|2014 NBA free agent point guards available to Celtics||06.27.14 at 10:57 am ET|
With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we begin our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: point guards. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.
The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.
While the Celtics still have an All-Star point guard on the roster, Rondo’s name will continue to be mentioned in trade talks for the remaining year on his deal. The addition of Smart combined with Phil Pressey‘s non-guaranteed contract gives Ainge inexpensive solutions behind Rondo. Should the C’s anticipate Rondo’s departure or envision a significant upgrade over Pressey, they could still chase any free agent floor general not named Kyle Lowry.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.
THE RAJON RONDOS
A four-time NBA All-Star at just 28 years old, Rondo already has helped steer the Celtics to an NBA title and could do so again with the right talent around him. Without that talent on the roster, though, Ainge could trade his captain, and the free agent market offers a number of options who could help fill the void left by his departure.
RICH MAN: ERIC BLEDSOE
2013-14: 1,416 min, 17.7 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 spg, 57.8 TS%, 19.6 PER
Why? Ainge has eyed Bledsoe since 2013, when the Clippers nearly traded him and DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett. In short, he’s a 24-year-old stud.
Why not? It’s hard to imagine the Suns letting a player of Bledsoe’s caliber walk, and even if he does leave Phoenix, word is he’ll be seeking a max contract offer.
|Celtics select Kentucky wing James Young at No. 17||06.26.14 at 9:25 pm ET|
Once again, the Celtics stood pat, selecting 18-year-old Kentucky wing James Young with their No. 17 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
The Michigan native averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 32.4 minutes per game as a freshman during the Wildcats’ run to the NCAA championship game this past season. Young is probably best known for his aggressive dunk as part of his 20 points in Kentucky’s title loss to UConn.
“I feel like I have a lot of potential to get a lot better,” said Young. “I’m only 18, so as the years go on I feel like my game is going to go to a greater level.”
Considered a potential impact scorer, Young shot just 40.7 percent from the field at Kentucky after being highly recruited out of high school. Questions also exist about his commitment to defense, but the Celtics had him high on their board.
“He’s just going to get better and better,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a young guy. We felt like he was a very, very undervalued scoring wing in this draft. Everybody in this room had him ranked a lot higher than 17, so we were surprised he was available at 17 and thrilled that he was available at 17.”
Both Young and C’s No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart were ranked among Stevens’ top 11 prospects. The Celtics selected the best player available on their board with each of their first-round picks, although they specifically targeted wing scoring at No. 17, the coach said. Smart and Young have worked out together this summer.
For a complete scouting report, click here.
|Celtics keep No. 6 pick, grab Oklahoma State PG Marcus Smart||06.26.14 at 8:29 pm ET|
After all the pre-draft debate over whether or not the Celtics should trade up, trade down or trade out of the No. 6 pick, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge held firm and selected Marcus Smart.
As Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck noted, the Oklahoma State point guard visited Waltham for three workouts prior to the draft. After his first visit, the C’s declared their admiration for Smart, and he told reporters in New York on Wednesday that he had an inkling he might end up in Boston. Despite all the smokescreens, all signs have pointed to Smart for weeks.
“As Red [Auerbach] told me personally when I came in, ‘You need instigators, not retaliators,’” said Grousbeck. “This kid is energetic. He’s a bull. He’s a force. When I met him, he filled the doorway. He’s got that physique and that drive and that attitude that we really like around the Celtics.”
It was Grousbeck who promised fireworks this summer, and Smart made a similar reference when asked how he felt about being selected sixth. Coincidence?
“It felt like fireworks,” said Smart. “It felt like the Fourth of July.”
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Smart has been described as a defensive stopper and a fierce competitor. Of course, he’s also known for pushing a Texas Tech fan during an altercation that led to his suspension this past February.
On the court, the 20-year-old averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 32.7 minutes a game as a sophomore for the Cowboys. Many believe he’d have been drafted No. 1 overall had he come out as a freshman.
As was the case with both of his new backcourt mates, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, the knock on Smart is outside shooting (29.9 3P% in 2013-14), although Celtics coach Brad Stevens called those concerns overrated. (It should also be noted Rondo and Bradley have both improved their jump shots at the NBA level.) Should that trio remain intact, the Celtics could field one of the most fearsome defensive backcourt units in the league.
Still, Smart’s presence in Boston stirs up plenty of questions about the future of both Rondo and Bradley going forward. The former is entering the final year of his contract, and the latter is a restricted free agent this summer. The addition of Smart won’t quell the trade rumors surrounding the C’s All-Star point guard anytime soon.
Asked if he thought Rondo and Smart could coexist this season, Stevens countered, “I don’t think there is any doubt.” While the Celtics didn’t directly discuss the prospect of drafting Smart with their captain in recent days, Stevens and Rondo talked about the former McDonald’s All-American out of Texas last week.
For a complete scouting report, click here.
|Three ways to survive in the East: Imagining Celtics president Danny Ainge’s phone conversations on NBA draft day||06.26.14 at 12:49 pm ET|
Well, it’s here. The day that will shape the Celtics‘ future, for better or worse. The 2014 NBA draft, where anything can happen happens.
With a wealth of picks, an All-Star point guard, tradeable contracts and expiring deals, Celtics president Danny Ainge is the annoying guy at a party, inserting himself into every conversation in the room.
With only hours left until Cleveland is on the clock, here are the three best possible phone conversations Ainge could have on Thursday.
1. MORTGAGE THE FARM FOR KEVIN LOVE
Danny Ainge: “Hi, Flip, it’s Danny again.”
Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders: “What do you want this time?”
Danny: “Are you sure you don’t want our two first-round picks this year, next year’s Clippers pick and Kelly Olynyk for Love?”
