The Road Ahead – How will the Boston Celtics go this season?

With our first proper look at the roster after an impressive season opener, what is to follow for the Celtics in 2014-2015?

In a preseason where fans expected fireworks and a top 3 pick, there was disappointment as the off-season brought the Celtics the 6th pick and low-key opportunistic moves.  This wasn’t from lack of trying by Danny Ainge and management as the Celtics were one of the most active, trying to land a big fish to pair with Rondo to turbo-charge the rebuild.  Once it became apparent that our assets were not as highly valued as we thought, the Celtics held steady – finding bargains wherever they could.  By doing this, Ainge has been able to put forth a roster that is more balanced than last year, while not sacrificing anymore cap space beyond this season.  Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Celtics in season #2 of the rebuild:

 

Front Office:

With the roster looking more rounded, Danny is still a fair way away from the finished product.  What he has done so far is just collect assets, and flipping them for more valuable assets.  The hope here is that these young assets turn out to be legitimate players and once this occurs, he can then decide on whether or not he builds around the young core, or sells the farm in hope of landing other stars.  All options are currently still open – much like Houston before they landed James Harden, which is where the Celtics are at right now.  Houston had a young, gritty team that remained competitive, but, because they kept their options open, they were able to swing for the fences and land James Harden, followed by Dwight Howard.

Although the roster makes more sense this year, look for Danny to trade away a veteran or two throughout the season, with Bass/Thornton being the prime candidates due to their expiring contracts.  There is also the small fact that our star point guard, Rajon Rondo is in the final year of his contract too, so brace yourself for another season full of Rondo trade rumours – it is difficult to see any team offering enough to Danny Ainge to pull the trigger on any Rondo trade, ultimately keeping him in green.

NBA: Boston Celtics-Brad Stevens-Press Conference

Coaching:

Besides Rondo, the biggest drawcard for potential future free agent signings could very well be Brad Stevens.  He has managed to turn discards such as Jordan Crawford and Kris Humphries into players that other teams wanted and he already looks to be doing the same with Evan Turner this year.  He seems to have the full trust of his squad and enjoys a great relationship with Rondo, who has been reported as ‘difficult’ time and time again.

With his first year now in the rear-view mirror, Coach Stevens now knows how the NBA games go, he knows exactly he wants and what buttons to push with certain players.  His players have spoken about the difference between Coach Stevens this season compared to last and show full confidence in his ability to lead the team as he tries to get this team running like the Spurs “Lite”.

 

Players:

Though starved of top-end talent, the Celtics do boast a legitimately deep squad where we see a minimal drop off between the 4th to 10th player in the squad.  Here are the players to watch out for during the season:

Rajon Rondo: With more time removed from his ACL injury in early 2013, Rondo looks to get back to his All-Star best.  Although he suffered a minor setback breaking his hand, he is ready to prove his doubters wrong and be the leader and star that this team needs.  Being in his contract year, he will be desperate to remind everybody in the league that he is still one of the best point guards in the NBA.  Questions were asked on whether or not he can play in Brad Stevens’ offense and after the season opener yesterday, it is safe to say that he will have no problems in that system.  Rondo’s biggest question mark is injuries – once thought of as durable player, he has missed 29, 44 & 52 games respectively in the previous three seasons, will he be able to stay relatively healthy this year?

ABRondo

Avery Bradley: Can Bradley live up to the 4 year, $32m extension he signed over the off-season?  That will be the question people will ask of him throughout the duration of his contract.  Avery has looked to re-dedicate himself back to his bread and butter, his defence whilst further working on his 3 point shot which is not to be ignored by other defences.  At the young age of 23, Bradley is already one of the leaders of the team as he is entering his 5th season, being the 2nd longest tenured Celtic (behind Rondo).  With Bradley playing exclusively at the shooting guard role, he should further flourish under Brad Stevens – and wreak havoc defensively with Rondo and Smart to play next to.

Jared Sullinger: After his first fully healthy summer as a pro, Sully worked tirelessly on both his fitness base, and his 3 point shooting during the off-season, it showed in the pre-season, as he was the best on the team averaging a double-double in under 28 minutes per game.  Fairly or not, Sully was judged critically last season mainly due to his lack of conditioning after missing a large part of the off-season due to back surgery.  Fans can only hope that he takes the next leap to a double-double machine in the regular season, and even  pushes for a potential all-star selection.  He is one of the most important players on the roster due to his leadership and natural feel of the game – he is the team’s best rebounder and is also an underrated passer.  If his conditioning will allow him to play at a high level for 30+ minutes per game, he could very well be in the running for most improved player, as some experts have predicted.

