|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.”
|2014 NBA free agent point guards available to Celtics||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.
|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.”
|NBA draft roundup: Celtics, 76ers, Lakers rumored landing spots for Joel Embiid; Kings likely keeping No. 8 pick||at 2:57 pm ET|
Foot and back injuries have caused Kansas center Joel Embiid — once expected to be the first overall selection in Thursday’s NBA draft — to slide down the boards.
Joel Embiid’s seriously in play for three spots in top part of lottery: 76ers (3), Celtics (6), Lakers (7), league sources tell Yahoo.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 26, 2014
Embiid, a 7-foot center from Cameroon, averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in his only season with the Jayhawks, despite only playing organized basketball since 2011.
— It appears that the rumored deal between the Celtics and Kings, which would include point guard Rajon Rondo and Sacramento’s eighth overall pick as the two main components, may not come to fruition.
Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears tweeted that the Kings seem to be content to keep their pick.
The Kings appear poised to keep the 8th pick, sources said.
‘ Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 26, 2014
— With the draft fast approaching, it seems that the 76ers are going all in in an effort to acquire the first overall pick from the Cavaliers and draft Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins.
Tom Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News tweeted that the 76ers are doing everything they can to pry the top pick from Cleveland.
According to league source, Sixers in full court press with Cleveland to get No. 1 pick. “They really, really, really want Wiggins.”
‘ Bob Cooney (@BobCooney76) June 26, 2014
Philadelphia certainly has many trading chips at its disposal, including the third and 10th overall picks and a host of promising players such as Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.
The move benefits the Rapotors because it would put them in position to select Syracuse guard (and Ontario native) Tyler Ennis.
By making the trade, the Grizzlies would be able to take Prince’s $7.7 million salary cap hit off their books for next season.
|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 persistent Rajon Rondo to Sacramento rumor||06.25.14 at 8:54 am ET|
The once strange Rajon Rondo to Sacramento rumors continue to persist, and the latest development makes more sense than any previous narrative.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Kings and Pistons have discussed a deal that would pair Josh Smith with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins in the Sactown backcourt. So, what does that have to do with the Celtics point guard?
The hope, at least from Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro‘s standpoint, may be to leverage longtime friends Smith and Gay as recruiting coordinators in convincing the C’s captain to sign a long-term contract with a team that has not made the playoffs since 2006. Smith, Gay and Rondo all have openly discussed their desire to play with each other at various points over the last few years.
Sacramento’s interest in Rondo is nothing new. In February, the Kings and Celtics reportedly discussed a trade that would send Rondo packing in exchange for a package including Ben McLemore, Isaiah Thomas and a pair of picks.
Thomas is a restricted free agent, so he could still be included in a sign-and-trade, and the possibility of adding last year’s No. 7 overall pick (McLemore), Sacto’s No. 8 pick this season and a future pick is an increasingly intriguing haul should C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge not land Kevin Love and instead deal Rondo.
|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.
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