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Your Guess…

…is as good as mine.

After a disappointing season, to put it mildly, the Boston Celtics get ready to play the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs later today.

So what are they going to bring to the table?

No idea…just as we have been saying ALL SEASON LONG.

We know they won’t be bringing Marcus Smart to the table.  Smart tore his oblique toward the end of the regular season, so it looks like there is no chance he will be playing in this series.

Is that a good thing?

On one hand, yes, because it shortens the rotation even more.  Coach Brad Stevens won’t feel like he has to give minutes to like 12 guys.  And reduce playing time for a guy like Jaylen Brown, who performed well in last years’ playoffs.

That should leave them with 8 players to give minutes to, though Brad will likely continue to give Semi Ojeleye 5-10 minutes a game for no apparent reason.  I’d love Daniel Theis to get some minutes…something about that guy I love.  But he would seem be the 9th man because they seem to love Aaron Baynes and he will be playing.  Of course, Baynes missed 31 games this year, so let’s not rule out him getting hurt.  But it’s also “just” Danny Theis, a clear role player off the bench, so he’s not going to upset any rotation even if he gets in there for a few.

One of those guys getting more minutes would be Gordon Hayward.  Who seemed to start finding more of his game in the (very) late season, coincidentally when he got…more minutes.

Was that a mirage?  Or was he finally showing real glimpses of the player he once was?  Sample size may be too small to measure.  BUT, it’s worth finding out more on.

Then again though, losing Smart may not be a great thing.  He’s one of the few guys that showed fire every day during the regular season.  Sure, he still can’t shoot and takes waaaaaaaay too many shots.  BUT, there is something about him that makes me feel like we need him on the floor.

Intangibles…blah, blah, blah…

But do “intangibles” actually mean anything to this particular team?  Maybe not.  So whatever…

Anyway, enough about Smart.  Let’s talk about the series.

The Pacers haven’t had Victor Oladipo for about the last half of the year.  And that sure as hell is a good thing…for the Celtics.

The Celts were 3-1 against the Pacers this season…and really should have been 4-0.  Oladipo ruined that loss with a three pointer with a few seconds left.  Two of the Celtic wins were blowouts.

Now, per usual, I am not going to tell you that I watched a whole ton of Indiana Pacers basketball this season.  But I will tell you that, despite finishing a mere game behind the Celtics in the standings, I am not all that impressed with their roster…the names or the numbers…or the stats.

But what do I know?

Just by knowing (“thinking” what I know?) about what the Celtics have, I feel like the Cs should cruise through this series.  But they won’t.  Cuz they haven’t cruised through ANYTHING this year.

And that’s why this series is so hard to pick.

The Boston Celtics would not surprise me if they all of a sudden flipped a switch, found the proper rotations, started playing together…and all that…and then went on to a championship.  They really wouldn’t.

On the flip side, it would not shock the hell out of me if they lost in the first round.

What do I want?  Well, a championship of course.  BUT, part of me is thinking “this team was pretty unlikeable this season, led by Kyrie Irving.  Why do I want to start rooting for them now?”

Sad, but true.

Also, part of me wouldn’t mind them losing early so I don’t have to invest any time in them.

On top of all THAT, part of me wants them to lose early so that Kyrie can take his act out of town.  I mean, he may anyway.  But an early round loss may make it easier.  Kyrie is a great, great, great player.  But the thought of listening to him for the five or whatever years his extension will be for kind of makes my stomach churn a little.  Ok, a lot.

And I don’t believe that Anthony Davis is coming here to pair with Kyrie and Gordo and whoever else to lead the Celts to the Promised Land.

Well, AD may come here…for a year anyway.  Wouldn’t surprise me if Danny Ainge made the trade with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer regardless of what Davis (and his Dad) say publicly (or privately).  Ainge will most assuredly have the stones to think he can talk AD into staying here after next year.  And he may be able to pull it off.

But I still think Davis goes to the Lakers in the summer of 2020.

I guess who knows though.  The players in this league change their mind when the wind blows.  Hell, maybe Irving does re-sign and Kevin Durant comes over as well.

WHAT??!!

Well, we’ve all heard the rumors now that KD “doesn’t feel appreciated in Golden State” and “isn’t getting the credit he deserves” and is going somewhere else after the year.  New York with Kyrie or wherever.

Hey Kev, what did you think would happen when you joined the Warriors?  Those guys were already winners without you.  So they didn’t even NEED you.  The table was already set.  You think winning two more with them would make you that much more important?  Sorry, no…

So enough about the offseason.  We will cross that bridge when we get there.

I don’t really have any other insight into the series though.  You came here to hear about X’s and O’s?  And specific Pacer players?  Hmmmmmm, ok…in any event, how could anyone pretend that they have any insight, what with the completely inconsistent way the Celtics played the entire year?

