Keeping his talents in South Beach?

It appears that everyone around the league is waiting to see what LeBron will do with his free agency. He has exercised his early termination option in Miami, which means he is technically a free agent. Does anyone think that he’ll really leave Miami?! Some maybe as there is a growing cohort of Cleveland Cavs fans that hope for the prodigal son to return. No, I am not buying it either.

So what is all this LeBron talk doing on Celtics Down Under? Are we all about our boys in green? Shouldn’t we be discussing what Danny has promised to be off season fireworks? Well like him or hate him, LeBron’s decision will have a bearing on what other teams can and can’t do, including our Celtics. Danny Ainge has reportedly been burning the midnight oil to put together a deal for Kevin Love to have a new home at Causeway Street. Like the previous Kevin from Minnesota, he would be a high impact player and if we can keep Rondo and add another piece begin a rebuild properly.

Which brings me to the next piece. Roy Hibbert. Yes the Pacers fans had been critical as they see Roy’s playoff performance as disappointing  . I always liked the way he played and think he’d be a good fit with K-Love and Rondo if we can swing that trade.

I mean, check this out:

(I love the rejection on ‘Melo and you know Bostonians love good D.)

The other Pacer that The Celtics are reportedly interested in is Lance Stephenson. I like Lance as well especially things like this

as he reminds me of KG doing whatever it took to get in to the head of the opponent. He is one of those guys that you’d love playing for you, hate ‘em against you.

Slightly unhinged? Maybe.
Entertaining? Definitely.

Let’s hope LeBron makes his intentions clear so we can get on with our rebuild, because two things are definite.

First, LeBron isn’t coming to Boston.

Secondly, our boys in green will have to go through him to get Banner 18.

Smart Move Signals A Changing Of The Guard

First off I would like to congratulate Marcus Smart and James Young on becoming the newest members of the Boston Celtics. I can’t wait to see what both are able to bring to the floor.

We all know that Danny Ainge went in to the draft with the tactic of drafting the best player available, not based on what the team needs right now. This is an obvious thing to do as it is clear the Celtics are a long way from title contenders.

Having said that, by drafting Smart with the 6th pick there is obviously going to be ramifications for the rest of the guards that Boston already possesses.

Credit: Brad Penner

Credit: Brad Penner

Rajon Rondo was the name that many people thought of first.  I truly believe that Smart and Rondo can co-exist. They are both brutal competitors and could form a very dangerous back court duo.

The trade rumours are obviously going to be crazy this off season, but I don’t think Ainge will actively shop Rondo. He is a four time All Star and Captain of the team, they don’t just grow on trees. It will take a huge offer for Ainge to pull the trigger, and I hope the offer doesn’t come.

The player I believe the selection of Smart effects most is Avery Bradley, who is a restricted free-agent. If Smart moves to the shooting guard position, and plays alongside Rondo, Bradley is left as the odd one out. Smart’s rookie contract is going to be a lot cheaper than retaining Bradley, who could ask for up to $9 million this off season.

Avery Bradley has always been known for his defence. Much like Bradley, Smart plays great defence and never gives up on a play. Smart is 1″ taller, and has a 2″ longer wingspan than Bradley. This may not sound like much but on the defensive end a long wingspan is so very valuable.  This only adds to the fact that Bradley could now been seen as dispensable by Ainge.

As much as I love what Bradley brings to the Celtics, I don’t believe he is worth $9 million. Sadly, I think we’ve seen the last of Avery Bradley in Boston.

Phil Pressey showed tremendous promise throughout his rookie season in 2013/14. He went undrafted but showed he can definitely have an impact in the NBA.

The drafting of Smart will have a huge effect on Pressey’s minutes going forward. Smart will take a lot of the minutes that Pressey saw last season. That being said, if Smart is moved to the two guard position, Pressey will most likely still see some court time as Rondo’s primary back up.

I think Pressey is definitely worth keeping around, especially due to the fact that he is cheap and is learning from one of the best in Rajon Rondo.

Jerryd Bayless came to Boston in the Courtney Lee trade last season. Mainly seen as a cost-saving move, he did provide some quality games for the Celtics and was a solid contributor once he became familiar with sBrad Steven’ system.