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Kelly Olynyk: Olynyk will be looking to build on the end of last season, where we saw him string together an impressive set of performances averaging 25.7 points (on 53.4% shooting), 9.3 Rebounds and 3.7 assists in just under 35 minutes in his final 3 games to close the season out.  While Olynyk has always been sound offensively, coming into his rookie season, criticism has come from the defensive end of the floor – where people question whether he was quick enough to guard fours, or strong enough to guard fives.  His rookie season did nothing to silence the critics defensively – although he wasn’t as bad as advertised, he clearly needed to work on that end of the ball.  Coming into this season, we can see that Olynyk has worked on his body as he trimmed some fat and added muscle, making him better equipped to handle the defensive duties.  Due to his range of skill, including his shooting/driving and passing ability, look for Olynyk to be a big part of the Celtics revamped offense as he has locked up the starting Centre spot.

Marcus Smart: The Celtics prized rookie has been just as good on defence as advertised, with some experts even picking him as a potential Rookie of the year candidate.  Smart has the tools to be able to contribute straight away on the defensive end, but, his offense has looked shaky at times.  As Smart plays more games, he looks to be getting more and more comfortable with his role and what he is supposed to be doing out on the court.  Will he be able to offensively impact a game and run the team?  If Smart can continue to develop his shot and show steady improvement, the sky is the limit for this prized rookie.  With a healthy squad, Smart looks to be the 6th man for this team.

Boston Celtics Unveil New Draft Picks

Evan Turner: There was no real excitement in the air when the Celtics made the low key signing of Evan Turner for 2 years, $3m per.  This was looked at as a low risk/high reward signing after Turner’s value plummeted to an all-time low following his season/playoffs in Indiana.  In pre-season, coach Stevens had Turner playing all positions from 1-3 with great success, can this equate to the regular season, and will Turner be able to run the point as good as he did in college, where he was 2010 NCAA Big 10 top scorer and National Player of the Year en route to being the #2 pick in 2010?  For the relatively low salary he is on, Turner can turn out to be a bargain as he now has a coach/system where his potential could actually be fulfilled.

Marcus Thornton: Marcus Thornton has been a pleasant surprise for the Celtics, being the spark plug off the bench with lights out shooting and deserves a special mention, but given the logjam at the guard spots, and his expiring contract, is he playing his way out of Boston, or will he be a major part of the team for the whole season?

Every player on the Celtics roster has questions against their names.  Can Zeller be the centre that the Celtics so desperately need?  Will Thornton/Bass be on the team after the trade deadline?  Will Jeff Green be more aggressive and average 20+ ppg?  Will James Young show enough to get regular minutes?  Can Vitor come back and excite everyone like he did early last season?


At times this season, this young Celtics team will be fun to watch with high energy D, fast paced action, and 3 point barrages.  Given the average age of the team, there will be games that we would like to forget, but, expect a more competitive team compared to last year.  For this season, the Celtics have a near 100% Rondo, an extra year experience for Coach Stevens, and extra year for our young veterans, and 2 rookies who have tremendous upside.  The Celtics may not be contenders, nor they likely may not make the playoffs (I hope I’m wrong), but there is enough talent there to be cautiously optimistic about this team for the upcoming season.

I predict that the Celtics record for the upcoming season will be: 35-47.

What about you?  How do you think the Celtics will go this season?

Celtics start season right with win over KG & Nets

The long awaited opening night was finally here. The Celtics tipped off their 2014-15 NBA season in Boston against Brooklyn. The Celtics started just how they would’ve wanted, taking a 17-10 lead fuelled by Rondo’s 4 quick dimes. Boston built the lead to 11 by the end of the first as Coach Stevens was forced to use his 10 man rotation early as Avery, Jeff & Kelly all were in foul trouble.

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The 2nd quarter started with the C’s up 32-23. Zeller put the Celtics up 13 off of Rondo’s 8th dime before a 7-4 run by Brooklyn, finished with a KG fadeaway, had them down only 10. Boston responded, finishing the quarter on a 17-1 run which was led by Sullinger & Thornton, who had a team high 10 at the half as Boston led 67-41.