So it’s prediction time.  And again, it could be anything.

But I will say…Celtics in six.  Because it SHOULD go no longer than that…

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Celtics Breakup Party, Part 3

Moving on…not much more left to cover I don’t think.  Well, as I said, there is one big one left:

*And it’s Tyler Zeller!!  Ok, no it’s not.  But he’s the 2nd to last one on the current roster to go over.  8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract for next year.  To no one’s surprise, I’d rather spend that money on someone else.  Like…someone a lot better perhaps.  There’s really not much more to say.

*Isaiah Thomas.  Of course.  IT.  What do we do with Isaiah?

I can tell you I have gone back and forth on this one all year…and longer actually.  I know, he averaged almost 30 points a game this season, so how can there be any debate?

Well, when thinking about it during the regular season, the fact remained that IT hadn’t done much in the playoffs.  Yes, I also know that he hasn’t always had a lot of help.  But it was a concern.  Another concern was that at his size, how will he hold up over the years?  Legitimate question, especially if we are talking about giving him max dollars…or close to it.  And his negative value on defense.  Ultimately, is he the kind of player you really want to build around?

Lots of question marks.  I feel like he played better this playoff season.  Of course the Celtics played more games, but I felt better about his overall performance.  Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him with the death of his sister at the beginning of the playoffs.  And sure, he struggled some on the court.  But let’s face it, you are going to face better competition in the playoffs, so things are going to be tougher to come by.

Then…the hip.  Was this the reason he struggled in some games?  Who knows?  He supposedly had the injury for several weeks.  But then it got to a point where he couldn’t go anymore.  I don’t know Isaiah personally of course.  But I have to believe that if he was sitting playoff games out, it was pretty serious.  I’ve heard some question that and I don’t buy that argument.  I believe that if he could have played, he would have.

But the injury adds another layer to it all.  We still don’t know how serious the injury is.  Early indications were that if he had to have surgery, he’d be out 6-9 months or something like that.  But we don’t know if he needs the surgery yet.  So…another lingering concern.

Add it all up and what to do with Isaiah is a little tricky.  But I’ve made my decision.

I’m keeping him and giving him some dough.

Maybe that’s me just getting caught up in his regular season performance this year.  Loving how he keeps proving people wrong.  I don’t know.  But I do know he has been successful here.  He has one year left on his current contract at about six and a quarter million…another bargain year.  Sure, he will have to get his money after next season.  But the C’s will be able to give him more, based on his Bird rights or some sort of cap mumbo jumbo that no one really completely understands.  This will also give the Celtics more room to sign other guys too.  So giving IT max or close to max money won’t kill them.  From what I hear anyway.

I’ve discussed offering IT in trades before.  I wouldn’t totally rule that out either.  But the hip injury dampens his value a bit.  Plus, he fits this system and may have more value to the local team than any others.  Brad Stevens has been able to maneuver things where he can “hide” Isaiah on defense.  Maybe not always, but seemingly a lot.  Danny Ainge has always loved him and he usually hangs onto guys like that.

I think he stays, gets huge money after next season, but the team continues to build around him and he becomes just a piece and not necessarily the main guy.  Just one of the main guys.  Hope he will be ok with that…and I think he will be.

That does it for the end of season roster.  But we are not done.  Some more players/points to talk about:

*Geurschon Yabusele/Ante Zizic.  2016 first round draft picks.  These two will be here next year.  Not sure how much they play though.  Both averaged about 100 points a game overseas I believe.  But against Chinese and Turkish competition, I also believe.  Noted powerhouses they are not.  Zizic HAS to be better than Zeller and has some size, so hopefully he can add something.  I don’t really have much more to say really…

*Abdel Nader.  2016 2nd round pick.  He will be here I bet too…because they got him to stick around last year up in Maine instead of going elsewhere.  Likely made him a promise for 2017-18, since the 2016-17 team had a roster crunch.  But again, he has to be end of bench material.  I guess he played well for Maine, but that is the WNBA…er, I mean the NBA Development League.  I think James Young put up 40 every time they sent him there.  So I am not expecting much.

*The “other”Marcus Thornton/Ben Pepper.  2nd round picks, Thornton from 2015 and Pepper from 1997.  Ok, they won’t be here.  But the team still holds their rights.  That has to count for something.

*Lonzo Ball.  Please God, nnnnooooooo…

*Markelle Fultz.  I think the C’s keep the #1 pick and take Fultz.  Since I know nothing about college hoops, my analysis may really end here.  Fultz seems to be the consensus #1.  Maybe some other guys are good too, but it looks like Fultz is the guy.

