As we sit back and wait for months for the NBA Finals to begin…ok, an exaggeration of course. But we can all admit the week-long gap between the end of the Conference Finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals is ridiculous. As always, we can thank the television networks for that.
In any event, it’s time to put a cap on the Boston Celtics season. The Celts lost to the Cavs in 5. Exactly what I had predicted! But regardless, a sweep or five games is what pretty much everyone thought. So the Blowhard doesn’t deserve any extra props there, unfortunately.
Whimpering out of the playoffs certainly isn’t ideal. However, their performance in the series certainly does not diminish the great season they had or the organizational progress they showed.
What the series does reveal is that there is still a great deal of work to be done. No question there. The 4 losses were by an average of 26 points…and it really was worse than that. #1 seed in the East or not, the Celtics were just not in the same league as the Cavaliers.
So what do the Celtics do going forward? Getting the #1 overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history certainly was a nice start to the offseason. What else? Here’s one man’s look at the current players on the 15-man roster, along with some added commentary on other random players. Starting in alphabetical order, but maybe not finishing that way:
*Avery Bradley. I know what I would do with Avery…I’d shop him. I don’t hate the guy. But the fact remains that Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, Boston’s top 3 guards, are all free agents after next season. Though Smart is actually restricted. All are going to want sizable raises. Not to mention that they also have Terry Rozier. Jaylen Brown, though listed at small forward, stepped in for Bradley in several games when Avery was hurt. The elite draft prospects are all guards, etc…
We will get into IT more later, but Smart may command less money than Bradley. There are possible free agents coming. Bradley signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal after the 2013-14 season, which many thought was a steep overpayment at the time. Bradley got better, then pretty quickly became dissatisfied with the contract he signed. You think he will “settle” this time? Not likely. Bradley also always seems to have plenty of nagging injuries that affect his availability.
Something has to give. He’s a good player. I’m guessing we have seen his ceiling however. It just makes too much sense for him being the one to depart, based on all of the above. This offseason. Why let him walk after next year for nothing? So I am moving him…we shall see what Danny does though.
*Jaylen Brown. Easy here. Keep him and play him more than the 17 minutes a game than you gave him this season. 20 years old, the third overall pick from last year had his moments this year, including the playoffs. Sure, he looked like a rookie quite often, but what did you expect? Hopefully, Year #2 will be another step up for the kid, with added responsibilities. I have to say, he shot better than I expected this season. That was the biggest knock on him coming out of college. The physical tools appear to be there. Take the training wheels off next year, and live with any bumps in the road.
*Jae Crowder. See Bradley, Avery. Move him. Good player. We’ve likely seen his ceiling. Also see Brown, Jaylen. They both technically play the same position and Brown needs more minutes. There may be another impact small forward coming via free agency. And all that.
Problem is, Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract. He has 3 years left on a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal. Great by today’s NBA standards. I’d have no problem keeping him if he accepted a lesser role off the bench. I don’t see that happening though. Especially with Brown here and potential Free Agent Player X coming. That’s one too many small forwards. He also should have some good trade value, especially with the contract. So in the end, I try to move him too. I don’t know if Danny will though.
*Gerald Green. I’m not really sure why he was here in the first place. Sure he can shoot and get hot in a hurry. But what else does he do? And did you really need him? I would’ve given his 11.4 minutes a game to James Young to see what you could salvage there in Young’s third year. No need to bring Green back. Brad Stevens may feel compelled to give him minutes again.
*Al Horford. Welp, he’s going to be here for the next three years, whether we like it or not. Would love to see him down in the paint more offensively and also grabbing more rebounds. But he is what he is now. And Brad loves his big guys to fire up threes. So we have to deal with it.
That being said, he is a good piece to have. Played pretty well in the playoffs. Hopefully the C’s can find a true center next year and Big Al can play power forward. Though I guess all of these “small forward, shooting guard, power forward” designations don’t necessarily mean as much as they did in the past, what with the current NBA style of play. Either way, I’m ok with Al in my starting five next year.
