|Celtics roundtable: Previewing remainder of season||02.20.15 at 10:58 am ET|
With the Celtics starting the second half of their season Friday night in Sacramento, the Green Street bloggers, Julian Edlow @julianedlow, Ben Rohrbach @brohrbach and Sam Packard @SPacShakur answer some key questions to preview the rest of the season.
SHOULD THE CELTICS TRY TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS — AND CAN THEY?
Edlow: “As of Thursday morning the short answer was yes, in the lowly Eastern Conference the Celtics have a chance. Then mayhem broke loose at the trade deadline. Isaiah Thomas is a nice add for the C’s with his skill set and contract for the long term. But factoring in Miami adding Goran Dragic, Detriot adding Reggie Jackson, and news that Jared Sullinger is going to be sidelined with a stress reaction in his left foot, things have changed. It’s going to be another lottery season.”
Rohrbach: “I’ve been bouncing back and forth on this one, just as the Celtics front office likely has in recent weeks, but I’m coming around on the idea of making a playoff push. Danny Ainge was more of a buyer than a seller at the deadline, and Brad Stevens will continue working with whatever pieces are at his disposal to win enough games that their odds of receiving a top-three pick in the lottery would be miniscule. The confidence that Stevens — and whichever players remain next season and beyond — would gain in knowing how his system works is just as valuable as the difference between the No. 12 and 17 picks.
“As for whether the C’s can make the playoffs, after writing them off two weeks ago, I’m on board, so long as Jared Sullinger’s toe injury doesn’t keep him out too long. Their recent string of four wins in five games — including a stunning upset of the first-place Hawks — combined with the mess that has become of the Nets and the injury to Hornets point guard Kemba Walker leaves the C’s and Pistons with the best chance of finishing eighth behind the Heat. The Celtics have a lighter schedule and two fewer losses than the Pacers and somewhat control their own destiny with the most head-to-head meetings against the five aforementioned teams.”
Packard: “There are already 10 teams with worse records than the Celtics, and with the addition of Isaiah Thomas the roster is too talented to lose the requisite number of games for a top-five pick. Tanking is not a realistic option, so why not try something new and fun like winning as many games as possible?
“The Heat locked up the seventh seed by adding Dragic, but I do think the Celtics have a puncher’s chance at the eight. Their fate rests entirely on the health of Sullinger, who has been the team’s best player in the first half of the season. If he is out for an extended period of time, the Celtics will not have enough muscle on the front line to beat good teams late in games. Also, their biggest competition for the final playoff spot in the east, the Pistons, just got better by adding Reggie Jackson to replace the injured Brandon Jennings.”
WHICH PLAYER NEEDS TO PLAY BETTER?
Edlow: “Avery Bradley is the easy answer. He is in the first year of a contract that is due to pay him $32 million over four seasons and Boston isn’t seeing near the production it should be for the price it paid. For comparison, the newly acquired Thomas just signed a cheaper contract (four years for $28 million), however, Thomas’ 19.7 player efficiency rating nearly doubles Bradley’s (10.8).”
Rohrbach: “When motivated, Jared Sullinger is undoubtedly the best player on the Celtics, but he’s not always motivated, as evidenced by his two recent benchings and the fact he’s never really gotten himself into proper shape. Yet he outplayed Paul Millsap in the C’s recent victory against the Hawks. While his conditioning may not make great strides over the final two months, particularly with the toe injury keeping him sidelined for the foreseeable future, he can begin his improvement by stepping inside the 3-point line, where he owns one of the league’s worst percentages among players who attempt three per game, and planting his considerable backside in the post, where he’s shooting close to 60 percent and grabbing 10 percent of available offensive rebounds.”
Packard: “Kelly Olynyk. This is probably an unfair answer, because Olynyk has done a very good job coming off the bench; but with Sullinger on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, Olynyk is going to get meaningful minutes. He needs to improve drastically on defense, where he has been a liability. On offense, Olynyk should continue to be aggressive by attacking the basket and taking the open 3 when its available.”
|5 things we learned about Celtics at trade deadline||at 12:20 am ET|
In the words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that really escalated quickly.”
Just when we appeared to be headed for a quiet trade deadline, seemingly half the league began swapping players and picks around as if there wouldn’t be another opportunity for years. When the smoke cleared, a record 37 players were moved by the deadline, and that doesn’t even include the future draft picks that changed hands.
So in wake of everything that happened today, here’s five things we learned about the Celtics at the deadline.
Thomas’ name came up in trade talks when Boston was rumored to send Rajon Rondo to the Kings last season, then again when Danny Ainge was the first person to reach out to Thomas as free agency began last summer, and now, obviously, the third time was a charm for Ainge. This is not a coincidence, the Celtics have been after Thomas for a while.