Flip: “I’m not sure how many times I can say no, but no.”
Danny: “But …”
Danny: “I’m not sure you’ve consider quite how awesome Kelly’s hair really is.”
Flip: “No means no.”
Wyc Grousbeck enters Danny’s office.
Wyc: “Fireworks, Danny, fireworks!”
Flip: “I’m sorry, did I just hear Wyc say fireworks?”
Danny: “Oh, yeah, we’ve got this Fourth of July party in a few days. It’s nothing. Didn’t you get the invite? Anywho, what if I throw Jared Sullinger into the deal?”
Flip: “Let me think about it for a second. Aaaaaaannnnnnndddddd no.”
Danny: “Ah, can you hold on for a second?”
Flip: “No …”
Danny puts the phone down. “I’d Do Anything for Love’ plays on hold.
Wyc: “We can’t afford another losing season, Danny. I met with Bob Kraft, John Henry and Jeremy Jacobs for our weekly tea and crumpets yesterday, and they were all making fun of me, telling me we’re the fifth wheel behind the Revolution. The Revs, Danny, the Revs! When Wyc promises fireworks, Wyc delivers fireworks.”
Danny picks up the phone.
Danny: “You still there, Flip?”
Danny: “How about one of Brooklyn’s picks, too?”
Flip: “Just so we’re straight: You’re offering four first-round picks, Sully and Kelly?”
Danny: “Well, when you put it that way …”
Flip: “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
|The official Celtics-centric Kevin Love timeline 2.0||06.25.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
The Celtics-centric story surrounding Kevin Love actually began before the All-Star break, but Boston’s Love affair reached “Fatal Attraction” levels when the three-time NBA All-Star spent three days in the city a few weeks back.
Since then, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and Celtics counterpart Danny Ainge have seemingly pulled the puppet strings masterfully, casting sources in a drama worthy of Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. The plot thickens every day, so here’s the storyboard updated through the latest episode.
- Feb. 16, 2014: Love declares, “Boston is a great city.”
- Feb. 19, 2014: The Celtics are in Love’s sights.
- Feb. 26, 2014: The Celtics are the odds-on favorite to acquire Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics, Warriors, Lakers and Suns are making hard runs at Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics are “the sleeper gathering momentum” for Love’s services.
- May 19, 2014: Love likes the Warriors and Bulls.
- May 26, 2014: The Kings would trade for Love without assurance he’d re-sign.
- May 26, 2014: Love wants out by July 1.
- May 30-June 1, 2014: Love spends a weekend in Boston.
- June 2, 2014: The Timberwolves expect Love to remain in Minnesota.
- June 3, 2014: The T-Wolves aren’t interested in Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley or Kelly Olynyk.
- June 4, 2014: Sacramento “will trade anything but [DeMarcus] Cousins,” lead in Love sweepstakes.
- June 9, 2014: The Suns will offer Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and picks for Love.
- June 11, 2014: At a video game conference, Love will answer all questions except those about the Celtics.
- June 16, 2014: Love won’t be traded by July 1.
- June 17, 2014: A C’s offer of the No. 6 and 17 picks, future No. 1(s), Sullinger and Olynyk is the best offer.
- June 18, 2014: The Nuggets and Warriors have better offers than the Celtics.
- June 18, 2014: The Celtics are the “heavy favorites” to acquire Love.
- June 19, 2014: Denver’s offer of Kenneth Faried, No. 11 pick, Wilson Chandler and J.J. Hickson is better.
- June 19, 2014: The Warriors will include Klay Thompson in a deal for Love, becoming odds-on favorite.
- June 19, 2014: The Timberwolves aren’t prepared to trade Love — yet.
- June 22, 2014: The conversation between the Timberwolves and Celtics is put on hold.
- June 23, 2014: Talks between Minnesota and Golden State are “dead.”
- June 24, 2014: The Cavaliers offered the No. 1 pick for Love, but he refused to re-sign in Cleveland.
Rumored Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers offers have been put out to pasture. All the while, the C’s package remains with the possibility of Ainge sweetening the deal. If the Wolves are looking to trade Love — and it seems inevitable given his stated goal to leave via free agency next summer and the ensuing circus the past six weeks — then the Celtics still stand among the favorites (if not the favorite) for his services.
For further analysis, read about Ainge’s final play for Love.
|Celtics pre-draft chat with WEEI.com’s Ben Rohrbach||06.25.14 at 11:35 am ET|
|What it would take for Celtics to acquire Picks 1-5||06.25.14 at 11:08 am ET|
If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t call the five teams in front of him in Thursday’s NBA draft, he wouldn’t be doing his job, so it should come as no surprise he’s inquired about what it would take to acquire a top pick from the Cavaliers, Bucks, 76ers, Magic and Jazz.
In fact, Ainge also has discussed the possibility of landing picks later in the first and into the second round, according to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy. In all likelihood, Ainge has contacted the front offices of all 29 other teams in preparation for a draft with an infinite number of possible C’s outcomes.
As for the potential of the C’s trading into the top five, a draft-day deal of top-six picks hasn’t happened since 2008, when Minnesota and Memphis swapped No. 3 (O.J. Mayo) and No. 5 (Kevin Love), exchanging a handful of inconsequential players in the process (Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner to the Grizzlies; Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins to the Timberwolves).
While Love has since become the centerpiece of blockbuster trade discussions, neither he nor Mayo were considered franchise-altering acquisitions six years ago. Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were the big catches of that draft, just as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are the clear prizes this season. Love and Mayo (sing to Frank Sinatra‘s “Love and Marriage,” please) were more akin to Julius Randle and Marcus Smart this season.
The lack of top picks changing places in recent years has a lot to do with the increased value of those players in the new collective bargaining agreement and the scarcity of teams with win-now mentalities ending up in the top five.