Future Celtics: Trade Likelihoods, Rondo and the Renovation Period, Developing the Supporting Cast

The Boston Celtics are in flux.


noun \ˈfləks\

From merriam-webster.com:

: a series of changes : continuous change

: a substance used for helping to melt or join metals

:  a flowing of fluid from the body: as
:  diarrhea
:  dysentery
:  a continuous moving on or passing by (as of a stream)
:  a continued flow :  flood
Let’s hope that the gastrointestinal connotation does not come into play for the Boston Celtics this year.

The only certainty will be uncertainty as we enter a season that officially starts within a week, but actually starts the day in December or January that Rajon Rondo is back leading the offense.  The current Celtics roster is loaded with duplicate pieces (shooting guards and power forwards) and question marks.  The question of who to trade and when to trade them will loom large for the Boston Celtics this season. With that in mind, some thoughts on the following players and whether or not they will remain Celtics over the course of the next year or two.

1)      Kris Humphries ($12 million contract expires after this year), age: 28

Will he be traded?

Yes, without a doubt.  Humphries’ $12 million expiring contract and excellent rebounding skills mean he should return either a) another future pick or c) a draft pick swap/upgrade.

Do you want him traded?

He’s too old and too limited to think about re-signing.  Imagine how bad his offensive game will be in three years.  Plus, he just seems like a fame-seeking moron.

2)      Jeff Green ($18 million over 2 years, player option for 3rd year), age: 27

Will he be traded?

Probably not.  Though Green will be given the “green light,” especially until Rondo returns, it’s debatable whether or not his stock will rise without anyone resembling a PG on the roster until Rajon is handling the ball. If Green and Humphries could be paired in a trade for something resembling a young shot-blocker, that would be helpful, though it would leave the Celtics desperate to land a legitimate future scorer in the 2014 draft or in free-agency.  Marshon Brooks is not going to be that player.

Do you want him traded?

I have a soft spot for Green, and if he’s in the right situation (not asked to be a leading scorer), I think he’ll thrive as an all-around force, able to stop wing-scorers and thrive in the open court.  In my opinion, he has a reasonable contract ($27 million over the next three years), given that he is able to find sustained confidence and establish an identity this season.  While that won’t happen without Rondo on the court, it MAY happen in the last two-thirds of the year.  Many cite the advanced metrics in claiming he has always been slightly over-rated.  On the one hand, he has been in the NBA for six years and he probably won’t suddenly develop a deadly accurate top-of-the-key jumper.  On the other hand, he is deadly from the corner. http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2013/10/16/one-team-one-stat-stay-in-the-corner-jeff-green/

Though it is up for debate how willing Green is to become a slasher, i.e. the “not aggressive,” label, there are good reasons to think he could become a more dominant offensive player, such as: a) he’s had to defer to Durant and Westbrook, and then Pierce and Garnett in his career.  Last year was really the first chance he was given the scoring burden because of injuries, and in the second half, he carried them for a few weeks at a time when needed; b) he’s established that he’s a threat from the corner.  In order to get the foul calls, Green has to be able to use either hand and score from either side of the court, as well as welcome the contact in the lane.

3)      Gerald Wallace  ($30.3 million over 3 years), age: 31 

Will he be traded?

Possibly. Wallace is an intense defensive player whose contagious energy should help a developing team.  He is a potential offensive liability whose confidence was all but gone in Brooklyn last year, but he is still a useful piece, and sets a great tone.  Wallace’s contract ($30 million over three more years) might be difficult to move.  If he re-establishes some kind of offensive game, and can be combined with a future 1st rounder, Wallace might be on his way out this year.  Even if he doesn’t, teams that will be making a push for the 6th-8th spots in the East (Wizards, Pistons) will be in the market for a defensive-minded swing-man with a proven track record and energy to burn.  Washington seems like it would be a good fit if Otto Porter doesn’t pan out early.  If they trade Wallace, it will give them a better shot at a top 5 pick.

Do you want him traded?

I’m not sure.  I like his energy, but I’m afraid of the contract and I shudder to think he might not regain his confidence or jumper offensively and become even more injury-prone given his physically demanding style of play and his age.

4)      Brandon Bass ($13.7 million over two years), age: 28

Will he be traded?

Probably. Bass is a useful complementary piece.  His defense was downright furious on Carmelo Anthony in last year’s first round playoff series with the Knicks.  Bass’ offensive instincts come and go, but his baseline jumper can be reliable for stretches.  His contract ($13.7 million over two more years) makes him a possible role-playing addition for a contending team lacking reliably versatile defense from the 4-spot.  Teams will covet Humphries’ rebounding and expiring contract, but Bass gives the Celtics another possible chip in the draft maneuvering/future planning department.

Do you want him traded?

I can’t decide.  He seems like a useful role player, but he’s only under contract for the next two years, and he’s probably too old to be part of a five-year plan.

5)      Rajon Rondo ($24.9 million over two years), age: 27

Will he be traded?

