  Tremont Waters has some skill, but his height will always haunt him.  Besides, if he had that much promise, wouldn’t he have a real roster spot now, instead of a two-way deal?

You can have the whole lot of them, in my opinion.  Guys of that ilk will always be available.

Side note:  I guess one writer said the C’s may be hesitant to give up on players like Vincent Poirier because he has “flashed at times this season”.  Poirier has played 108 minutes the whole year, as of this writing.  How much “flashing” can that provide??!

In any event, so why did Danny not make a deal?

Glad you asked!

I believe some of the chatter that I’ve heard on talk radio this week.  I think Ainge thinks that this team is not good enough to win a championship and may be more than one or two “pieces” away.  That the West is loaded and that the East seems to be all Milwaukee.  I don’t believe that Danny wants to make deals for this year when he believes holding on to “assets” for the future is better for the team.

That being said, what did Ainge really have at his disposal to give up?  The younger bench guys ain’t getting him anything great.  The future draft picks either.  Theis and/or Kanter?  Maybe as a piece.  But not as a major part of any deal.

That means he would have been dipping into one of the five “core” players.  And what would be the sense of that when they are trying to add to that core and not take away from it?

One initial thought I had was…gasp…is there a chance Gordon Hayward may be available?  He has a huge player option next year.  Which means he will opt out of it.  Because that’s what professional athletes do.  Hayward has been pretty good when he’s been on the floor this season.  But he has missed some time.  And he has been a little snakebitten here over the years with injury.  Jaylen Brown’s cap hit goes from 6.5 mil to almost 24 mil next season.  Jayson Tatum still needs to get paid.

Could Gordo become a casualty, either at the deadline this season, or next summer?  Despite the obvious ties to Brad?  Well, the deadline has passed.  But was that possibly being bandied about as a potential move before the deadline?  And may be on the table over the summer?

Remember also that Hayward was the subject of some teammates’ dissatisfaction last season when Brad forced minutes on him when he wasn’t quite ready in his return from his major injury the season before.  Taking away minutes from the likes of Brown and Tatum, who felt like they earned them with their long playoff run from the previous season.

Maybe Langford grows into that “other guy” down the road.  Some of the other kids/picks develop.  Tatum gets his dough.  And he, Brown and Kemba are the three top dogs.

Hmmmmmmmm…

I didn’t think it was a real option for this season.  But a real option over the summer?  And that perhaps is when Ainge is ready to make his “next big move”, to take the step to legitimate championship contender?

Hard to say.  But can a team really have four max contracts…or close to max contracts?

Then I see something recently where the team wants Gordo still for the long haul.

So who knows what Danny is thinking?

If I am “Trader Danny” though, I try to make a deal for a couple of veteran bench guys last week.  You already have four scorers.  You just can’t play them 48 minutes a game in the playoffs.  And you sure as hell cannot trust most of the other guys on the roster other than Smart.  As long as he isn’t shooting a ton himself, that is.  Adding some reliable veterans to fill up the main bench minutes along with Theis and Kanter would have satisfied me at least.  And Danny didn’t get it done.

I’m still not sure that adding the vet depth pieces would make them a legit contender this season.  But it would have certainly put them in a better place.

Now?

A trip to the Eastern Conference may be the best Celtics fans can hope for.

What Now?

Looks like the “fireworks” had already happened, well before the NBA draft last night.  The Boston Celtics made all their draft picks, so no wild trades occurred.  Well, they kind of made all of their draft picks.  They moved around a bit.  No big whoop…they still took 4 players.

Doesn’t mean “Trader Danny” won’t pull something a little more major off in the coming days, but it doesn’t guarantee he will either.

So what are we looking at?  Who the hell knows really?

The big news really happened over the last several days.  Kyrie Irving opted out of his contract, which we knew was coming.  Al Horford then opted out of his contract…which we didn’t necessarily see coming.  I mean, who is passing up 30 mil plus when they are a 33-year-old “big man” who had to be managed because of a bad knee (or two?).  Welp, apparently Big Al is.

There were rumors the C’s were trying to turn that 1 year, 30 mil deal for Al into something along the lines of 3 for, I don’t know, 15-20 per.  But apparently, it will turn out some other team will give him 4 years for 25ish per.  Seems surprising.  But I guess that’s what is happening.

Marcus Morris is also an unrestricted free agent, as are the 2 “G-League” guys if that matters.  Not to mention that there are 4 restricted free agents on the roster, led by backup point guard Terry Rozier.  If they all leave, that leaves 12 guys on the current roster, if you include the 4 draft picks from last evening.  Which I am not sure I want to be doing now.  But I will for the purposes of this exercise.

