|Marcus Thornton needs to get minutes in crunch time||12.11.14 at 9:05 pm ET|
The Celtics‘ primary struggles have been well documented to this point. They are very, very bad when it comes to late game execution. One of the players most people look to in those situations — including his teammates — is Rajon Rondo. But, Rondo has preformed poorly in those scenarios so far this season, something he hasn’t lost any sleep over.
Realistically, crunch time scoring is not Rondo’s forte. That’s not his fault. He’s a brilliant passer that is trying to find his young teammates who are attempting to learn on the fly while under pressure.
Another seemingly strong option late in games should be Jeff Green, who has hit some game-winners before. Green is having the career-year many have been looking for from him, at least in terms on consistency and aggressiveness, but even he hasn’t done enough to keep the Celtics from throwing away games in fourth quarters.
Here’s an idea: Give Marcus Thornton a try.
Thornton was an afterthought entering the season. He’s in Boston because his expiring contract was included in a trade that Danny Ainge used to add Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick to the tall-standing pile of assets the Celtics have collected. Thornton, a streaky bench scorer, has kept his team in games a few times this season, but even more so recently.
In Sunday’s win over the Wizards, Thornton scored 21 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. 11 of those points were during a run that broke the game open for the C’s in the second quarter, and then he added another eight points to keep the Celtics on top in the fourth quarter after the Wizards were threatening to steal the win.
|Brad Stevens preaches defense at practice, Marcus Smart speaks for first time since injury||11.13.14 at 7:34 pm ET|
Following Wednesday’s home loss to the Thunder, Brad Stevens took the Celtics through a practice that lasted almost two hours on Thursday afternoon and not surprisingly, the focus was on defense after the C’s let up 109 points to a severely short-handed Oklahoma City squad.
“I think we wanted to talk about some things we were doing defensively and not doing defensively,” Stevens said. “We watched a lot of film of that. And then, you know, we’ll see what the carryover looks like. [But it clearly] was a defensive oriented film session and review session.”
Stevens added: “We did some good things. But we did not sustain them, and that was the other emphasis [Thursday].”
There was some positive news coming from the session.
Marcus Smart was up and walking around at the Celtics‘ practice facility, and also spoke to the media for the first time since spraining his left ankle during last Friday night’s game.
“I’ve sprained my ankle before, plenty of times,” said Smart. “It’s a part of the game, it’s a part of being an athlete. But I’ve never been in that type of pain with my ankle before, so it was something new to me.”
The pain was obvious since Smart was ushered off the court on a stretcher, but even though the sprain turned out to be less serious than what seemed at the time, the rookie is being cautious about how he handles the injury moving forward.
“I’m just taking it slow, taking my time, [I want to] make sure I’m 100 percent,” Smart said. “I don’t really want to rush anything right now. Even though I’m going to feel better before I really am, I’m just trying to make sure that, you know, I’m 100 percent before I step on the court again.”
|Asset Management: Marcus Thornton’s Celtics future||10.08.14 at 12:38 pm ET|
I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Marcus Thornton.
The second-round pick that later became Marcus Thornton was traded for a dude named Stanko Barac when “Li’l Buckets” was still a Kilgore College sophomore, and thus his well traveled NBA road was paved before it even started.
Dealt again on draft day for a pair of future second-round picks, the LSU transfer immediately launched an assault on a list of doubters that’s weirdly evergrowing for a player whose NBA potential as a volume scorer was rather accurately assessed by DraftExpress from the start. In his only full season on the Hornets, Thornton averaged 14.5 points on 55.0 percent true shooting in 25.6 minutes a night alongside point guards Chris Paul and fellow rookie Darren Collison.
Traded in season twice — from New Orleans to Sacramento for Carl Landry in 2011 and from the Kings to the Brooklyn Nets for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans last season — Thornton has been consistently productive ever since. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound shooting guard has averaged between 17.3 and 20.3 points per 36 minutes and produced a PER between 14.0 and 18.2 each step of the way — save for a 46-game stretch in Mike Malone’s system to start last season.
|Celtics acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, 1st-round pick in deal that may pave way for LeBron James to Cleveland||07.09.14 at 10:51 am ET|
The Celtics acquired Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick from the Cavaliers and Marcus Thornton from the Nets in a three-team trade that may pave the way for LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland, ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported.
In return, the Celtics are sending a second-round pick to the Cavs and using the $10.3 million trade exception they received upon dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last summer. That TPE was set to expire on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Nets receive Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers, freeing enough cap space (roughly $24.0 million) for Cleveland to potentially offer James a maximum contract of four years, $94.8 million.
As a result, the Celtics reportedly received Cleveland’s No. 1 pick in 2016 (top-10 protected through 2018), a 24-year-old 7-footer under their control through 2016 and Thornton’s expiring $8.6 million contract for a second-round pick.