This off season, Bayless becomes an unrestricted free-agent. Unlike Bradley, Bayless could be signed for a reasonable amount. If the Celtics can sign him for a good price I think he will still have a role to play for the team. He could slot in nicely as a sixth man, behind Rondo at the point and Smart at shooting guard.

Marcus Smart brings so much fight and heart to the Celtics. He is mature beyond his years and has an NBA ready frame and mindset. Whilst his selection could be problematic for individuals, the future of the Celtics looks to be in good hands.

All You Need Is Love

If you’re a fan of the NBA, you would be well aware of Kevin Love’s pending free agency in the summer of 2015. If you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics, you may also be aware the superstar power forward just spent the entire weekend in the city of Boston.

 

Artwork by CDU's own @lil_kaino

Artwork by CDU’s own @lil_kaino

With reports that Love wants out of Minnesota as soon as possible and won’t re-sign with the team next year, it’s hard not to get excited at the realistic possibility of K-Love teaming up with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.

 

Yes, every team should be targeting such a talent. A rebounding machine, talented shooter and a fierce competitor, Love will draw a huge asking price to pry him away from the Timberwolves. This is where the Celtics have the upper hand on almost every other franchise in the league.

 

Danny Ainge has been stockpiling away those picks for something big, and this could definitely be what we have all been waiting for. Holding pick #6 in this year’s draft, the top prospects are out of our grasp, so it makes a lot of sense to trade away the draft selection along with one of our many other assets to convince the Timberwolves to play along and bring Kevin Love to the city of Boston.

 

It’s worth revisiting quotes from 2014′s All-Star weekend, when Love shared his opinion of the 2013/14 version of the C’s

“I’ve never really spent much time in Boston. I don’t know it too well,” he said. “But I think as far as playing there, we love competing against those guys. I think they have a great coach and they have a ton of youngsters that are up-and-comers.

“Boston is a great city. I’m sure free agents would love to go there, especially with [Brad] Stevens as a coach. He’s a guy that can win basketball games. He gets guys to play for him. They’ve been having good success there, even in his first year, and he has a lot of young players. The coach has a lot to do with it, but yeah, Boston is a great place.”

 

Over the weekend, Love was spotted in a few establishments that would have opened his eyes to the city’s proud sporting culture. Across the road from TD Garden, Love enjoyed a dinner at The Greatest Sports Bar, and a conversation with a co-owner who told The Boston Globe

“It went great,” Fairweather told the Globe on Sunday. “The kid is a real gentleman. I think he has a real appreciation with the Celtics’ history and tradition.”

 

The most stirring sighting however, was left to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, where Captain Rondo and Kevin Love were snapped having a laugh together (courtesy of @BigDub on Twitter). The combination of Rondo dropping dimes and Love cleaning the glass is the stuff championship-calibre teams can be built on. It’s hard not to get carried away.

 

However Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations for the T-Wolves, tried his best to put a wet blanket over the entire weekend

“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders told reporters in Minneapolis on Sunday. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”

With regard to the teams that are interested in Love, Saunders said, “I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams. Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”

 

This is the sort of thing you expect to hear from a team hoping to keep their star player, as Celtics fans this is something I would choose to overlook and instead believe we have a good chance of landing the 25-year-old from UCLA. It has also been reported that Love will speak to former UCLA and Celtic Bill Walton about the experience of playing for the Boston faithful. Draft night cannot come quickly enough.

 

Future first-round draft picks, playoff-calibre players, a trade exception, and expiring contracts are all part of Ainge’s arsenal right now. While trades cannot be done until draft night, the sign that Love is interested in the city of Boston makes it really hard for Celtics fans not to get their hopes up. After all, Love is all you need.

 

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Aussie Prospects For The 2014 Draft

With the Celtics’ offseason beginning earlier than fans have become accustomed to in recent seasons, the lack of news surrounding the C’s has been deflating. In the lead up to this week’s lottery, we take a look at the two Australians vying for their chance to join the NBA – hopefully in a green uniform as far as we’re concerned.

The first Australian (that some of you may have heard of), is potential top-5 pick Dante Exum. While there has been conjecture on his preferred position as a point or shooting guard, the 18 year old can play. He is a product of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and stands at 6’6” with a 6’9” wingspan.