*Demetrius Jackson. Who? Yup. 2nd round pick from last year, played in 5 games for a total of 17 minutes the entire year. 17 minutes. On the roster the whole year. Let that sink in for a bit. That being said, if you have to fill the end of roster next year with cheap “talent”, it can’t hurt to have another ballhandler in tow. Contract is non-guaranteed for next year, so your guess is as good as mine on what his situation will be. Not sure it really matters anyway.
Next: Wait, I can’t believe I wrote that many words about DEMETRIUS JACKSON!! Because of that, I don’t even know what’s next…
…so I made a prediction for the Boston Celtics first round series against the Chicago Bulls. I had the Celtics initially beating the Bulls 4 games to 2. Then I changed it because of Isaiah Thomas’ sisters untimely passing. Made it 4-3 C’s. Should have kept it at C’s in 6. Have I not learned from going against my first inclination…in most situations? Guess not. Oh well…
The Celtics woke up from dropping the first two at home, Game 2 being especially frustrating and actually, embarrassing. It helped that Rajon Rondo got hurt and did not play in the Bulls 4 defeats. I knew Rondo would step up his game for the Celtics and the playoffs in general. I was surprised to see what kind of difference he seemed to actually be making on the floor. Especially after his uneven year. I suppose you can never predict which version of Rondo he will bring to the floor. But it was a big loss for the Bulls.
Apparently, Jimmy Butler was going through some physical issues as well, despite being on the floor as much as he usually is. Every player most assuredly has something going on physically at this time of year. But when Rondo plays awesome and you lose him…and your best player in Butler is fighting something also…those are big detriments. Of course that goes without saying.
The Celtics definitely played better starting in Game 3. But they were helped by the situations noted above, no question. Food for thought heading into the second round matchup with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards? I’m not sure how much I can tell ya. Similar to the Bulls, I can’t say I have watched a ton of Wizard basketball, if any. I look and see that Washington and Boston split their season series 2-2. The Celtics won both games at home by single digits, while they got walloped both times in the nation’s capital. I can also tell you there has been some bad blood this year between the teams…for only God knows why. I remember Jae Crowder getting worked up over something and putting his finger on John Wall’s nose after one game. But per usual with basketball “fights”, I didn’t pay much attention to it. The NBA has a bunch of fraudulent tough guys that talk a lot of smack, then when it gets physical, flail around like they’ve never thrown a fist ever…or run away still yapping and flexing their muscles and all that. Not worth my time…
Anyway, as for the matchups, Avery Bradley will presumably guard Bradley Beal. AB gives up 3 inches to Beal, but maybe the “disrespect” Bradley felt in Round 1 will continue to spur him on. Marcus Smart gives up only an inch, so he should help here too.
But I don’t know how Isaiah is going to guard John Wall. (Well, maybe this “defensive” matchup will be a wash, with Wall having to cover IT). And I don’t know who is going to keep Marcin Gortat off the glass. Maybe even Markieff Morris, for that matter. Rebounding is still an issue for the Celts, and will be until/if they decide to fix that in the offseason. Otto Porter killed them in their first matchup, but I’m going to worry about the other 4 starters over him. Maybe that’s a mistake. Especially if Brad Stevens leaves Gerald Green in the starting lineup. Green would then likely guard Porter (Jae Crowder on Morris, Al Horford on Gortat). Not necessarily ideal for Green to be guarding…anyone.
I will give Stevens credit however. He made the change going to Green against Chicago, instead of Amir Johnson. I’ve been saying for quite some time now that I have no idea what Johnson brings to the table. Supposed to be a power forward but averages about four and a half rebounds a game. At least Green can score. But is this the right strategy for the next round? No idea.
I know that spot with Green will be rotated around with several players…primarily Smart I would say. So it’s not like Gerald will be playing 30 minutes. Unless he is on fire of course. Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko will be the other main “contributors” off the bench. But that’s ok, the Wizards bench doesn’t appear that strong…to me, anyway. But I already told you I haven’t watched them a lot, so what do I know?