What is “this exercise”?  Well, since I have no idea who Danny Ainge may be targeting in free agency when that opens up within a couple of weeks, nor do I know who he may go after in trades, I think the best thing we can do here is take the 17 bodies from last years’ roster and the 4 draft picks and talk about what we think the plan is with each.  Plus perhaps what I would do, for whatever that’s worth.

I mean, Wyc Grousbeck, the “Lead Owner” of the Boston Celtics, said a couple of weeks ago on local talk radio something like “we are going to look at all the players on the roster and see who stays and who goes…”

So let’s do that right now…since…I’m just as smart as Wyc, right?  RIGHT??!!

Haha…let’s move on, starting with the bottom of the roster.  Why?  Because of the off chance someone will read about them.  If we start with the stars, will anyone read until the end?  Wait, is anyone reading anyway?

Nevermind…

Draft picks–Romeo Langford (#14), Grant Williams (#22), Carsen Edwards (#33), Tremont Waters (#51)–A shooting guard that shot a mere 27% from three-point land (going to a team that shoots too many threes already); a “small” power forward whose selection elicited a notable ‘wow’ type of response from one of the analysts (that probably wasn’t meant to be picked up by the microphones); a big-time scorer, but one that is undersized and a “small” point guard (“small” was emphasized three times right after the pick).  Consider me underwhelmed.

PJ Dozier/R.J. Hunter (Unrestricted Free Agents)– Here are your two G-League free agents.  Do you care?  Probably not.  I really don’t.  But you all should know that Hunter averaged 17 points a game for the Celtics last year.  Betcha didn’t know that!  Ok, he played one game that didn’t mean anything and scored that 17.  But still, “PPG” says “17.0” on the stat sheet.  No one can ever take that away from him.  So there’s that.

Jonathan Gibson (Restricted Free Agent)–This dude will be 32 in November.  And has played 21 career games in the NBA.  17 for the Dallas Mavericks in 2016-17 and 4 for the C’s in 2017-18.  Signed again with the Celts in mid-April 2019 and was on the roster for the playoffs, but didn’t play.  All of that is so you know who this guy is.  That being said, I’ve seen some of his garbage time minutes.  This cat can really shoot!  Could do worse for a 15th man.  But I’d be surprised to see him back…until April anyway.

Robert Williams–Yup, the Celtics first-round draft pick from last year was actually the 14th man on the roster and a regular inactive when everyone was healthy last season.  Seemed odd, when he had at least one skill (shot blocking) that would have been useful in certain game situations, whereas some other players that suited up seemingly had none.  Whatever.  Unless he gets traded this summer, hopefully, there will be some minutes available for him in 2019-20.  I’d like to see more.

Brad Wanamaker (Restricted Free Agent)–A third point guard is nice.  And the Cs will have one next year.  Will it be Brad?  I don’t know.  Maybe Shane Larkin will come back.  Or the second rounder from above.  Does it matter?

Guerschon Yabusele–The Dancing Bear!!  The 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Yabu has given the Cs 74 games at 6.6 minutes per game for 2.3 points per game in 2 years.  Seems solid for that draft slot…sigh…  Now he’s on the books for over 3 million next year, does he somehow earn more minutes this season?  Let’s hope not.  And also hope Danny can include his salary in a trade for something more useful.

Semi Ojeleye–I’ve never understood the “Shemi” infatuation.  Coach Brad Stevens always seems to shoehorn him in every night.  “Cuz he always guards Giannis well”, they will say.  Ok.  But what about everyone else?  I do see his minutes per game went down from 16 his rookie year to 11 in his second.  Didn’t realize that.  Only on the books for 1.6 next year, so I imagine he will be on the squad.  Let’s just hope his minutes don’t spike into the 20s based on the lack of other bodies available.

Daniel Theis (Restricted Free Agent)–I love this guy.  Is it rational?  Probably not.  He plays less than 15 minutes per game.  And probably is a 20 minute per guy max.  And shoots more threes than I like (although that’s what this team does…and he did actually hit 39% on them last year, surprisingly enough).  But he’s always flying around, rebounds well (which you know I love, or maybe you don’t know…but I love rebounders) and there is just something about him.  Hard to say what will happen to him.  He may get an offer sheet that the Celtics don’t match.  His rights may have to get renounced because the Cs go after a bigger fish.  No idea.  Would love to see him back, I think that goes without saying.