Having impressed at the Nike Hoop Summit and leading the Australian Emus to fourth in the Under 19 World Championships last year (averaging 18.2 points per game), Exum has played sparingly at a top-level competition since. This has added intrigue to exactly where Exum will go in the draft, but the general consensus surrounding the combo-guard is that he won’t last beyond the fifth pick.

With the NBA’s Draft Combine taking place in Chicago, the Sydney Morning Herald noted how Exum performed

The 18-year-old lived up to the hype at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago, impressing team executives, coaches and the US media with his speed, jumping ability, wingspan and intelligence.

In speed tests, Exum eclipsed every other shooting guard.

With the lottery coming up this week and Avery Bradley’s restricted free agent status pending, I hope the Celtics are in the mix for the young Aussie. After all, Celtics insider A. Sherrod Blakley tweeted about it a few days ago

Time will tell.

 

The other Australian in the mix as a second-round option is 6’9” Power Forward Cameron Bairstow. A product of New Mexico, Bairstow played all four years of College to prepare for this opportunity. Basketball Australia’s own website provides a good summary of how far the hustle player has come over the past year and a half

Coming off an outstanding senior year for the University of New Mexico, Bairstow has become one of the bolters into NBA Draft contention, announcing himself as one of the premier forwards in college basketball.

The 23-year-old led the Lobos to the Mountain West Conference tournament title and finished second in MWC Player of the Year voting, coming off a brilliant international season that saw him become a key player in the Boomers program.

Brought into the training squad ahead of the 2013 Sino-Australia Challenge, Bairstow would go on to play a major role in Head Coach Andrej Lemanis’ first series win, before going on to lead the Emerging Boomers to their first World University Games medal – silver in Russia.

This ensured Bairstow would be part of the team that would secure the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship for the Boomers. In all, Bairstow played more than 20 games for his country during the college off-season, preparing him well for his senior year.

Such was his impact on the Lobos, Bairstow would finish the season in the top 20 in scoring at more than 20 points per game.

Bairstow is an energy guy that could carve out a role off the bench in the NBA. He plays hard and with physicality, can hit the mid-range shot and he can go to work down in the post. I hope he is lucky enough to secure a spot in this league alongside Australia’s growing list of players in the NBA.

Hard to believe the draft is still a whole month away!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

 

Offseason Dreaming: Gortat In Green

Although the Celtics season of mediocrity isn’t quite over yet, the remaining 7 games can’t come quickly enough in what has been a long 82-game stand. With this in mind, it’s never too early to look towards the period in June and July this year where Danny Ainge is expected to be very active.

Polish center Marcin Gortat displayed his affections for the C’s in yesterday’s game against the Wizards in DC, which grabbed my attention as a fan excitedly looking towards the offseason.

Early in the contest, Rondo displayed his signature behind-the-back fake pass that left Gortat with his feet nailed to the floor. Down the other end, Trevor Booker attempted a pair of free throws while Rondo and Gortat shared a laugh over the previous play. This may not seem like much, but there is definitely a mutual respect between the pair, as the Polish Hammer took to Twitter after the game to illustrate this point:

As the 3rd quarter wound down with Jeff Green getting ready to sink some free throws, the Celtics players huddled round for a quick discussion, only to be joined by a certain #4 in a Wizards uniform. It was another mischievous act in yesterday’s game, which was literally embraced by Rondo by having his arm around Gortat as well.

Admittedly, these are only two small things that really don’t point to much on their own. Last year in the offseason, Brandon Bass and Gortat worked out together. The former Orlando Magic teammates clearly share a good relationship to still be catching up and playing ball together, which could work well in any recruitment pitches the Celtics may put to the center.

Becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, Gortat is earning $7.27 million this year and could demand a similar figure on the open market. While the Wizards are obviously eager to re-sign him, with Marc Stein reporting his signature ‘as a top priority’ for Washington, he has the choice of signing with any team around the league.

The Celtics desperately need a quality center on their roster moving forward, if the Omer Asik trade rumours were anything to go by in December last year. At 30 years of age, Gortat has plenty of good years left in the NBA.