Mid-season acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic seems to be the main guy to contend with off the Wizards’ bench. Who else, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre? Nah. Maybe if they let Brandon Jennings gun it up like he did early in his career, he can make a difference. But he shot 27% in 23 games with Washington this year after he was acquired. His shooting percentages have always been putrid, but this certainly takes the cake. Though he is shooting 55% in the playoffs…so again, what do I know?
That’s about all I have for analysis. And it’s not necessarily deep analysis anyway. But I had to say something. Sssssoooo…the result?
Washington in 6. It was nice that the C’s finally got over the hump and won a playoff round under Brad Stevens. Progress is still happening, slowly, but I believe surely. I just don’t see how they stop Wall and Beal for a whole series. Or keep Gortat from making a big difference on the boards every game as well. The Celtics will play hard. Isaiah will get his. But I think this is where it ends…
OK, so it’s only 4 games in. And most of the games have come against decent opposition. But still…it hasn’t exactly been pretty so far for the Boston Celtics. Tough start to the season for a team that had some had high expectations heading in. Well, from a lot of people anyway. I have the team pegged around .500 or so, maybe a little over. Conference doesn’t seem all that strong. Celtics have some players. They have a good coach. Blah, blah, blah. I figure if the roster remains the same, they should be a little better than last year. And really no more. Certainly not championship timber. Again, that is if the roster remains the same all the way through.
But therein lies the problem. The roster. The way I see it, the team has 15 players that seem to have something to add to any NBA team, to varying degrees of course. They may have even had 16 players, before waiving Perry Jones shortly before the season started to get to the 15 man roster limit. Yeah, that Jones note is of course irrelevant, but the point is this: The roster HAS to change. There are too many guys that are capable of contributing every night…but none of them are superstars or really even All-Stars. Every one of them has some sort of flaw, even if that “flaw” may be that they are too young and haven’t hit their stride yet…that is, IF they do.
The bottom line is that having this many capable guys affects the rotation on a daily basis. Brad Stevens has a few guys that he can guarantee minutes too…Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, I suppose Avery Bradley. But the rest he says “have to earn it”. Uh oh. Sounds like the coach of the 2006-2007 C’s…Doc Rivers. This is when he had a ton of young guys like Gerald Green, Bassy Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Tony Allen, Big Al Jefferson, etc. And he had trouble finding a consistent rotation then too. Played a guy like Green 30 minutes one night and 5 the next. “Had to earn it”, he said. That team won 24 games. And Doc had a superstar in Paul Pierce, albeit for only about a half a season due to injury.
2006-7 was Doc’s third year and he was trending downward. This is Stevens’ third year. He of course is trending upward, but how much further can he go with this group? I like Brad. I didn’t mind Doc, though I didn’t love him. Thought he was overrated. Didn’t win here until he had 3 Hall of Fame players and a 4th guy that was an All-Star. Then went to a Clippers team that had a bunch of studs and he is winning now too. But didn’t win much otherwise. He smiled and joked around and was friendly with the local writers, so it always seemed like this helped his rep more than it should have. In any event, I feel strongly that the coach is extremely overrated in the NBA…at least in this era. Doc didn’t win big until he had the players. Stevens is probably on that course too. Greg Popovich may be a great coach. But he certainly has had the players over the years. Guys like Erik Spoelstra and Dave Blatt…are they good coaches? Or did they win because they had/have LeBron James? My guess is the latter…and the list is endless.
Ultimately, GM Danny Ainge has to pull the trigger. I know, Captain Obvious here. But with all the players and upcoming draft picks, it’s long overdue. I thought it would have happened by now. Obviously no old buddies like Kevin McHale are around now to do Danny a favor by trading the C’s the 2015 version of Kevin Garnett. But shouldn’t there be a deal or two out there somewhere? These players have all said the right things from the start of camp as they knew the plan and even as they watch their minutes fluctuate already. But does that last if they start losing? Doesn’t usually in that scenario.