Aron Baynes–As opposed to Theis, I cannot stand this guy.  Is THIS rational?  Probably not.  Why do I hate him?  Loves to rebound with one arm for one.  Seems silly…along with that stupid hairdo.  He opted in last week, but now reports are they have shipped him to Phoenix.  For his well over 5 million dollar salary let’s hope that is accurate.  Along with many other reasons.  Williams should be able to do what he does for a fraction of the cost.  I just never understood this infatuation either.

Terry Rozier (Restricted Free Agent)–Since the starter at point guard appears to be gone (more on that later of course), many people think that the team should re-sign “Scary Terry” to a significant deal.  I am not sure I am one of those people.  Actually, I am not.  This guy is a borderline Hall of Famer, just ask him.  Rozier is a decent player, but nothing more.  I will ALWAYS maintain that.  Sure he has played well in some starts.  But he has also been putrid in some starts.  Then he goes off on the team after last season ended.  I say he should take his attitude elsewhere.  Let some other team overpay for this headache.  Even if that leaves the Celtics without their top 2 point guards next year.

Marcus Morris (Unrestricted Free Agent)–I give this guy a lot of credit.  He’s a notorious hothead.  With the complete dysfunction in the Celtics locker room last year, one would figure he would be right in the middle of it.  Amazingly enough, we rarely heard a peep from him.  Seems surprising.  And, for good measure, he may have been their best player in the first half of the season.  Second half…not so much.  I’d take him back actually.  But not at the dollars he will likely command.  I’m not talking a max contract guy, mind you.  But he will want to be paid.  I wouldn’t do that here.

Gordon Hayward–Time to sh&t or get off the pot Gordo.  In all fairness, yeah, a season lost to a gruesome injury then another season pretty much trying to work his way back.  Much to the chagrin of it would seem to all of his teammates, who did not like Coach Brad taking their minutes and force-feeding them to Hayward to try and get him back on course.  Nah, no selfishness there (Terry?).  In any event, he ain’t going anywhere, so let’s hope the second year back from that injury does the trick.

Marcus Smart–I like this guy.  His overall game anyway.  His defense.  His hustle.  He seems to care.  Do I love him at 13 million per?  Not particularly.  But that’s the price these days I guess.  He really, really, REALLY needs to stop shooting as much as he does.  Though sometimes those shots do drop in key moments.  Unless his salary needs to be included in a trade, it would seem he is here for the long haul.  That’s not entirely a bad thing.  But let’s hope he isn’t one of the top players on the roster come the onset of next season.

Al Horford (Unrestricted Free Agent)–As referenced earlier, really surprised that Al is going to be gone.  He was never a max contract player, though the Cs gave him one.  That being said, we think this helped attract players during the teams latest incarnation.  A very good, solid, if unspectacular, player and we should appreciate his contributions to the team over his tenure here.  That also being said, if those numbers on proposed contracts are accurate, let’s also make sure we wish him well at his next stop.

Jaylen Brown–Recent reports are out and are trying to make Brown out to be one of the huge problems in the Celtic locker room.  It’s entirely possible, as we know there was a problem between the young guys and the veterans.  Wouldn’t shock me anyway.  Brown is another one of the kids that thinks he’s better than he is.  But he’s way better than Rozier.  And he’s worth keeping around to see if he can take that next step while presumably getting more than 30 minutes per game.  The skills appear to be there.  He will be entering his 4th NBA season.  Let’s see if that huge jump comes next season.

Jayson Tatum–Seemed to me that Tatum didn’t make much of a step up this year for whatever reason.  But then I looked at his numbers and they were up all across the board…other than shooting percentage.  Must have been the ho-hum season of the team that made me think that there was no growth.  Tatum will be entering his 3rd NBA season and it seems at this point the best move is to build around him and Brown and maybe another third young guy…if they can actually attract one.  Ainge may alter that plan with some moves come July.  But that’s the way I’m leaning for sure.

Kyrie Irving (Unrestricted Free Agent)–I don’t even feel like talking about this guy.  A great, great, great player.  But undeniably not a leader.  It is assumed he is leaving, possibly (probably?) to Brooklyn, but don’t rule out a number of other teams.  There have even been whispers of him coming back to Boston.  I don’t believe that, but with this dude, you simply never know.  The Celtics may not be a better team on paper with him gone.  But could they be a better team on the court?  Perhaps.  People like to point to the previous season when Irving (and Hayward) were out and the team came within a hair of the NBA Finals.  I can’t say I expect that to happen next season while being led by Tatum and Brown.  But I can say I have no personal interest in bringing Kyrie back…under any circumstances.  That’s too bad because he’s a fantastic player.

This was a long one.  But hell, we haven’t written in a while so there was a lot to say.  My apologies.  In any event, long way to go to shape the 2019-2020 Boston Celtics.  This summer should be an interesting one.

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