The 3rd quarter began & Brooklyn came out & went on a quick 7-2 run which had some Celtics fans a little nervous. Captain Rondo put the team on his back scoring 9 straight Celtics points which gave him a double double, but, more importantly had the Celtics back up 24. Kelly Olynyk would finish the quarter with 17 points & his last basket would give the Celtics 100 points through 3 & a 101-72 lead.

Brooklyn started the 4th on another run, 12-2 this time which cut the lead to fewer than 20. Jeff would put Boston back up 20 on a free throw before Teletovic would hit 2 3’s with a Rondo basket in-between to make it a 16 point game. That ended up being the final margin as Boston would win this one 121-105 led by Rondo’s near triple double.

Full Time Statistics:
Kelly Olynyk – 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Rajon Rondo – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists
Jeff Green – 17 Points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Avery Bradley – 15 points
Evan Turner – 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
Jared Sullinger – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Marcus Smart – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Marcus Thornton – 10 points
Brandon Bass – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assists
Tyler Zeller – 6 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assists

Sullinger Is Ready To Star

With the beginning of a new NBA season upon us, it’s that time of year where we can make big statements about what to expect this year. While many people talk of who will win the championship, Most Valuable Player, or who will make the playoffs, I’m turning focus to a third-year power forward that is just primed for a big season.

Jared Sullinger is ready. After showing glimpses of the player he can become in his rookie season, it was ended prematurely by a back injury. He established himself as a consistent starter and important offensive weapon in his second year, which was an achievement in itself. Coming off back surgery, he had a limited fitness base to begin with, and an injury to his shooting hand hampered his jump shot for the final months of the year.

Heading into 2014/15, Sully has been able to get into the best shape of his young NBA career. He has dropped a noticeable amount of weight, and has continued to fine-tune his outside game. Consider this: Sullinger connected on 50% of his attempts from 3-point range this preseason at an average of 3.8 shots per game.

Coupled with his soft touch at the rim, he averaged 14.9 points in just 26 minutes per contest over the past month. Then there’s his average of 10.9 boards per game despite limited minutes. In one game against the Nets, Sullinger produced a game of 21 points and 19 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. In case those numbers aren’t enough, Sully has become smarter with his defensive work. He no longer commits ‘rookie fouls’ in games, and has adapted well to the pace of his opponents at that end of the floor.

Last season, Sullinger began to receive praise from his peers after he began to rebound the ball at an excellent rate and find a great balance between taking outside shots and knowing when to attack the paint. This resulted in some 20-20 games, while he also displayed an ability to make tough shots in close contests.

Yes, it’s only October, and we have 82 games ahead of us. However, I believe Sully is ready to become an emerging star in this league. I know I can’t wait to find out how well he goes over the next six months.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Offseason Recap: The Marathon Approach

The 2014 offseason gave Celtic fans plenty of hope that a rebuild could be achieved in a short time-frame. Big name players visiting Boston (see Kevin Love), the thought of a legitimate 7-foot centre joining the ranks by sliding in the draft (see Joel Embiid), and an arsenal of trade chips at Danny Ainge’s disposal all created optimism that the C’s were only a couple of great moves away from returning to the top in 2014/15. Now that we know how the offseason has panned out, it would appear we are in for at least one more season of mediocrity.

With Kevin Love moving to Cleveland and making them a legitimate powerhouse alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the 76ers taking Embiid at pick #3, and Ainge unable to find teams willing to trade with Boston, the Celtics’ front office had to readjust their strategy. Draft night provided the Celtics with the opportunity to pick the best talent available, selecting Marcus Smart and James Young with picks #6 and #17 respectively.

Marcus Smart is a 6’3” point guard out of Oklahoma State, renowned for his defensive tenacity and a level of leadership that exceeds his 20 years of age. As with many young point guards, his offensive game will progress with time, most notably his outside shot (sound familiar?) and decision-making. He holds a story worth reading about.

James Young is a 6’7” shooting guard/small forward who will provide instant offense for a Celtics team that struggled from the perimeter last season. Young was regarded as one of the top shooters in this year’s draft class, but will need to work on his defence to see consistent minutes under Brad Stevens.