At the very least, Stevens needs to settle on his 8 guys or so and move forward with them instead of changing the lineup every other game. This may piss a select few off, but he can’t keep playing 11-13 guys every night. It never works. I admit, I haven’t watched every second of the first 4 games, but I have watched a great deal. Turnovers. Missed layups. Lack of rebounding. Awful shooting percentages (please Brad, do not encourage guys like Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson to shoot threes anymore…they just don’t belong out there beyond the arc). Etc. Guys sitting for long stretches and getting out of the flow of the game would seemingly effect some of the above, no?
What would I do until Danny can move some bodies? I knew you would ask! Happy to oblige. Let’s work backward:
I would lop 4 players off immediately by shipping them up to Maine and having them play 35-40 minutes a game up there, instead of 3 minutes every other game in Boston. Practice regularly. Work on fundamentals. All that. These are James Young, Jordan Mickey, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter. I have no idea if any of these guys will ultimately be any good. But I see some sort of talent in each of them. See if they can play some games against at least fringe NBA competition (hopefully that is what the Development League has…at least guys better than the average college opponent) and develop into something. Young and Mickey are already there. The other two should be too. Rozier looks just as out of control as I what I remember from him at Louisville. In the one game Hunter has played, it seems as if he just sits on the wing outside the three-point line and just stands there as the other 4 players move the ball around. Then he may get lucky and touch the rock every once in a while too, but not often. This can’t be ideal. These being young guys, they seemingly wouldn’t complain about being up there for a bit.
That leaves 11. Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller are 10-11. I’m not even sure why they re-signed Jonas…or even why he would want to come back with all the bodies in tow here. But he does nothing for me. If you wanted to give him 5 minutes a night for some sort of energy, well, ok. Zeller seems like a pretty decent backup center to me. But I’m not losing sleep if he is not playing. Kelly Olynyk is your 9th man. I personally have no use for Brad Lohaus 2.0. 7-footer that can’t play inside. Not a rebounder. Not a three-point shooter, though Brad lets him fire away too. Not a defensive guy. Not sure what exactly he does well. But he’s better than Jerebko and Zeller. And until there are some moves to make room for any of the 12th-15th guys to maybe show what they can do here, 9th man seems to be about right for Kelly.
The remaining 8 should be getting all the run basically. I would start Sullinger and Johnson at center and power forward (or vice versa) and have them stay within 10 feet (15 feet max) of the basket at all times. Yes, they are both listed at 6’9″ and will be undersized at those positions. But, as fat as Sully still looks, they are likely your best rebounders, so just deal with it. Evan Turner starts at small forward. The guy was arguably your best all around player last year and now you drop him down the depth chart this year and for what? Makes no sense. Bradley at shooting guard and Smart as point guard round out the starters. I’ve never been a Bradley guy, but what other choice do you have? Smart needs to play 35 minutes a game or so at the point as they need to find out if he is a (the?) cornerstone to build on. Or to ideally increase his trade value, if that’s what you want…
Isaiah is probably your best player, but he remains at the 6th man spot. Just seems like the best spot for him. David Lee and Jae Crowder are your 7-8 guys. Lee got buried last year in Golden State last year and I am not exactly sure why. He’s certainly on the back nine, but you could do worse on this team. Johnson and Thomas seem to have worked well together through the first 4 games, so if you wanted to swap Lee and Johnson, I suppose it wouldn’t matter. 6’9″ vet or 6’9″ vet that can both rebound a little…take your pick. The C’s seem to love Crowder…I don’t entirely get it. But he seems to be useful. Think he is more of a bench guy as well. But inexplicably got some decent dough in the offseason, so he will play a ton. Maybe it’s partially to justify the return for Rajon Rondo…who knows?
So that is that, for whatever that is worth. The team should continue to improve on their finish last season and generally should be more interesting to watch than in recent years. There is some promise. But the work is far from done…