Putting together mutual respect between Gortat and the Captain of the Celtics, his relationship with former teammate Bass, his status as an unrestricted free agent and the Celtics with a plethora of picks and money to make it happen, here’s hoping that fun he had with the Celtics yesterday is the start of something much bigger.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

Kelly’s Playing Olright

The expectations on most rookie big men must be set reasonably low as players transition from the tempo of the college game into the faster pace of the NBA. However, this isn’t always the case when those rookie bigs are drafted in the top 15 of their class.

Kelly Olynyk displayed a high basketball IQ from the word go, especially when he was named player of the tournament for the 2013 Summer League in Orlando. However, the pace of real NBA games meant Olynyk had trouble finding his feet over the first few months of the season proper.

The turnaround in Kelly’s game over the past two months or so can be put down to something rather simple: confidence. This added confidence can be attributed to several factors. A familiarity with Coach Stevens’ system and his teammates (especially Phil Pressey), an understanding of the tempo of the game and his opponents, and just being comfortable knowing his own game is good enough at this level.

Tommy Heinsohn noted that Olynyk’s selection to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend may have helped him feel like he truly belongs at this level.

He is no longer hesitating with the ball in his hands, instead taking the shots that are available to him straightaway, demonstrating a higher arc on his jump shots too. If the shots aren’t there, he simply illustrates a very smart passing game to find an open teammate. Olynyk runs the floor very well for a big man, and his ability to finish around the rim is very impressive. In February he averaged 8.4 points per game, substantially improving on averages in December and January of 6.1 and 6.3 points per contest.

Since his return from a toe injury, Kelly has posted averages of 16 points at 53% field goal percentage, 6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.5 minutes of court time over those 3 games.

Not only is Olynyk putting up better numbers and looking comfortable in offensive sets, he is also playing with an added aggression which has seen a spike in his rebounding numbers. Over the months of December and January, Olynyk averaged 3.6 and 3.8 boards per contest respectively. In February, those numbers jumped to 6.5 rebounds per game. This is no coincidence, as he actively pursues rebounds and positions himself a lot better than he used to.

It also seems as though Kris Humphries’ tutelage has been working on Olynyk, as he looks to have added some size and muscle since the start of the season.

Danny Ainge has now drafted Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk over the past two offseasons, with both big men showing enormous potential to be something special for the Celtics going forward. As Kelly continues to improve, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this young and promising team.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Getting to the finish line.

20-41. 61 games played, 21 games to go.

it-s-all-about-the-future-rajon-rondo-16544040-1920-1200

We all know it’s about the future, but knowing is different from feeling. One can only imagine the morale of the team at this point. Battered and bruised, they valiantly battle for a win every night, only to fall short at the end to better teams. We all knew this season was never going to be pretty, but reality still hits hard. The situation certainly isn’t as ugly as it was before the modern Big Three era, but it takes a lot of beer and positivity to get this season over and done with. The early season was a really fun ride, but the roster’s been thinned out some since then, which certainly didn’t help. Not forgetting the fact that you can only play so hard and win that many games with an undersized, unbalanced roster that lacks a rim protector, has not yet learnt to rotate defensively on pick and roll plays well enough (check out Kevin O’Connor’s analysis on the team), doesn’t even make a third of its three-point attempts, and sputters along on offense (26th in league) whenever our recently recovered All-Star point guard gets off the floor. None of it is really their fault, it’s just the rigours of getting through a rebuilding system with a young roster finding its ways with a new coach.

I’m really proud of the fact that there hasn’t been any intentional losing crap (read: tanking) and few games where the guys just decide to throw the towel in on defense and let the other team roll over them. A loss is a loss, but at least we’re trying. (I’m morbidly cheered up by the crazy way the Clippers absolutely mutilated the Lakers today by the way.)

On the positive side: Olynyk’s getting more confident and adjusted to the game pace, Rondo’s found a new offensive option in his long range shots, Humphries is a maniac I’d love to keep, Sully’s hustling as always, and Bass is doing the usual Bass-like things, that I like. There’s absolutely no doubt the team can and will get better, it’s just brutal to watch.