From a trade perspective, Danny Ainge played a smart game considering the Celtics inability to find suitable trade partners. Taking advantage of Cleveland’s cap-saving moves, Ainge was able to acquire centre Tyler Zeller and veteran shooting guard Marcus Thornton in a three-way trade with Brooklyn. This trade cost the Celtics nothing, as the trade exception collected in the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade last year was set to expire just days after the trade was completed, essentially handing the Celtics a great opportunity to land a centre with potential at little risk.

Finally, free agency proved a difficult avenue for Boston. With more lucrative teams offering big name players opportunities, the Celtics held tight to remain below the luxury tax again and sign Evan Turner on a low-risk deal. The former number 2 pick struggled with the Pacers last season, and will be looking to improve his market value, while the Celtics have possibly gained a big offensive boost.

Although this deal still hasn’t been officially announced, Turner is expected to be with the Celtics when training camp begins. Ainge has been hanging onto Keith Bogans’ non-guaranteed deal for as long as possible, in the event a trade opportunity presents itself.

Heading into training camp, the Celtics roster looks like this;

PG: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey

SG: Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton, Chris Babb (non-guaranteed)

SF: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, James Young, Chris Johnson (non-guaranteed)

PF: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass

C: Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani, Joel Anthony

While it doesn’t exactly shape to be a playoff-bound team, the season will be interesting to see who the Celtics will move forward with, who will be offloaded before the trade deadline, and how well some of the younger players will develop with another season under Coach Stevens. One thing is for sure, the dedicated fans of the green team will continue to support this team as it pushes through the ups and downs on the way to finishing this marathon.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Celtics rain 3’s, cool Heat.

Game 69 of 82: Miami Heat @ Boston Celtics

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The LeBron-less Miami came out on fire, connecting on 6 of their first 7 shots as they took a 12-7 lead at the first timeout. The Celtics responded, tying the game on a Jeff Green 3 at 14-14. The Heat then went on a 9-0 run before Sullinger nailed a 3, which he followed up with yet another shot from deep shortly after. Miami closed the quarter on a 18-6 run led by Haslem’s 12 points , Chalmer’s 8 assists & took a 34-22 lead at the end of 1.

The second quarter seemed to be all about the three ball. Boston started the second frame on a 9-5 run to cut the Heat lead to 9 on an Avery 3 with 8:44 left in the half. Bayless & Avery nailed back to back 3’s for the Celtics to get the Heat lead down to 6 with 6 left in the half. Ray scored for the Heat & KO followed with a 3 to cut it down to 3. Miami pushed the lead back to 7 on a Wade jumper. The Celtics outscored Miami 31-25 & trailed 59-53 at the half.

Halftime statistics:

  • Celtics 9-18 from 3, Miami 1-5
  • Heat shot 56%, Celtics 48%
  • Miami 32 points in the paint, Celtics 8

The Celtics began the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 2 point lead after AB scored 6 straight, followed by a Green layup that forced a Miami timeout. Miami responded with a 6-0 run to lead by 4. The Celtics answered with a 6-0 run to retake the lead. Avery nailed a 3 to give the Celtics a 4 point lead before Norris Cole and Ray Allen hit 3’s with a Bass basket in between to tie things back up. The Celtics had 4 tries of it to end the quarter but couldn’t get a shot to fall & Boston led 80-78 after 3, outscoring Miami 19-27 in the quarter.

The Celtics pushed their lead to 5 with 9:30 left with 2 Sullinger free throws. Avery hit his 6th 3 on the night, followed by a Rondo jumper to put the Celtics up 6. Ray Allen tied the game with a pair of free throws with 4:30 left. Green hit a 3 and Rondo forced a jump ball against Haslem, won it & scored to put the Celtics up 5 with 1:44 left. Wade cut it to 3 but Rondo answered with a jumper to put the C’s on top by 5 with 18 seconds left. Miami missed a 3 & the Celtics, with some quick passing, Miami couldn’t foul & Boston ran out the clock & won it 101-96.

Turning point: with the Celtics up 3 and Haslem grabbed an offensive board in the final 2 minutes, took a risk with 5 fouls & forced a jump ball. Rondo won the jump ball & scored at the other end.

Bonus: Rondo highlight reel!

