The Celtics roster this year has been in a constant state of flux. Since the beginning of the season, the Celtics have acquired 15 new players through trade. (Only six of those players remain on the team). Danny Ainge has a war chest of draft picks and cap space, so this Celtics team could look radically different in the next few years. As we approach the trade deadline, it seems like a good time to predict who will remain with the team into the 2015-2016 season.
The rookie point guard is now a focal point for the rebuilding Celtics. The franchise is hopeful that Smart will blossom into their point guard of the future. Brad Stevens has begun to show commitment to the rookie and gave him the start against the Knicks on Tuesday.
Smart can be a vicious defender, a good three point shooter and adept at forcing turnovers. Smart has yet to show elite passing skills, but it’s apparent that he really has the sort of leadership intangibles that the Celtics desperately need.
It’s unfair to judge a 20 year old rookie thirty games into his career, yet hopefully he can eventually become the next Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe. Tough to get overly excited about a team that’s 13 games under .500, but Marcus Smart really gives Boston fans hope for the future.
James Young joins Smart as a part of this years rookie crop. Young has spent more time in the D-League thus far this year, but is now back in Boston and has started to get more playing time. While playing for the Red Claws, Young averaged over 22 points a game (including a big 9-9 three point display) and has shown glimmers of stardom.
Young faces two problems currently: finding playing time and his poor defensive skills. Young has struggled to find playing time when the team already has so many wing players fighting for time: Crowder, Wallace, Prince, Thornton. With Prince out with hip issues, Stevens has shown more commitment to getting Young minutes.
Another problem the rookie has is defense: According to Basketball Reference, per 100 possessions Young has the worst defensive rating (111) of the 18 players who have been on the Celtics roster. Young has to be a more consistent defender to be an all around NBA player. Young is aptly named: he’s only 19 and has plenty of room to grow. He has the potential to be the next great scorer every team needs and will see more playing time on the 2015-2016 team.
Sully in his third year has established himself as the team’s starting power forward and arguably one of their best players. He’s second on the team in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and leads the team in points and rebounding. Sullinger has the skills to be a consistent offensive player (averaging 17.8 points over the last nine games) as either the primary or secondary scorer on this current team. If Sullinger can develop his three point game and shoot better than his current rate of 30% he will be a lethal offensive threat who can hit from all areas of the court. Look for Sully to improve his play into the 2015-2016 season and possibly be the next Celtics captain.
Kelly joins Sully as one of the other front court players who is almost certain to be on next year’s squad. Olynyk has upped his scoring average to 11.1 points and both his field goal and three point field goal percentage have risen to 50% and 35% respectively. While hasn’t made as big of leap as people have liked, Olynyk still projects as a great passer and shooter. If Olynyk and Sullinger continue to improve at a consistent rate; they will form a formidable front line for years to come. This is all of course if Tyler Zeller doesn’t take the starting center spot.
Zeller (along with Marcus Thorton) was acquired in a July trade with the Cavaliers. The team picked up Zeller in an effort to boost the frontline. The acquisition of Zeller was a small bet that has proven to pay off. Zeller is averaging a career high in points, assists, defensive rebounds, free throw percentage and field goal percentage, and PER. He’s effectively wrestled away a lot of minutes from Olynyk. Look for the Celtics to keep Zeller on board as the team’s defense oriented center.
The Celtics extended Avery Bradley with a 4 year, $32 million dollar contract this off-season. Bradley has made his career on being a 3 and D player. While he’s certainly living up to the three part (shooting 43% from three in January and 36% overall this season), Bradley’s defense has not been up to his elite moniker. He currently has the second worst per 100 defensive rating on the team behind James Young.
Bradley really hasn’t shown that he’s a consistent starter for this Boston team. He fits more as a sixth man or a really good specialized role player, but the Celtics see it differently. Bradley’s still young and has the potential to fill that starter role. Of course, the team is deeply committed to him–look for him to be the starter next year.
THE QUESTION MARKS
Evan Turner is an overall average point guard. He leads the team in assists at 4.8 per game and is a decent scorer with 9.2 points per game. Turner has done an admirable job as Rondo’s replacement. Turner is a player the Celtics should keep around while Marcus Smart finds his way in the league. He should essentially be the placeholder at the point guard position while Smart improves and builds confidence in his game. When Smart does find his game, Turner can still be used as a scoring guard who is an above average defender.
Crowder was acquired in the trade that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas. Crowder was a decent throw in and not much was expected of him. Crowder has shown worth as a jolt of energy off the bench. He comes into games and hustles, plays good defense, and can score from the outside if needed. The Celtics should keep Crowder around because the team needs defense and outside shooting and he provides both. He’s always young and committed to playing hard when he’s on the court. There’s a good chance Crowder will be wearing green next season.
I have already written about why Tayshuan Prince should be traded. Prince’s role will be filled by a younger free agent or draft pick who can play Prince’s role better. While Prince can score (averaging 15.5 points in his last two games) he publicly said he wants to be in a winning situation and the situation in Boston is clearly not for him.
Crash built his career on his incredible athleticism and motor, but sadly both of these things are gone. Wallace is now averaging just under a point and one rebound and is arguably having the worst season of his career. Wallace is a good presence for the Celtics locker room, but that presence is not worth his monster $10,000,000 contract. That contract will become a one year expiring contract this summer and will become a valuable trade chip. Don’t expect Wallace to be on this team next year.
Bass is a decent power forward who would be serviceable role player for many teams, but not this Celtics team. The Celtics will look for youth in the power forward position and Bass is likely to be traded before the deadline. This certainly doesn’t mean Bass is a bad player, he’s had a solid four year run with the team but it’s time to move on.
Thornton’s game is based around two things: shooting and scoring. If he’s not doing either of those things there’s no reason to have him on the court. He can’t really defend, make plays, or rebound. There will be better options for scorers in free agency (JR Smith or Gerald Green anyone?). Thornton is a one dimensional player who will almost certainly be let go when free agency comes around.
Pressey is certainly not the best backup point guard in all the land. He can’t shoot (36% field goal percentage and 28% three), and also averages around one turnover for every two assists. Pressey can penetrate but he can’t do much else. He hasn’t really found his game yet in the NBA. Look for the team to quickly replace Pressey in free agency.
Dawkins (just re-upped on another 10 day contract) has yet to play with Celtics, but he continues to tear it up with Maine Red Claws while averaging 22.1 points and shooting 46% from beyond the arc. Dawkins is a sharpshooter but not much else. He’s not likely to stick in the NBA with shooting as his only skill; if he can expand his game then there’s a chance he can latch on to a team at some point.
Randolph is an end of the bench player who makes his game by rebounding in limited minutes and he’s generally known as a good guy to have in the locker room. Randolph’s spot will be occupied by another end of the bench forward next year who will put up similar, minor numbers.
If there’s one takeaway from this article it’s that this Celtics roster will probably be radically different after the trade deadline and into next year. The current roster doesn’t have a lot players worth keeping around. Look for Ainge to use all those draft picks and cap space to finally build an identity for this team.