Looking at the remainder of the schedule, I can see a whole bunch of games that look like definite losses (read: Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn x2, Detroit x2, Chicago x2 and Phoenix.) Which is a good thing. Or bad, depending on which way you look at it. One thing for sure, I’m just gonna keep telling myself, “NEXT!” up till game #82 rolls around on 17 April 2014. Goodbye Wizards, goodbye season 2013/14.

Like Evans Clinchy wrote, it’s about playing for pride.

“We still have our pride,” said Green. “We don’t want to keep embarrassing ourselves. That’s the mentality we’re going to have. I don’t think this group wants to continue having games like this. We’ve just got to keep fighting and do the best we can to finish out the season strong.”

Whatever lies ahead in the off-season, I’d like to say a word of thanks to all the players for roughing it out through this season. Thanks for not giving up, and fighting on no matter what. Thanks to coach Stevens for steering the ship so well in your first season as head coach; for being calm and ever maintaining that consistent, reassuring exterior. It’s not the easiest job in the league, but I think we’ve got a better shot at getting out of this rut compared to some other teams out there – hello New York!

To the team: keep fighting, stay positive and hang on. We’re all behind you! 21 more bloody games, let’s do it. #CelticPride

Navigating The Rest Of Season 2013/14

As the February trade deadline passed and no moves were made by Danny Ainge since mid-January, the 2013/14 version of the Boston Celtics won’t be one of the most memorable teams in the franchise’s decorated history. Since the beginning of the season and the appointment of rookie Coach Brad Stevens, this season was always about development and working towards something great in the near future. With 23 games remaining and injuries mounting, surely it is time to throw caution to the wind and see what the more inexperienced players have in their arsenal.

With the news Gerald Wallace may miss the final seven weeks of the season, an opportunity for substantial playing time is now up for grabs. As Avery Bradley will return soon, most minutes will be distributed to Jerryd Bayless, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries (in addition to the starting five of Rondo, Bradley, Green, Bass and Sullinger). This is assuming all players will be available to play at the same time, something that has been a rare occurrence with the amount of injuries this team has been dealt with.

This leaves a great opportunity for the likes of Chris Johnson, Phil Pressey and 10-day contract recipient Chris Babb to compete for extended minutes at the guard/forward positions.

Phil Pressey has shown flashes of the player he can become, starting in place of Rajon Rondo on second nights of back-to-backs and playing with the composure required of an NBA-calibre point guard. In January, an impressive night against Toronto in his first career start saw him dish out 10 assists with 0 turnovers, followed later in the week by a 20 point and 4 assist outing against Washington, highlights what Pressey is capable of.

His future with the Celtics appears bright after Danny Ainge traded away Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to give the 5’11” rookie some meaningful playing time. It might be time to give Pressey a more established role behind Rajon Rondo to showcase what he can do on a consistent basis, instead of barely playing to starting from one game to the next.

Chris Johnson really forced his way onto this team, and since being signed to a multi-year deal at the beginning of February, he has continued to play hard on both ends of the floor. Playing to his strengths and knowing his limitations, Johnson would seem the most likely candidate to take the majority of Gerald Wallace’s minutes. It will be interesting to see how Johnson responds to the added responsibility.

Finally, Danny Ainge signed Chris Babb to a 10-day contract to cover the plethora of injuries the Celtics roster currently holds. Babb appeared in five preseason games for the C’s, most notably a 12-point outing in only 8 minutes of action against the Knicks, knocking down 4-5 shots from 3-point land. Babb was unlucky with the amount of guards that jammed the roster at the beginning of the season, but now finds an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.

Coach Stevens has been thrown many curveballs in his first season in the NBA, and has been able to navigate his way through all the surprises along the ride very well to this point. Injuries, player frustration, an imbalanced roster, and many losses have all reared their ugly heads at different times. Stevens has always preached never getting too high or too low, and has always instilled confidence into his players whilst keeping a level head at all times. He has been the perfect man for the job.

With Boston headed for the lottery in this draft, now is the time to embrace the injuries the Celtics have been handed and to identify which players will stick as the team moves forward. With a decent selection in the draft, two trade exceptions, and a huge amount of picks at his disposal, Danny Ainge is looking at who will remain in green this offseason, as the Celtics look to climb back into contention at a rapid rate.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Rondo v2.0 – How good is he this season?