The 5-foot-9 Washington product was the last pick in 2011’s NBA draft but has far exceeded expectations during his time in the league. Last year with the Kings, Thomas produced averages of 20.3 points and 6.3 assists. So far this season Thomas has averaged 15.2 points and 3.7 helpers, but in limited minutes off the bench while helping his Suns team hold down a playoff spot in the West.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Celtics front office see Thomas as its point guard of the future. But if I’m wrong– and this is one of the best parts of Thomas’ contract — his deal always remains a tradeable asset. Due just $27 million over four years, there’s really no risk to brining Thomas on board.
MARCUS SMART NOW IS A SHOOTING GUARD
With Thomas in Boston, Smart now likely becomes the starting shooting guard, otherwise a backup combo guard for the time being. Smart had briefly been in control of the starting point guard role before the All-Star break, and did a good job with it. Smart still may backup Thomas at point guard while seeing a majority of his minutes off the ball, but it would be nice to see Smart get assigned a position and stick to it. With that said, Smart has adjusted very well no matter what role has been asked of him. I expect that trend to continue and Smart to have a strong finish to his rookie campaign — including small ball lineups with Thomas and Avery Bradley. The bottom line is that if he continues improving his shot and his relentless defense, Smart is going to be a very good pro. If he has one area he needs to improve upon, it’s in getting to the rim.
AINGE IS BEGINNING TO CASH IN HIS CHIPS
You might not be able to call the Celtics buyers at the deadline, but just think back on each of Ainge’s trades over the summer and throughout the season. They all accomplished one of two goals — the first being to add future draft picks and the second being to move unwanted long-term contracts for expiring deals.
This trade — although Thomas is a nice long-term asset — accomplished neither. Ainge actually finally shipped out one of his future assets (a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavs) in order to add a piece of the puzzle. The Celtics will gladly use their two first-round picks in June’s upcoming draft, but things are starting to get to the point where Ainge is ready to pull the trigger on moving picks for players when the right deal presents itself as it did with Phoenix.
|Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas in exchange for Marcus Thornton, 2016 first-round pick||02.19.15 at 3:25 pm ET|
The Celtics did in fact make a trade at the NBA’s trade deadline Thursday.
The team acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Suns. The Celtics will send Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick via Cleveland to Phoenix. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal.
“Isaiah is a dynamic offensive player whose scoring and playmaking abilities add to an already well-rounded backcourt with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley,” C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a press release. ‘We are excited to welcome Isaiah to the Celtics family.’
Thomas has averaged 15.2 points per game in 46 games this season. He was a 2011 second-round pick by the Kings.
For more Celtics news, visit weei.com/celtics.
For Isaiah Thomas, Boston will send Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick via Cleveland to Phoenix, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2015
|Isaiah Thomas: ‘Danny Ainge was 1st person to call me’||11.17.14 at 11:48 pm ET|
Other than the late addition of Evan Turner at a bargain basement price over the summer, the Celtics came away from NBA free agency empty-handed, but president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made at least one attempt at a big-name player of small stature.
Moments after free agency opened on July 1, Ainge called point guard Isaiah Thomas.
“Danny Ainge was the first person to call me at 12:01 a.m.,” Thomas said, “so if that’s interest, then I guess so.”
Thomas actually missed the call, but exchanged messages with Ainge before his agent Andy Miller took over negotiations. So, was the feeling mutual?
“I was interested in whoever was interested in me,” Thomas added, “so he was definitely a little interested if he was the first one to call me, but they went their ways and I went mine.”
Thomas’ way ultimately took him to Phoenix, where he landed by way of a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings. His agent reportedly reached a four-year, $28 million deal with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who worked under Ainge for 10 seasons before finishing runner-up in the NBA’s Executive of the Year voting in his first season in Phoenix.
|If Celtics can’t land Kevin Love, then Rajon Rondo should be traded||06.24.14 at 11:59 am ET|
I recently wrote that Kevin Love is going to become a member of the Celtics on draft night. I still believe that. However, there’s a whole other question that needs to be addressed.
What does Danny Ainge do if he is unable to add an All-Star to the core he has right now? The answer is to trade Rajon Rondo.
There are two clear-cut directions in which the Celtics can head. They can trade their assets for a proven veteran, like Love, or they can break ties with Rondo, Jeff Green and their older players to start a youth movement. Most fans prefer to win now, but if that option is not available, selling off pieces to rebuild is the right move.
So what is a reasonable trade offer for Rondo?
If you remember from the start of the season, there was a pretty realistic offer rumored to be coming from Sacramento. If the trade offer remains something in the ballpark of Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a draft pick (which would be No. 8 overall), that would be something Ainge considers. One note: Thomas is a restricted free agent, meaning Boston would be getting his rights. The C’s could re-sign him or let him walk for a higher offer.
