|2014 NBA free agent small forwards available to Celtics||06.29.14 at 8:54 am ET|
With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Small forwards. 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.
- 2014 NBA free agent point guards available to Celtics
- 2014 NBA free agent shooting guards available to Celtics
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.
With Green, Wallace, Johnson and Young all under their control for at least the next two seasons, the Celtics seem locked into the position at first glance. Upon closer look, Ainge will surely shop the two years and $18.4 million left on Green’s contract if the youth movement continues, Wallace could be jettisoned, too, Johnson’s contract isn’t guaranteed and Young is just 18 years old. This year’s free agent small forward crop is as good as the shooting guard list is bad, so don’t be surprised if the C’s are linked to every name out there except LeBron James.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.
|Celtics extend qualifying offer to Avery Bradley||at 8:50 am ET|
With free agency looming on July 1, the move was inevitable, allowing the Celtics to match any offer Bradley receives on the market this summer.
During a press conference regarding first-round draft picks Marcus Smart and James Young, Ainge appeared confident the Celtics will bring back Bradley. Reports have indicated he could command between $7-9 million as a restricted free agent, and the limited crop of available shooting guards makes it more likely he could end up earning the higher end of that estimate.
After earning Second Team All-Defensive honors in 2012-13, Bradley made significant improvements offensively this past season, averaging 15 points and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. However, the added offensive load left him off the All-Defensive roster, and he missed significant time for a second straight season due to injury. Still, losing Bradley would be a serious blow to the Celtics this summer. Still only 23 years old, he has All-Star potential and the work ethic to reach it.
|Brad Stevens on rebuilding with Marcus Smart and James Young: ‘I don’t want to sell our team short’||06.27.14 at 12:57 pm ET|
Rebuilding is a four-letter word to Brad Stevens.
More to the point, it’s something the second-year coach of the Celtics doesn’t have time to consider. Let Danny Ainge be concerned about the semantics of “putting young pieces in place” or “restructuring the roster.” For Stevens, his focus is on the here and now and near-future.
He made that much perfectly clear when asked if adding 20-year-old Marcus Smart and 18-year-old James Young to the roster Thursday night meant that he was entering the second year of a rebuilding program.
“That’s going to have to be a question for all of you and maybe pose that question to management or pose that question to people who aren’t coaching,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when you’re a coach and you’re in the midst of it, you’re trying to win every game and you’re trying to win the next game. You don’t look at anything as rebuilding. You look at it as the next opportunity. As long as you can prepare and strive and do your best, it’s hard for me to say that because I don’t want to sell our team short.”
Stevens is excited about this much — he’s getting two young talents that know how to create their own shot, something that was missing last season in the 25-win campaign.
“The only thing I would say that we were at least discussing coming into play with the second pick was perimeter scoring,” Stevens said, referring to the selection of Young at No. 17. “I guess the current roster construction you might say that played a role in that. But at the end of the day, we wanted to take the best players available, that we thought were the best players available for us.
“I feel a lot better standing here today than I did on July 4 last year, with how I feel heading into things, how much more comfortable I am understanding the schedule of the NBA, the way to get the most out of our team as we move forward, the way to get the most out of our individuals. We’ll have a lot of guys back that have been a part of this and understand how we want to do things. I think we’re adding two good workers. I think we’re adding two guys that will be hungry to help and I think that’s all a positive. Can I predict how many wins that creates? I can’t predict that. I think we’ll be a lot more prepared from the standpoint of the big picture, both on the court and in our preseason and everything else than I would’ve felt last year at this time.”
|Wyc Grousbeck: Drafting Marcus Smart doesn’t have ‘any impact’ on Rajon Rondo||06.26.14 at 11:12 pm ET|
Well, according to owner Wyc Grousbeck, the answer is not much at all. The reason for Grousbeck’s public stance is Brad Stevens, who proved through a 25-win season that he could handle most of what Rondo could throw at any first-year coach.
“It’s interesting, that wasn’t a topic of conversation tonight,” Grousbeck said. “We have confidence in Brad that he can manage a roster but we also had confidence that of the top six we were going to take the best available as opposed to trying to slot in. That’s a strategy when you’re rebuilding a team, you take the best available athlete and then you let it all work out. We’ve got an All-Star point guard, so that’s not a question here.”
“I don’t think this has any impact on Rajon at all.”
Grousbeck acknowledged he hadn’t spoken with his star point guard before the selection was made.
Earlier this offseason, Grousbeck hinted at possible “fireworks” this summer if Danny Ainge found a trade partner.
“I always said fireworks were a possibility,” he said. “It takes two to tango around here. There just hasn’t been that much movement tonight. Typically on draft day, we make two trades if not three. That’s just the way we roll, ‘Trader Danny,’ and it’s had great effect for us. We like to be aggressive about rebuilding this team. We like to become contenders again as quickly as possible. So, we’ll keep working the phones, but it takes two partners to make a trade.”
So the Celtics did what Ainge predicted they would at the beginning of the night — hold onto their selections at 6 and 17 overall, taking Smart and Kentucky wing James Young.
“We knew there were six or seven kids that we wanted,” Grousbeck said. “So, the idea of moving to 8 or 10, moving slightly higher in the draft really wasn’t of interest. Maybe there’s a cliff in the draft. We wanted to stay at 6 or move up. We wanted to make other trades in recent days. We’d been on the phone quite a bit with other teams about other ideas. Nothing ever really seemed close to fruition, no matter how hard we tried. I remember trading for Kevin Garnett in ’07 and I got a call from Minnesota on July 30 or 31st, [so] the trade season is not over yet.”
|Celtics select Kentucky wing James Young at No. 17||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.
|Three ways to survive in the East: Imagining Celtics president Danny Ainge’s phone conversations on NBA draft day||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.