And if he is, he needs to be the 3rd guard (presumably behind IT and Marcus Smart, with Terry Rozier the 4th guy, if he remains here…and Avery Bradley traded…as I see it anyway).  Fultz needs to play.  But not start…yet.  He definitely needs to come in and play meaningful minutes though.

*2018 Brooklyn first round pick.  Giddyup!!

*Three 2017 second round picks.  Yaaaaawn.

*Gordon Hayward.  And there’s this offseason’s Al Horford.  Maybe he likes Utah and will stay there.  I just don’t see it.  Sure, a lot of people are talking about this because of the Brad Stevens/Butler connection.  But I also hear that Boston can offer Hayward more money over the long haul.  I have no idea if this is true, but if so, that has to mean something too.  Boston over Utah, just in general?  Has to be a no brainer.  Ok, maybe another team makes a run at him too.  But it just feels like a done deal.  I’m probably wrong.

Is Hayward a top 10 player in the league?  Maybe not.  A pretty good player nonetheless.  And many believe he will actually come here.  No small feat when you consider the Celtics have problems attracting marquee free agents in their history, despite being the most decorated NBA franchise.  Then put him with IT, Horford, Fultz, Smart, Jaylen Brown, etc. and you may start to have something.

*Paul George.  Seems hell-bent on eventually landing in Lakerland.  At least that is the popular opinion.  I’m not sure I would trade for him if that is the case.

*Jimmy Butler.  Whatever.  Good player.  I just think the other options available to the Celtics are preferable.

*Big man X.  I don’t know who this is.  Hopefully someone who can bang around in the paint.  I know Brad likes his big guys to heave up threes and all.  But they should have a better presence inside somewhat next year.  I think anyway.  Ideally, they can dangle Bradley and/or Jae Crowder.  We’ll see.

Ok, so where does that leave us?  What it may look like:

Center:  Big Man X, Zizic

Power forward:  Horford, Yabusele, Jerebko

Small forward:  Hayward, Brown, Nader

“Shooting” guard:  Smart, Fultz

Point guard:  Isaiah, Rozier, Jackson

A cheap veteran and/or 2nd round picks fill out the roster.  Bradley is your trade chip, tough to keep Crowder if Hayward is here and Brown needs minutes, Jerebko could be cheap and Brad loves him, Kelly Olynyk is still an option, but he may get some dough…or get squeezed by the team needing his money for other guys.  Moving pieces here and I’m certainly not looking to give Crowder and Bradley away.  Hell, they could still end up being here under their reasonable contracts.  They probably will, to be quite honest.

Championship team?  Nope, but one with some promise.  Especially if “Big Man X” is a player.

BUT if Anthony Davis is available and can be had…well…I may have to rewrite these three posts in their entirety…

 

Celtics Breakup Party, Part 2

Picking up right where we left off…just remember, DEMETRIUS JACKSON.  Ok, I will stop yelling now that I have your attention.  On to the rest of the roster, still in alphabetical order…

*Jonas Jerebko/Amir Johnson.  I’m going to lump these two together.  Because I can.  And they are next to each other on the roster.  More importantly, it’s because I thought neither one of their options should have been picked up before the season.  To me, it was a colossal waste of 17 million for a combined 36 minutes a game for these stiffs.  They couldn’t have paid one player the whole 17 mil and received a better return?

Harsh assessment?  Most assuredly.  But it is what it is.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  I have no idea what Johnson brings to the table.  None.  Doesn’t rebound.  Doesn’t block shots.  Doesn’t score.  Defense?  Perhaps.  But when I watched him, he didn’t make much of a difference.  Never comes up with a “50/50 ball”.  Etc.  Yet he started almost every game this year.  Oh, if you take away Jackson’s 1 for 1 on threes, then Amir led the team in three-point percentage.  Yup.  27 for 66, for 41%.  And yes, I just looked it up.  Actually, I was looking for something (anything?!) Johnson contributed and stumbled upon that nugget.  I know, only 66 threes attempted, so big deal.  But if you asked anyone if they thought Amir shot that many threes this season, they wouldn’t believe it either (10 for 43 for 23% last year, by the way…found that interesting as well).  So I guess I discovered something he did add to the mix.

You know what else I realized about Johnson?  That he was the second highest paid Celtic this year.  A distant second to Al Horford, but second highest nonetheless.  Yikes!!

I know, Johnny Kid…you will disagree with the above analysis.  But that’s how I saw it…

As for Jerebko, well, I didn’t have much love for him either.  He sure as hell hustles his arse off and can hit the occasional three himself.  But…seemingly takes up space for the most part.

