|08.26.16 at 10:11 am ET|
One of the biggest questions the Celtics will have to answer at the start of the regular season is this: Who will emerge as the team’s sixth man?
Turner finished fifth in voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and made game-deciding plays, so there’s certainly a void left behind. However, the Celtics have more than a few options off the bench — guys who have the potential to perform on both ends of the floor at a high rate and are very much capable of becoming the team’s newest sixth man next season.
Here are their best options.
1. Marcus Smart
Smart is heading into his third NBA season, and expectations are at an all-time high for him. Last season he carved out a role for himself as the team’s second-best backcourt defender (behind Avery Bradley), while also showing flashes of scoring prowess. Most notably there was a 26-point performance against arguably the best point guard in the league — Thunder star Russell Westbrook — as Smart made 9-of-14 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and led the C’s to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City.
An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:
“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this,” Westbrook said.
The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop-off from what was the best scoring night of his career.
Although Smart’s suffocating defense helped limit Westbrook to 25 percent shooting (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of April’s playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.
|08.25.16 at 9:40 pm ET|
It’s a big year for Marcus Smart.
With the departure of Evan Turner, the 22-year-old’s role on the Celtics will organically be stepped up, not to mention the pressure that will be put on him to up his offensive game to match his solid defensive skill.
After Smart was thrust into a big spot when Avery Bradley went down in the first game of last season’s playoff series against the Hawks, suffice to say Brad Stevens will need to lean on Smart quite a bit this season.
And the third-year pro seems to be ready for that challenge.
“Becoming more aggressive. Becoming more of an offensive threat,” Smart said when asked how he will raise his overall game in an interview with Celtics.com. “I’m improving and trying to improve every aspect of my game. Trying to become more of a second to third, fourth option on the team in scoring, assists and everything. Just anything I can do to help my team on the offensive end.”
Added Smart, “My defense, I know I’m going to be there with it. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about, my teammates don’t have to worry about. But I think it’s time for me to step up on the offensive end.”
In 27.3 minutes per game last season, Smart averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 assists per game with 1.5 steals. He was seventh on the team in points, behind then-fellow shooting guard Turner, who finished fourth on the team, and Bradley, who finished second.
More concerning, however, was the inconsistency of his shooting. He shot a mere 34.8 percent from the field — a decline from his rookie season in which he shot 36.7 percent — and just 25.3 percent from beyond the arc.
|08.23.16 at 9:26 am ET|
It appears it’s time to put all of the Abdel Nader question marks to rest, for now at least.
According to Nader’s agent Cervando Tejada, the Celtics’ 58th pick in this year’s draft will sign with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ D-League affiliate.
According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Nader did receive a “lucrative offer” from an unnamed European club.
Sources: After rejecting lucrative offer in Europe, Boston second-rounder Abdel Nader has committed to signing D-League contract with Maine.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 22, 2016
Nader is an interesting situation for Boston. The former Iowa State forward was expected to head straight overseas, but that changed after a stellar summer league performance that saw him average 10 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from behind the arc and 49 percent from the field.
The problem is if he went to Celtics training camp and did not make the roster — the most likely outcome — the Celtics would lose his draft rights. This signing will circumvent that process, allowing the Celtics to retain his rights regardless of what happens at camp.
Though not officially invited to camp, Nader would serve as the 20th and final member of the training camp roster should the team extend the invitation. In any case, the C’s would have to cut the roster to a maximum of 15 by the beginning of the season.
|08.23.16 at 9:23 am ET|
The Celtics added another body to their backcourt, signing former Georgia Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, per multiple reports.
The 22-year-old went undrafted in June but played four summer league games with the Nets, averaging 2.8 points and one board in 13.2 minutes of work.
As a senior, the All-ACC player averaged 16.9 points, 2.4 boards, 3.3 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He was a four-year starter for the Yellow Jackets.
Though the signing is small, the ripple is much larger, as it brings the Celtics training camp roster to 19 of 20 available spots. (For more on the Celtics roster and how training camp rosters work, click here). All things considered, Georges-Hunt is not a likely candidate to crack the opening day roster and will be on a fast-track to the D-League.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder does not bring anything to the table that does not already exist, and as for the gaping hole that still remains with the Celtics — 3-point shooting — Georges-Hunt shot a mere 32.9 percent from beyond the arc in his college career, including 34.2 percent as a senior.
|08.23.16 at 8:37 am ET|
Isaiah Thomas finally took some time for himself during his action-packed summer, marrying his longtime girlfriend Kayla Wallace in Seattle. The C’s All-Star point guard noted via Instagram it was “by far the best day of my life.”
|08.17.16 at 6:54 pm ET|
Although it would be a sweet storybook ending to see the NBA’s greatest 3-point shooter donning a green and white uniform one final time, I’m afraid there’s no room for a Ray Allen comeback in Boston.
For a young up-and-coming team that continues to steadily climb toward the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are a team that’s better off without Allen.
Allen, 41, told the Hartford Courant he’s reached out to the Celtics and the Bucks about a comeback — a report that left me torn as I asked myself: Is seeing Ray Allen back in Boston best for the Celtics or best for Ray Allen?
Only five players have played in the NBA at the age of 41 — Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo.
Cousy, the only guard on the list, was pressed into service for seven games in an attempt to boost ticket sales while coaching the Cincinnati Royals in 1970, seven years after he retired from the Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 10 points in 22.9 minutes in his final season (1988-89), Mutumbo’s 1.2 blocks per game average for two seasons (2007-09) helped extend his career to the age of 42, and Parish scored 4.8 points in 16.7 minutes a night for the Hornets at age 41. Willis averaged 3.4 points in 7.8 minutes and eventually became the oldest player in NBA history when he retired at age 44 with the Bulls (2006-07).
If there’s anyone who could become the sixth 41-year-old and first guard to play valuable minutes for a club, it’d be Allen.
However, at this stage, this young team led by coach Brad Stevens still is predicated on developing young talent into impact players. This is the same place where Isaiah Thomas blossomed into an All-star, where Avery Bradley became an NBA All-Defensive first-team guard, where Evan Turner was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and where Jae Crowder arrived as a bench warmer from the Mavericks and transformed into one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference.
This isn’t the place for Allen to turn back the clock for one final hurrah.
|08.17.16 at 10:34 am ET|
Don’t grab those old Paul Pierce Celtics jerseys out of the cellar. It doesn’t look like a Boston return is going to happen.
Though never really rumored that a Pierce return was imminent — or even a likely, for that matter — there was some hope among C’s supporters that maybe, just maybe, the Truth would return for one final ride in green.
That does not look likely, per a tweet Tuesday night from Los Angeles Times basketball writer Brad Turner.
Was just told Paul Pierce is now “leaning heavily towards coming” back to the Clippers. It will be his 19th season in NBA, 2nd with Clippers
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) August 17, 2016
The 38-year-old certainly is not the same player who helped bring the Celtics Banner 17 in 2008. In his first season with the Clippers in 2015-16, Pierce averaged just 6.1 points in 18.1 minutes, shooting a horrid 36.3 percent from the field compared to a 44.7 marker his previous 17 seasons.
A return to the Clippers would mark the first time Pierce has stayed with a team for consecutive season since he played for the Celtics. After getting dealt to the Nets in the monumental trade that led to the Celtics drafting Jaylen Brown, Pierce played one year in Brooklyn then one year with the Wizards before landing with the Clippers.
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