All posts by Kein

Celtics’ Key Players: Keep Them Or Trade Them?

One thing has become clear about the 2014-15 Boston Celtics: Brad Stevens probably isn’t the right guy to be on the sideline. That’s not to say he isn’t a good coach; it’s to say he’s probably too good of a coach for a rebuilding effort.

For the most part, Danny Ainge has yet to pull the trigger on a full rebuild of the Celtics roster. While he never intended to tank to the extent of Philadelphia or New York, one has to imagine he had his eyes on a high lottery pick this year. Once in the sweepstakes for a shot at Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns this June, the Celtics are now competing for the Eastern Conference’s 8-seed, with Bleacher Report’s latest playoff projections showing them just half a game behind Brooklyn. It appears that Brad Stevens is just a little too good to lose very often, even with an excruciatingly average roster on his hands.

But regarding that roster, it’s not as if the rebuild is necessarily stalled. Ainge has proven before that he knows what he’s doing even when no one else can see the big picture. Also, he still has a significant stockpile of trade assets at his disposal, in the form of future draft picks and young talent. Frankly, there’s no telling what he’ll get up to in the coming offseason. But to get a jump on the speculation—and just for fun—here’s our own look at whether key players should be kept for rebuild or deemed expendable.

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics’ midseason acquisition is an extremely valuable player, even if he’s a hothead at times. Hoopshype shows that he’s owed only about $6.5 million next season, and a little over $6.2 for 2016-17 (and you can view their full range of Celtics salaries at this page). That’s pretty good for a player who can easily score 20 points off the bench in a sixth man role, particularly when you consider the significant salary cap increase on the horizon.
Verdict: Keep him.

Evan Turner

Turner’s actually regained some value contributing on a relatively poor scoring roster. He’s got great size for a shooting guard and he’s cheap enough to simply keep around until his contract expires. That said, his is the type of contract that sometimes gets tossed into a deal to make the finances work, and he’s not so valuable that that can’t be considered. James Young is breathing down his neck.
Verdict: Trade if it helps.

Marcus Smart

It’s been an up-and-down rookie season for Smart, though some betting projections actually have him in respectable position for the Rookie Of The Year race. Additional analysis and NBA odds listings can be viewed here, but Betfair’s page on Rookie Of The Year odds shows Smart trailing only five other players. He’s not going to win the award, but he’s turned into a promising young guard who can contribute in all aspects of the game. Particularly with Thomas’s scoring punch off the bench, Smart is a very valuable player.
Verdict: Keep him.

Avery Bradley

Bradley signed a deal only slightly richer than that of Isaiah Thomas, and looks to be part of the plan for the future. He and Smart still have potential as a lockdown (albeit undersized) defensive backcourt. Verdict: Keep him.

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger has become a rock-solid NBA player after a somewhat-slow start in the league. He’s owed just over $2 million next year, and just over $3 million for 2016-17. But it’s important to consider the draft, and this one is full of potential starting power forwards. shows the Celtics picking 11th—that’s too high if the Celtics make the playoffs, but otherwise not a bad projection—and projects UCLA’s Kevon Looney, Texas’ Myles Turner, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell all being picked in the 14-18 range. Similarly, if the Celtics luck out with a slightly higher pick, options like Kentucky’s Trey Lyles or Willie Cauley-Stein could be available. Sullinger is valuable, but he’s also a strong trade asset, and he can be replaced in this draft.
Verdict: Look to trade him.

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk is easy to like, and he’s a versatile scorer. However, he’s not the starting center you want on a playoff team. As a backup center, he doesn’t provide the sort of rebounding and defense that you want as a stopgap while the starter gets a breather. He’s also more expensive than Tyler Zeller, who may be a more useful backup. Olynyk is a good but very expendable player.
Verdict: Trade him.

Gerald Wallace

Finally, there’s the contract no one can move. Gerald Wallace is no longer a useful player, and to this point his contract has been impossible to move; but with only one year and just over $10 million left, he may now be in the range of a tradable commodity to a team just looking for an expiring deal.
Verdict: If the Celtics want to chase free agents this summer, he must be traded; if they’d prefer to wait one more year, they should just hang on and take the $10 million relief for themselves in another year.

How can you not love Gigi Datome?

This guy has more than proven his worth on the floor right now. No offense to James Young, but Luigi (or Gigi, as he prefers it) Datome clearly is more ready to make an impact on the floor, every second of it when he was out there against the Orlando Magic.

Watch this play in the first quarter, where he notices Aaron Gordon helping to cover Olynyk. Datome promptly runs to a passing lane, Pressey notices and dishes the ball out. Open three, swished.

Or this one, where Evan Turner was forcing Oladipo to make a move. Gigi was anticipating the drive, and got there in time to take a successful charge. Watch the little fist pump when he was still down, guy is hyped.

Datome ended the game with only seven minutes of play, with 3 points (1/3 FG), 1 rebound and 1 turnover, nothing you would call staggering. His minutes have been spotty so far (from 2-21 minutes), but it’s not unimaginable to see him getting a consistent 10-12 minutes per game, and even be kept on the team in the next season. Gigi is not the most athletic player out there, and isn’t exactly the next incarnation of Vinsanity. He is smart, knows to put in effort when he’s out there, and is a fair shooter from deep. All of these are qualities coach Stevens would be looking for, when evaluating candidates for our pace-and-space system.

All that can be said for right now? Datome’s staying ready, and getting rewarded for it.

Related reading: Who is Luigi Datome? via Basketball Insiders

Isaiah Thomas’ Fit In Boston

When the Phoenix Suns decided to trade away point guard Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline, the Boston Celtics were pretty quick to start throwing out proposals. They were able to land one of the most dynamic small players in the game, and management is hoping that he will be able to help the rebuilding process. Boston might not be a legitimate contender right now, but is Thomas in the long-term plans?

Anyone who has watched Boston play this year understands that they really lack a guy capable of creating his own shot. Even though Thomas is at a disadvantage with his height being under 6’0”, he is very crafty in creating for himself and others.

Thomas isn’t a very good defender, and that has been a severe negative for him early on in his career. However, landing in Boston might be the best situation for him to hide that shortcoming. With Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley on the roster, Boston has 2 guys who are well known for their defense. Boston can go ahead and hide Thomas on someone else who is more of a spot up shooter.

In Phoenix, the fit just did not seem right for Thomas as he had to share time with 2 players who were better than him in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.

Thomas definitely has a few flaws, but he is already showing that he is a fan favorite in Boston. As long as he is able to stay healthy and productive, he has a long-term future with this team. Ideally, he probably is best as an explosive scorer off the bench, but he can also be used as a starter if that is the way Brad Stevens wants to go early on.

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Isaiah Thomas to Boston for Thornton and 2016 first-rounder, per Adrian Woj

The Wojfather is working overtime with a mindblowing flood this trade deadline! Can’t say I don’t like the sound of that. A ’16 pick and Thornton for Thomas? What a deal, Danny. Welcome to Beantown, Isaiah.

Rondo comes alive on defense once more, and Bill Simmons is “not bitter”

A little late, but still gold. Love Simmons.