It might sound ridiculous to be upbeat when your team’s currently ranked 12th in the horrific East, holding a 19-39 season record, and definitely nowhere near the playoffs. Here’s a flowchart that sums up my feelings every game:

flowchart_celtics2014

Summary: Just can’t lose this season! As things stand right now, we’re looking at two first round picks this coming draft. There is another potential pick from Philadelphia which is lottery protected. Problem: they’re 15-42 right now, and they definitely did a better job on making their team worse by trading Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner at the deadline, so that pick is more or less out of reach.

Outside of developing young core players like Sullinger and Olynyk, hoarding picks and keeping the salaries manageable, the biggest concern on the team has to be our captain Rajon Rondo. It’s obvious the long term plan is to build around #9, which begs the question – how is his game looking like so far after his return from ACL surgery, and can we expect him to be as good (if not better) compared to earlier seasons?

Free throw shooting

Some past numbers on RR at the stripe:

  • His highest FT accuracy was 64.7% in his rookie season (2006/07) while averaging 2.4 FTs a game (184 attempts total.)
  • The next highest was 64.5% last season (2012/13) at 2.4 FTs a game (93 attempts total.)
  • The most free throw attempts ever taken in a season was in 2009/10, where he took 282 shots and made 62.1%.

This season, he’s been hitting them at 73.7%, making 14 of 19. Out of the 13 games he’s played, he’s only shot free throws in 6 of them, more notably the recent games against the Suns (4/5), Lakers (1/2) and Jazz (6/6).

This sample size is incredibly tiny, and he could very well derail the entire stat by only making half of them in the remaining 23 games. If his free throws in the recent Jazz game are any gauge though, his mechanics do seem to be improved. If you do watch the video linked above, there is a consistent form and routine being seen in the way he follows through with the shot.

Long story short: it could be luck, but I doubt it.

Shot distribution and accuracy

Rondo has always been known as a brilliant passer and finisher at the rim, and much less of a shooting threat, be they three-pointers or mid-range jumpers. Of course, he proved Miami wrong by burying mid-range jumpers when they sagged off him during the 2012 playoffs, but that’s been an anomaly from Rondo and his cheat code playoffs mode, rather than a consistent statistic.

In 2011/12, his right elbow jump shot was a reliable but seldom used option (23 /41), with the bulk of his shots being near the rim (176/340) – floaters, putbacks, twisty layups off the glass, the occasional dream shake and all that. Everything else was a quirky and unreliable go-to option.

Rajon Rondo shot chart 2011/12

Rajon Rondo shot chart 2011/12

In 2012/13, things began to change. Despite not finishing the season (38 games played compared to 53 in 2011/12), Rondo’s mid-range shots around the FT line improved in both volume and accuracy, most especially the right elbow.

Rajon Rondo shot chart 2012/13

Rajon Rondo shot chart 2012/13

This season?

  • In only 13 games, he’s already hit the same amount of three pointers straight up (the zone facing the basket), that he did in 2011/12 and 2012/13 combined. That’s a total of 91 games, mind you. Put it to a combination of three factors: team direction, Rondo’s confidence and his improved shot mechanics.
  • It’s also evident that he hasn’t quite regained his speed and mobility, which accounts for the reduced field goal percentage around the rim. Not being able to sidestep and flash by defenders at top speed would tend to make one miss more layups – just saying.
Rajon Rondo shot chart 2013/14 as at 25 Feb 2014

Rajon Rondo shot chart 2013/14 as at 25 Feb 2014

In terms of distribution: he’s taking 23.28% of his shots at the three point line this season, compared to 10.75% in 2012/13 and 7.34% in 2011/12. Clearly, Rondo’s working hard to dispel the defensive myth about “giving Rondo space to shoot because he’s a bad shooter”, and making teams rethink their Rondo-oriented defensive strategies. Rondo hasn’t regained the fluid movement he had pre-ACL tear, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much space opposing teams will give him in the months ahead.

Assists

This wouldn’t be much of a Rondo article if we ignored Rondo’s most valuable trait on the floor. Having averaged 11.7 and 11.1 assists per game in the past two seasons, he’s currently on 7.8 dimes per game, with 10+ assists coming from 6 of his 7 recent games.