In addition to acquiring Zeller, who averaged 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, the Celtics could have as many as nine first-round picks over the next four seasons and $41.4 million in expiring contracts (Rajon Rondo‘s $12.9 million, Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million, Joel Anthony‘s $3.8 million and potentially Jeff Green‘s $9.2 million player option). There’s no doubt the move puts the Celtics in a better position to acquire Kevin Love or any other desirable player by trade this season or by free agency next summer.
According to Kirk Goldsberry‘s easily digestible shot charts, Zeller (1,049 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 58.1 TS%, 15.4 PER) attempted nearly 70 percent of his shots around the basket and converted almost 60 percent of them. Likewise, Thornton (1,741 min, 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 51.1 TS%, 12.0 PER) is a decent enough 3-point shooter from the right corner, left arc and straightaway, but underwhelming from mid-range and the paint. Neither are considered defensive stalwarts. Quite simply, this trade, in a vacuum, does not make the C’s much better this year.
Additionally, the Celtics now have $64.7 million in guaranteed contracts dedicated to Rondo, Gerald Wallace ($10.1M), Green, Thornton, Bass, Anthony, Avery Bradley (estimated $8M), Vitor Faverani ($2.1M), Kelly Olynyk ($2.1M), Zeller ($1.7M) and Jared Sullinger ($1.4M). That puts them over the estimated $63.2 million salary cap. Details of Marcus Smart‘s contract haven’t emerged, but cap holds for him and James Young already add another $4.1 million to that number. Likewise, the C’s also have Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb signed to non-guaranteed minimum contracts, pushing their current commitments to $69.7 million.
In other words, the best the Celtics can now offer a free agent is the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3M), meaning Ainge probably isn’t done dealing this summer, especially if he hopes to avoid the lottery again next year.
|NBA trade deadline roundup: 76ers reportedly send Spencer Hawes to Cavaliers; Jason Terry heads to Kings||02.20.14 at 11:45 am ET|
Philadelphia reportedly will get two second-round draft picks and backup forward Earl Clark for Hawes, who is averaging 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in the final year of a deal that pays $6.6 million this season.
The 76ers have the second-worst record in the NBA at 15-40, leading only the Bucks (10-43). The Cavaliers are 22-33 and three games out of a playoff spot in the embarrassingly bad Eastern Conference.
— Jason Terry is on the move again. The veteran guard, traded along with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics to the Nets in the offseason, was sent to the Kings along with Reggie Evans for guard Marcus Thornton.
Terry, 36, is averaging a career-worst 4.5 points and 1.5 assists while playing 16.3 minutes over 35 games this season. Evans, 33, is averaging 2.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13.3 minutes over 30 games.
Thornton, 26, is averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 24.4 minutes over 46 games. He makes $8.1 million this year and is due $8.6 million next season.
“Marcus is a proven scorer in this league,” Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement. “He is a young talent who will help us in the backcourt.”
— The Lakers and Warriors confirmed that guard Steve Blake is headed to Golden State for backup guards Kent Bazemore and former Celtic Marshon Brooks.
“The acquisition of Steve Blake will provide us with additional veteran depth at point guard as we enter the stretch run of the season,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said in a statement. “He’s had a productive career and is a player who can both run an offense and has the ability to shoot the basketball. On the other hand, we thank Kent and MarShon for their contributions to our team both on and off the court and wish them success as they enter the next stage of their careers.”
Blake, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, heads to his seventh team in his 11-year career.
Tough to see a great player, friend and professional get traded tonight. My best wishes @SteveBlake5 , the Warriors are lucky to have you.
|Celtics free agent options at shooting guard redux||11.29.11 at 6:11 pm ET|
Just as the Celtics seemingly solidified the center position prior to the 2010-11 season, the same could be said for two-guards. They featured a Hall of Fame starter (Ray Allen) along with a tough combo guard (Delonte West), a lengthy swingman (Marquis Daniels) and a shoot-first scorer (Von Wafer). The latter three are unrestricted free agents this offseason, and there’s a chance any of the trio could return.
As we’ve noted before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Kevin Garnett, $21.2; Paul Pierce, $15.33; Ray Allen, $10; Rajon Rondo, $10; Jermaine O’Neal, $6.23; Avery Bradley, $1.53), and Jeff Green is due at least another $5.91 million this offseason.
However, unlike the center situation, there will be a ton of quality available shooting guards. As a result, Celtics president Danny Ainge can more easily upgrade the team as a whole by dedicating what little money he’ll have available to a two-guard once the free agency frenzy opens on Dec. 9.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at shooting guard, separating the current free-agent players into four categories.
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