Notable statistics:

  • Celtics shot 51%, Heat 49%
  • Heat had 81FGA, Celtics 77
  • Celtics 13-28 from 3, Heat 4-17
  • Miami 37 rebounds, Celtics 36
  • Celtics & Miami had 29 assists
  • Miami 50-20 in points in the paint

Player stat lines:

  1. Rajon Rondo: 9-10-15
  2. Avery Bradley: 23-4
  3. Brandon Bass: 18-4
  4. Jeff Green: 13-4-3
  5. Jared Sullinger: 14-4-3
  6. Kelly Olynyk 10-5

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)

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)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Green Kick Of The Week ft. Jared Sullinger’s Jordan XX8’s

Jared Sullinger is currently playing the best ball of his short NBA career. He has been crashing the boards and also scoring in the post; it has been an absolute pleasure to watch.

He has been doing all this great work in Jordan’s. This week’s winner of KOTW is Jared Sullinger and his Air Jordan XX8 ‘BHM’

credit: getty images

credit: getty images

Jordan released four different 2014 ‘BHM’ PEs, most Jordan Brand sponsored players have rocked at least one of the colourways on the court. This includes Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace. Both have laced up the same colourway as Sullinger, but I decided to give the win to Sullinger because he has been beasting lately.

‘BHM’ colourways are dedicated to Black History Month and the players love to pay homage to the celebration by wearing the ‘BHM’ kicks.

credit: solecollector.com

credit: jordan.com

All ‘BHM’ colourways have been awesome this season, and the Jordan XX8 version is certainly in the upper echelon. Black and purple were the main colours this season and they certainly don’t disappoint.

What are your thoughts on Sully’s kicks? Do you want him to keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Positives in the Celtics’ Rebuilding Season So far

After an abysmal first half of the season, it’s important to stay positive during the Boston Celtics’ rebuilding season. Of late, the Celtics have lost 19 of their past 22 games (Currently 15-33 overall in win-losses). Statistically, that doesn’t look very good. For the morale in the locker room and the players’ mentality it probably doesn’t sit well either. From blow out losses against title contenders to buzzer beaters against struggling teams (for example the recent loss against the 76ers), we’ve seen it all. There have been a few positives to take out of this season.

Boston Celtics v EA7 Emporio Armani Milano

  1. On the bright side, we’ve watched Jared Sullinger grow into the player Danny Ainge envisioned when he was drafted 21st overall in 2012. In a season that has had more lows than highs, Sullinger has been one of the bright spots. The Celtics are currently without a pure center on their roster after assigning Faverani to the Maine Red Claws.  This has resulted in Sullinger playing out of position for a majority of the season.  However, despite this, he is still averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 26.6 minutes of play.  To top it all off, Sully’s efforts have been rewarded with an invitation to play in the rookie/sophomore (Rising Stars Challenge) game during the All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
  2. Another positive to take out would be Avery Bradley. Bradley has stepped up his game since the departure of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. He struggled last season offensively after Rondo went down but boy has he stepped up thus far. With a career average of 8.5 points per game, he’s now currently averaging 14.5 points per game this season. He is also currently shooting 43.9% from the field this season.  The ability of Bradley defensively has never been questioned.  If he improves his offensive consistency and with a fit and healthy Rondo and other role players on the Celtics team, who knows what the future brings for the C’s.
  3. I would also give a shout out to Kris Humphries – a man many Celtics fans (myself included) did not want to see in green. When traded to the Celtics, he was viewed as nothing more than an expiring contract, waiting to be disposed when the right deal came along. Over the course of this losing streak, Hump has shown himself to be a reliable, consistent and valuable contributor to this Celtics team. Humphries gives it his all every time he’s on the court night in, night out and becoming a valuable contributor in the Celtics frontcourt. As a result of his contributions, fans that once booed him in the past, now cheer for him. His play has also made it quite likely he’ll remain in Boston beyond this season.
  4. The return of Rajon Rondo. Although the Celtics haven’t won since Rondo has returned, it is great to see him back playing. Not yet back to his explosive best, the Celtics are sure to turn things around once Rondo is 100%.  Time will tell when this will happen. For now it’s important that Celtics nation stays patient.
  5. Finally, I also want to give a shout out to rookie Kelly Olynyk who was selected to the rookie/sophomore game with Sullinger. Bright future ahead of him! Good pick in last year’s draft. I try not to look at the Celtics record too much and if I happen to become depressed at our current situation, I just think to myself “At least we don’t have the worst record in the league” or the best one: “At least we didn’t draft Anthony Bennett.”

What do you think has been the best silver lining for the C’s this season?

- May @mshirtad

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