Rondo has no interest in sticking around for a full rebuild, nor should he. Ainge knows this, and also is smart enough to know that there is no purpose to keep his star player on a roster that is not ready to win. The Celtics would then become one of the youngest teams in the league, with building blocks that have the potential to make them even younger.
Boston’s core would look something along these lines next season if Rondo were to be dealt to Sacramento (an easy example to use): The Celtics would roll out a lineup of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, McLemore, Thomas, Avery Bradley (a restricted free agent like Thomas) to go along with the players they draft at Nos. 6, 8 and 17. Keep in mind Ainge also would hold two first-round picks in the next two drafts.
No doubt there is risk involved with having so many young prospects on the roster. Some disappointing draft picks and developments are expected. At the same time, a couple of those players likely would become stars, while another couple should turn into good role players.
It’s nerve-racking to think about if you’re a Celtics fan, simply because there would be so much that would need to occur just to contend. But with other teams deep into trade talks for Love, this is a realistic alternative that everyone needs to be ready to accept. You know, just in case I’m wrong about Love.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.
|Celtics trade rumor: More Rajon Rondo rumblings||02.18.14 at 9:42 am ET|
As Rondo said, “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic.” Other teams want an All-Star, All-Defensive point guard, and they want him cheap.
Here’s the latest that’ll make Danny Ainge chuckle.
According to the Toronto Sun (h/t SB Nation), the Raptors would like Rondo, and the C’s may budge on the alleged asking price of two first-round picks, citing a source who believes Ainge would welcome “at least one lottery pick and talented young player.”
It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its ‘star’ quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.
Oh, one of the game’s top five point guards has piqued their interest? Well, then, we might as well lump the remaining 28 teams into this rumor. And is it no secret the C’s have dangled Rondo league-wide? Time and again, Ainge reminds everyone willing to listen the phone may ring but he’s not making the calls about his lone star.
Take this retread rumor, for example. As a number of less reputable outlets reported two months ago, the Kings offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick in exchange for Rondo, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Except, “Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.” Let me get this straight: Sacramento didn’t want to part with Ben McLemore for Rajon Rondo. That must be it. And there’s the small matter of that deal missing roughly $10 million in salary to make it work.
|Donny Marshall on M&M: Celtics talking to Kings about trading Rajon Rondo for Isaiah Thomas, others||12.18.13 at 11:15 am ET|
Marshall turned heads earlier this week when he said Sacramento is a possible landing spot for Rondo, who has yet to play this season as he works his way back from a torn ACL suffered in January. According to Marshall, there is a multi-player deal in the works between the Celtics and Kings.
“This is actually something that the teams are talking about,” Marshall insisted. “The name that people would understand and would know is a guy like Isaiah Thomas. He’s a great little guard. He’s having career highs right now, he’s averaging about 18, 19 points a game. He’s a scorer. He’s a guy who can run the point for you, but he can also score. He’s one piece.
“I think the other piece, you throw in some other athletes — remember, they just made a trade, Sacramento, to get Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray. And they’ve had some other guys there that they’re trying to move. The key for them is two future first-round picks. If you’re to stay on that same theme that the Celtics have been on, to get young and to be good for a long time, how do you do that? You get them through the draft. ‘¦ I think here’s another opportunity to not only get a couple of good players now, young players, but you get two future first-round picks. To me, it makes total sense.”
Added Marshall: “Guys are always going to be talked about. In Rondo’s situation ‘¦ it makes sense. Do you want to be mediocre? Do you want to finish sixth this year? Not that anyone is going to try to tank — this team is playing terrific. ‘¦ I’m happy that they’re playing the way they’re playing. But for the fans and for that market, to be mediocre is not fun. ‘¦ That, I don’t think the Celtics deserve. The fans don’t deserve that, the players don’t deserve that. The way you get past that sooner than later is trying to move a guy like Rajon Rondo. And that’s not to be disrespectful to a player like Rondo.”
The Celtics also reportedly are pushing to acquire disgruntled Rockets center Omer Asik.
“You talk about Omer Asik, they want to now try to find a package to get him out of Houston. Brandon Bass is a name that they’re throwing in there. I don’t think Jeff Green will be a guy that you would want to [trade]; I think he’s untouchable, in my opinion. I think that’s one guy you can try to continue to build around, but there are some other pieces that will go.
“A complete dismantling? No. But I think Danny [Ainge] will do what he’s always done. He will think these things through. He will talk to all of his guys around him. The one thing that’s great about Danny is he always has people around him that are smarter than him. I love that theory. Because now you go to them and you trust them, and those people are doing their due diligence to make sure the team is going in the right direction.
“I don’t think they’ll dismantle, but I do think Danny will take some pieces that he can build around and and not completely be in the basement, but put himself in a position to be able to get — I think they can get some of those lottery picks. I really think they can get some of those game-changers in the next two drafts.”
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