Some other interesting numbers (reference):

  1. The team averaged 19.45 assists per game before Rondo’s return, and is currently dishing close to 22 assists in the past 17 games since his return.
  2. Out of the 395 assists made by the team since his return, Rondo’s made 102 – that’s more than a quarter of them.
  3. Similarly, the team’s assist % has risen from 53.52% to 60.52%, which speaks volumes about the increased number of assisted team baskets.

What the numbers don’t describe though, is the sheer joy of seeing Rondo make the right plays and find a teammate for open baskets, something that has been sorely missed when he went down last season. That “point guard by committee” thing last year? Most definitely a failed experiment.


Despite all the positive signs, it’s still too early to say for certain how well Rondo’s recovered. The true test will come soon enough once March hits, when the Celtics run the gauntlet and go through a punishing schedule with contenders (Warriors, Pacers, Suns, Heat) and tough matchups (Pistons, Nets, Bulls) throughout the month.

Be sure to refer to the flowchart and stay positive, but more importantly, keep your eyes peeled and observe how Rondo and the team fare against tough competition. This season is all about growth, and that’s all the silver lining we need right now. May the return of Mr Triple Double be swift, and certain.

What is the best path for a Celtics rebuild?

With the trade deadline approaching, we take a look at the hard decisions in the week ahead for Danny Ainge and what path he may take for a rebuilding Celtics squad.

Since the big trade in the off-season, debate swept across Celtic nation around how this great franchise can get back to where it belongs: contending, year in year out.  Some think that the best path to rebuild is to completely bottom out, some say that free agency may be the key, whilst others think that going all in by trading away all their chips is the path to glory.

Each method has their own pros and cons, read on as we look through the options in detail.

Rebuilding through the draft

This lengthy method involves trading off most, if not all veterans (Rondo, Green, Bass, etc) whilst keeping young talent.  This would let the team completely bottom out and contend for consecutive top picks.  Philadelphia have gone this exact route this season, setting the tone by trading their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a rookie (Nerlens Noel) who is coming off ACL surgery and has yet to play a single minute in the league.

okc_durant_westbrook_ibaka_harden

Pros: If the correct players are drafted, this could potentially set a franchise up for long-term success.  There have been some teams over the years that have hit home runs with their picks.  Oklahoma City, as previously discussed, is the first team to come to mind – besides the obvious choice of drafting a transcendent talent in Kevin Durant, they followed this pick up the next year by selecting both Russell Westbrook (4th pick) and Serge Ibaka (24th pick). They then lucked out again the following year by getting James Harden with the 3rd pick.  Although Harden was traded due to financial reasons, they were still able to convert him into Jeremy Lamb, who is starting to break out for them in a solid bench role, and the rights to draft Steven Adams – who looks to be the starting centre of the future once they can find someone who will take Perk’s terrible contract on.

Portland and Golden State are two other great examples of how drafting well can set a franchise up, with both teams figured to be major players in the Wild West in the foreseeable future with young cores.

Cons: For every franchise that has successfully built through the draft, there are a few others that have not fared as well.  Some teams draft for need, possibly leaving the better player on the board (Sam Bowie/Portland anyone?), sometimes players just don’t pan out as people thought they would, and sometimes teams without any veteran presence can just be too young and lose their way.  Cleveland could check all the boxes here.  The Cavs have had a staggering four top-4 picks in the past 3 years, including two number 1 picks (not to mention the 1st pick to take LeBron back in 2003).  To put that in perspective, the Celtics have had the 1st pick once (1950), and they have only selected with the 2nd pick once (’86 – but that is too sad a story to tell).

Cleveland currently find themselves stuck in no man’s land; they want to compete in order for their young superstar in Kyrie to want to stay (cough *LeBron* cough).  If they prove incapable of shaping the roster up, they could see Kyrie bolt in free agency, taking them once again back to square 1, which is exactly how/why LeBron left the Cavs.