I can’t even talk about these guys anymore.  I hope neither of them are back.  Although if Brad Stevens uses Jonas going forward like he did at the end of the playoffs, which is…barely…then if he wants to come back for a veteran minimum salary and there were open roster spots, I wouldn’t complain…too much.  Johnson?  I wish him well at his next stop.  If there is one…

*Jordan Mickey/James Young.  Uh oh.  There goes the alphabetical order!  But it made sense to lump these guys together.  Plus, “Y” does come after “M”, you know.

Before the season, I had high hopes for both of these guys.  I had no idea if either of these two could play in the NBA.  Unfortunately, I still don’t.  That’s what happens when these guys apparently drew straws for the 13th and final active roster spot on a nightly basis.

With the way this team was sure to have (and did have) problems rebounding, I was hoping Mickey would get some minutes to try to help that problem.  Young, being his third year but still only 21, I was hoping for him to get minutes to see if he would finally develop into something useful.  Neither one got those minutes because they went to Gerald Green, Jerebko, Johnson, etc.

We already know what the veteran bench guys can do.  We didn’t (don’t) know what Mickey or Young can do.  Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe they just sucked really bad at practice and they didn’t ultimately “earn” their time.  But it would have been nice to find out about them in real games.

Based on the above, I don’t see either back next year.  Young is unrestricted anyway.  Mickey has non-guaranteed money, but doesn’t seem likely the Cs will guarantee it.

I have no idea why, but I bought into the Young hype from Day One.  Left school early, top 10 talent if he stayed in school (“they” say anyway), steal for where they took him in the draft (17th), etc.  I’ve always had this vision that he is like Jermaine O’Neal.  Not the style of play of course.  Not the “Boston Celtic years Jermaine O’Neal”.  But the O’Neal that came into the league at 18 years old, languished on the bench in Portland for 4 years, then blossomed into an All-Star as soon as he went to Indiana.

Yeah, Young probably doesn’t turn out to be anything.  But please note both he and Jermaine were taken at #17 in the first round of their respective drafts.  So if my hunch is right…somebody owes me something…

*Kelly Olynyk.  Who do I dislike more, Johnson or Olynyk?  It’s close.  If “Game 7 against the Wizards Kelly Olynyk” showed up more, it’s obviously a lot easier to trash on Amir.  Goes without saying.  But unfortunately, THAT guy shows up once every 40 games or so.  Or something like that.  It’s mostly the abundantly average KO that is around most of the time.  So it makes the decision tougher.

Listen, Olynyk will always be better than I will ever give him credit for.  It’s just that I like my 7-footers to be able to rebound and play down low.  And he can’t.  Which infuriates me a little as well because it looks like he may actually have some ability down inside, believe it or not.  I know, this is Brad’s system and that’s what he wants Kelly to do…blah, blah, blah.  I get it.  But I don’t have to like it.

As for next year, Olynyk is a restricted free agent coming off 3.1 mil this year.  If you ask me, I let him walk.  He will want a nice raise, for whatever reason.  But look closely at the numbers.  Four years in the league and no improvement really.  He has essentially been the same guy for those four years.  Is he all of a sudden take a step up in his age 26-27 season next year?  Or beyond?  Doubtful.  So why give this guy a fat raise for that?  He is what he is and there is some value to that.  Just not the value in dollars he likely will be looking for.  Let him go.

Honestly though, I think Danny makes a good effort to keep him, sad to say.  It probably depends on what they do with the guards and who they bring in and all that.  He may not fit financially when all the chips fall into place.  But Danny does try to keep him here.

*Terry Rozier/Marcus Smart.  Pairing these guys up based on position…and length of this post!  Smart played pretty much starters minutes and Rozier was essentially your 4th guard.  Rozier seems like he may be the better ballhandler and rebounder, Smart could possibly have the better all around game when you throw in his D.  Both are 23 years old with birthdays in March, so there’s that.  Even better, they were the only Celtics to shoot less than 40% from the field (about 36% apiece for both), so I suppose there are some similarities.

Despite the fact that he shoots entirely too much and no one bothers reining him in, and despite the fact that he can still be a knucklehead at times, Smart grew on me this past season.  If Avery Bradley is indeed moved as I think, I believe Smart moves into the starting lineup and takes another step up.  Just a gut feeling.

Rozier?  Don’t be shocked if he is moved either.  Yes, he could step up to be the primary backup guard.  I can’t say I would be opposed to that, as he showed some growth between his rookie and sophomore years in the NBA.  But I have other ideas for the #3 guard.  One could be Jaylen Brown, as discussed in the previous post.  Brown filled in there when Bradley missed time earlier in the year.  If Jae Crowder stays, Brown has to get more minutes somewhere.  And he no doubt has more upside than Rozier.

I have another player in mind for the #3 guard.  That’s a story for a different day however.

Next:  Still a big name missing…

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