I doubt it.  Point guards with Rondo’s ceiling don’t come around very often.  He is young enough, smart enough, and talented enough to lead the future Celtics back into contention given the right pieces surrounding him.  That means: a) a defensive-minded, shot-blocking big man and b) a Klay Thompson-type wing man.

Do you want him traded?

Check out nba.com’s recent GM survey results.  Whatever spin sports media folks want to put on Rondo’s personality (too stubborn and prickly) and coach-ability (Doc Rivers is a great coach, but that doesn’t mean his personality works for everyone especially because Rondo was a PG), GM’s generally know the game pretty well, wouldn’t you say?  The 30 NBA GM’s have voted him one of the best passers in the NBA and one of the players with the highest basketball IQs in the game.  There wasn’t a vote on the best rebounding guards, but he’d be high on that list as well.

As a Celtics fan who has seen Rajon Rondo average 17.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 11.9 assists and 2.4 steals over 19 playoff games in 2012, including a historic Eastern Conference Finals performance against Miami, I refuse to buy any argument that Rondo is not the face of the franchise and shouldn’t become the future face of the franchise.  Does he need to show that he can keep a more level head?  Yes. Does he need to forge a great relationship with Brad Stevens?  Yes.  Does he need to stay mentally focused over the course of a grinding 82-game season?  Yes.  However, he’s shown how uniquely talented he is, and he’s also shown his ability to rise to the occasion in the playoffs.  I believe in future Rondo and the future with Rondo.

Also, even if you don’t believe he will become more of a unifying force, capable of leading on his own, why would Ainge trade Rondo when his value is low, coming back from injury?

Rondo, Stevens and Establishing a Culture

In addition, Stevens seems to understand that his relationships with his players needs to be genuine and respectful.  Within five years, the old-school mentality will be completely gone (once Pop and Rivers leave), and the main reason that old-school mentality works for those two is that have team leaders who want the old-school mentality.  Popovich isn’t Popovich without Duncan.  Rivers isn’t Rivers without KG – and now Chris Paul.  The mentality of those stars is ultimately unselfish and insanely devoted to team-play and winning.  Brad Stevens and Brett Brown are the new breed of NBA coaches, and it makes perfect sense that Boston and Philadelphia have made long-term investments in coaches with an awareness of psychology, an open mind, and a willingness to incorporate various kinds of information into their strategy and team chemistry.

6. Trade Exception: the 10.3 million trade exception they received from the Nets in trading Pierce:

This could be used in conjunction with Humphries or Humphries/Wallace to allow a trade with a team that is over the cap.

What makes the trade exception a useful asset?

Essentially, any team that is over the salary cap — the Celtics dipped just below the line with the trade of Fab Melo earlier this summer — and wants to make a deal can’t acquire more than a certain percentage of the money it is sending out. That is when the exception comes in. It has a one-year life from the day it is acquired and it basically can help teams that are over the cap make deals under tight financial constraints.

A Year of Development–the Supporting Cast:

Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, and Vitor Faverani seem like fixtures for at least the next two years, given their favorable contracts, age, and potential development.

What to look for:

  • Olynyk can shoot and put the ball on the floor.  He should become a great pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop option for Rondo over time. The question: Can he learn how to rebound and play team defense effectively?  He won’t become an intimidating shot-blocker.  He doesn’t have those skills, but he can learn how to become a better defender on the floor.
  • Sullinger can rebound with the best of them, carving out space with the junk in his trunk, and his massive legs.  We’ve seen how his hands can act as suction cups, allowing him to grab offensive rebounds.  The questions: 1) Can he develop a fifteen-foot jumper? 2) Can he stay healthy? 3) How will he deal with losing?
  • Bradley‘s ball-handling has improved and his corner-three was showing glimpses over the last 18 months.  The question: Can Bradley become a serviceable back-up point guard, trusting his ball-handling and his passing?  He will get the reps until Rondo returns.  It might be ugly, but he has to develop those skills, given his lack of scoring.
  • Faverani has given the Celtics great energy during the preseason.  Desperate for a big-man who will bang under the boards and give Boston some kind of lane-presence, Faverani’s best-case scenario may be fellow Brazilian Anderson Varejao.  The question: Can Faverani play with the kind of intensity he has shown and still stay on the court?  He’s already nursing a few injuries and the games haven’t counted yet.


From NBA.com’s recent GM survey: 

Which player is the best passer?

1. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers — 46.7%

2. Rajon Rondo, Boston; Ricky Rubio, Minnesota — 16.7%

4. Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers — 6.7%

Which player has the best basketball IQ?

1. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers — 33.3%

2. Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers — 16.7%

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio; LeBron James, Miami — 13.3%

5. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers; Rajon Rondo, Boston — 6.7%

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One thought on “Future Celtics: Trade Likelihoods, Rondo and the Renovation Period, Developing the Supporting Cast

  1. Anonymous says:

    So are you saying the Red Sox in the WS are a perfect way to distract and obfuscate from the impending horrendous year that we are looking forward to with the C’s? Also, I ♥ Gerald Wallace- https://twitter.com/celtics/status/389165360378679296- check that out.

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