Now that the dust has settled and the hangover has worn off, let’s try and dissect the Celtics season and where we head moving forward. First off, how can you not be proud of this team? Admittedly, I expected (hoped? wished? dreamed?) the C’s to steal a game or two in this series, but each match was truly entertaining (aside from Lebron’s constant whining and arrogance). There were a handful of times the C’s went down by more than 15 points and not once did we lie down and let it get out of control. This is a sign of a team that loves its coach (In Brad We Trust). Gritty. Tough. Overachieving. Those are some of the words that come to mind when I look back and think of this team, especially over the last month or two of the season.
The future is exponentially brighter than it was at the start of the season and there are legitimate pieces to move forward with. I thought Marcus Smart and Evan Turner played well in spurts throughout the series and while Avery Bradley mostly struggled shooting wise, his defense and tenacity was unquestionably admirable. Jae Crowder is already a fan favorite, and I hope he stays with the team for a long time. He can compete in this league and contribute as a high energy, solid all around guy off the bench. Game 4 was a big one for Jared Sullinger. He led the big men in minutes (27:53) and contributed 21 points, 11 rebounds, and a block. He also seemed to be the only Celtic capable of neutralizing Tristan Thompson in any fashion and keeping him off the offensive glass. Considering his future with the team seemed murky just a few weeks ago, assuming he gets into shape this offseason (drop the fork Jared…), I can see him taking a step forward and having a big role next season.
Speaking of big roles, Isaiah Thomas is quite simply fun to watch. At times during the series he did seem slightly overmatched (too many turnovers), as Cleveland was obviously game planning specifically for him after his huge Game 1 (22 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds), but he was able to make the offense flow even when he was not shooting particularly well. These are young guys that I expect will continue to grow within the system and improve. As far as some of the veterans go, I imagine Brandon Bass will be gone. I thoroughly enjoyed rooting for him, and he had a commendable few years in green but I anticipate he will move on to a veteran team as a third or fourth big, in order to make space for a FA Signing/Sully/Olynyk/Zeller.
I would not be surprised if Jerebko was brought back for cheap, as he showed he could stretch the floor and play solid defense off the bench. An exciting report that has recently surfaced is that Ainge seems zoned in on shedding Gerald Wallace’s eye gouging nausea inducing contract, even if it means letting go of one of our first round picks (potentially the Clippers pick we are owed from Doc trade?). This would be a great move. By discarding that deal, the Celtics will have over 31 million dollars of cap space giving Ainge the flexibility to pay two max free agents with six or fewer years of experience (still only one with more experience, but still a ton of cash). This being said, can the C’s attract big time free agents? In the past, no, but I believe now with Brad Stevens at the helm and the ability to sell the direction of the franchise there is potential.
Here are some names to keep an eye on…
Kawhi Leonard-> Throw the moon at him. The Spurs will match because they are the Spurs and he is a stud, but it doesn’t hurt to fantasize. His teammate Danny Green however, could be an attractive option. Green is a legit “3 and D” guy (11.7 ppg, 41.8 % 3pt) and while I concede he is surrounded by incredible talent and never has to cover an opposing team’s best player (Mr. Leonard’s job) he seems like a Brad Stevens guy and could really flourish here.
Lemarcus Aldridge/Marc Gasol→ I doubt these two would lead their respective teams and good situations, but I would absolutely love to see either in green. Marc Gasol would fit a major need as he is one of the top defensive/rebounding big men in the league (no slouch on offense either). Aldridge does it all offensively and would put up crazy numbers in Stevens’ system. A poor man’s version of Aldridge may be more realistic however, and that is Greg Monroe. Monroe (6’11, 250) averaged 16 and 10 this year for the Pistons and would be an immediate obvious upgrade over on of the bigs on the current roster. The aforementioned offensive rebounding machine Tristan Thompson also earned himself a nice payday this offseason and in an increased role could put up Monroe type numbers. We saw first hand what he could do on the glass, and in many ways was the difference in the series. He is someone I could see Ainge flirting with as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ainge took a look at either of the Lopez brothers as well, although they are not at the top of my wish list. Brook is injury prone, and while unquestionably talented offensively, doesn’t get it done at the other side of the court. Robin is sound defensively but would likely be overpaid because of it.
DeAndre Jordan→ Ainge has always been a fan of DeAndre (tried to get him in the original proposed trade to the Clippers for Doc and at the time KG). While he is a catastrophe at the free throw line (39%), he is one of the best rebounders in the game (15 rbp), and a freak around the basket with put backs and slams. He would be an interesting signing and has improved every season of his career. Imagine IT throwing up lobs to DeAndre…
Kevin Love→ Spence will elaborate on this one in his next blog. Very interesting. Could make a lot of sense. He could be the star here and go back to putting up very gaudy numbers. Something to think about Mr. Love…
The good news is if there is a will there is a way. You can tell Danny exhausts every possible outlet to improving this team (Jeez, did he “go gray” fast…) and is not afraid to take any risk necessary. Overall, it was a very exciting season and positive steps were made. In the meantime, I guess we can root for old friend Paully Pierce over in Washington. That’s all folks.
We’re on to the NFL Draft…