Clear cap space, sign free agents

From the in-season trades that Danny has executed so far, this is something that could definitely be on the cards.  The goal here is to trade/position contracts so that they can all expire within the same year, opening up enough space to sign big-time free agents.  The LA Lakers are doing just that this year – with only Kobe and Nash (likely to retire) on the books for next season.

heat_lebron_wade

Pros: Two words – Miami Heat.  No one was able to do what Miami has done – completely strip their roster down to nothing but their own all-star (Wade) + some minimum wage players, sign an All-Star who is also the best player in the game (I felt dirty saying that, but, fair’s fair).  Pat Riley’s master plan worked to perfection here and Miami are currently the 2-time reigning champions with a good shot at a 3-peat.

Cons: There are only a handful of teams that could get away with trying/executing this plan.  The Lakers will always attract the free agents (except Dwight – HA!) due to the celebrity lifestyle and warm climate. Miami was attractive to LeBron because he wanted to team up with Wade, and, let’s face it, Cleveland isn’t exactly a desired location.  New York was always a destination that players wanted to go to, but, this line of thinking backfired on them in the summer of ’10 as they cleared their books in anticipation of signing LeBron – how did that work out for them?  LeBron bolted for Miami, left New York scrambling to sign somebody, and made the worst contract in the league 4 years later with Amare locked up for 5 years/$100 million without insurance for his already shaky knees, whoops.  Up until this day, New York are in salary cap hell, and they are currently not even in the playoffs picture in the pathetic East.

Go all in!

This is something that us Celtics fans are quite familiar with.  Build up a boatload of assets (including expiring contracts, draft picks, and solid young players) and trade them all in for a star or two. The Celtics are once again, in prime position to do something like this in the upcoming year.

2008_wallpaper_widescreen_BannerRaise_19201080

Pros: Banner #17.  The 2006/07 season is very similar to the current season with great young players, an All-Star entering his prime, and the team armed with multiple draft picks.  The Celtics were able to flip these into two Hall of Famers (on the wrong side of 30) whilst keeping our other main pieces in tact and the results were pure bliss.  Miami’s 2006 championship team achieved the same by trading their chips for Shaq, followed by Antoine Walker.

Cons: It is up to the GM to ensure the players that they are receiving fit the personnel of the team and the coaching style.  There’s no point in getting a big name player just for the sake of it.  Both New York Teams have suffered as the Knicks traded half of their team, including multiple picks just to land Melo, leaving them with an imbalanced roster.  This unfortunately now leaves them in a terrible situation – losing record, salary cap hell, and this years’s pick is owned by Denver in the Melo deal, who incidentally is coming up to free agency after this season.

Brooklyn finds itself in a similar situation; although their team is more balanced, they are an aging, injury-prone team and much like New York, they mortgaged their future for a small window for the title.  Once a team trades away multiple future firsts, and if things don’t work out –much like Brooklyn and New York– it could set up a vicious cycle where these teams keep trying to dig themselves out of a hole by trading more of their assets (young players/draft picks) for immediate help, a dangerous game to play (reference: New York in the past 13 years).

All in all, I believe the Celtics just have too many assets to just rebuild through the draft and wait for these young players to mature.  Even the greats needed help, with Cleveland gutting their team to get LeBron, only for him to leave. Tim Duncan was drafted by a San Antonio squad that already had David Robinson, Sean Elliot and Avery Johnson on their roster.  If Ainge can trade some of the vets that don’t figure to be in the long term plan such as Bass, Green, Hump (and hopefully Wallace), the Celtics will be in great shape to land a star through the draft to put next to Rondo and our budding star Sullinger – leaving the team with enough assets to get further help down the line.

I think the only way Danny goes all in with his chips is if we land a pick outside the top 5, and are unable to get one of the coveted top players in the draft this year.  This is very dependant on who is available, and how that talent will fit in with the remaining personnel, but Danny knows talent. Back in 2006, Ainge had the chance to trade for Allen Iverson who was still in his peak, but ultimately decided against it due to the price tag, and how he would have fit with Pierce, which in hindsight, was the smart move.

I believe Danny will make some moves to clear off some future salary, namely Bass and Green as he is reportedly making a run for the 2015 free agency field.  It’s likely he makes the team worse in the short term without trading any of the future core, tries to collect a top 5 pick, and then either attempts to trade for another star, or tries to sign one with the lure of Rondo + young stars.

How do you think the trade deadline will go down?  Who do you think Ainge will trade, if anyone at all?

- Dave @big_dave31

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,294 other followers

%d bloggers like this: