2012-2013 Season Recap: 41-40, 3rd in the Atlantic Division, 1st Round Exit to the New York Knicks.
Departures: Kevin Garnett(Traded to Brooklyn), Paul Pierce(Traded to Brooklyn), Jason Terry(Traded to Brooklyn), Doc Rivers(“Traded to LAC), Shavlik Randolph(Waived)
New Arrivals: Marshon Brooks(Traded from Brooklyn), Kris Humphries(Traded from Brooklyn), Keith Bogans(Traded from Brooklyn), Kelly Olynyk(Drafted), Colton Iverson(Drafted), Vitor Faverani(Signed as Free Agent), Phil Pressey(Signed as Undrafted Free Agent), Brad Stevens(Signed as Head Coach)
Transitioning from a perennial playoff team to what, honestly, hopes to be bottom-dwelling in the bottom of the conference for the foreseeable future is normally nothing to be proud of. However, in this case it happens to be the predetermined course Danny Ainge set when he decided he was going to move on from the Big 3/Doc Rivers Era. Ainge and ownership decided that being in a position where they can accrue draft picks and maintain cap flexibility was the more sensible decision to further success of the franchise and properly utilize the talents of their enigmatic point guard. Ainge was willing to sacrifice sentimentality and loyalty for the good of the franchise when he dealt Paul/KG/Jet(and DJ White) for two first rounders and the rest of the haul they acquired from Brooklyn.
What Went Right
While seemingly decimating and gutting the roster, Ainge put forth a wizard-like effort of gaining assets for the team. Boston currently possesses nine 1st round picks over the next five years. Drafting itself may not be an exact science and picks usually flame out more often than not but 1st round picks in this era are very valuable assets when negotiating trades. It’s also very uncommon that you see a team get such a haul for a couple of veterans — who are still very useful players on a contender–and a Head Coach.
The biggest accomplishment achieved this offseason was being able to maintain financial flexibility down the road. Not taking potential contract extensions into account, Boston has the potential to have major cap space in the summer of 2015. In the process of making the trade with Brooklyn, Boston agreed to take back Kris Humphries/Wallace/Bogans/Brooks. Humphries’ contract expires at the end of this upcoming season, Wallace’s deal runs through 2016 but with the use of the stretch provision that cap hit could be sliced into around $4 million per year with the only caveat being they’d be paying that number for an extra 3-4 years and he would be cut. Bogans’ deal becomes non-guaranteed after this season and The Celtics have the option of declining Marshon Brooks’ team option next summer. Mostly this just means that Boston could potentially be rid of all 4 of these players should they not be able to trade them. Biggest thing to remember in all of this talk of financial freedom/flexibiilty are the impending expiring contracts of both Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo in the summer of 2015 though that is not much of a worry at the moment.
An understated part of Boston’s offseason was the drafting of Kelly Olynyk. While no one is expecting Olynyk to take the league by storm and win RoY, his offensive skill set is something that can be very valuable in the NBA. In a league where spacing on offense is one of the most sought after commodities to combat the quickly evolving overloading defenses, Olynyk being a stretch four with a very good ability to make plays off the dribble only increases his prospects of having a long career in the NBA and with Boston. He’s not perfect, especially on the defensive side but that will come with the teaching of better tendencies and rotations.
What Went Wrong:
Anytime you decimate a teams talent level like the Celtics there will obviously be some drawbacks like becoming a terrible basketball team. As the Celtics stand today they seem to be destined to be a bottom feeder in the east. As we get closer to the season questions like “Who is going to score for this team?” and “How are they going to play defense” will arise and honestly these are questions even Coach Stevens may not know the answer to.
Offensively losing one of the best scorers in franchise history and a very high usage player in Paul Pierce will be impossible to replace. Jeff Green showed signs of improving as a go to scorer but even then still lacks the playmaking ability Pierce possessed. There’s also the problem of not knowing when exactly Rondo will be back and not really having a suitable backup. Avery at the moment is the most qualified point guard on the team but with his ball handling and passing struggles, it’s hard to see him flourishing in a full time role as point guard. Former Missouri Guard Phil Pressey is on the roster but it’s likely he gets minimal playing time at best. Spacing on this team might also be hard to come by. Realistically there are about two average/above average 3pt shooters on this team– not including Olynyk– and that would be Courtney Lee/Jeff Green. You can’t survive in the NBA without spacing, it’s just not possible, not with teams getting better and better at combating offenses. For this team to even be average on offense, Coach Stevens will have to work some miracles.
On the other side of the court it might be even worse. While they were a top 5 defense this season it’s very likely that this team could be the exact opposite. The biggest loss they face from a personnel standpoint was the presence of KG. In 1,946 minutes last season with KG off the court Boston sported a defense would’ve been good for bottom 10 in the league. It won’t help that Garnett’s replacement is Kris Humphries, whose career defensive rating of 106 is well below average. Boston might actually have the worst defensive front court in the entire league. Their top four, Bass/Sully/Humphries/Olynyk, aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess and is almost completely devoid of any imposing length. Some of these problems could be eased with smart pick-and-roll defense, solid perimeter defense and rotations but that is very optimistic with a rookie head coach.It’s hard seeing this team be anything other than a below average defense.
Final Grade: C+
In a vacuum Boston had a terrible offseason in regards to player personnel. The talent level was laughably diminished, there are still major questions marks at both the center and backup point guard and they just didn’t improve the team. Even knowing this I would still give them a C+ just because of the facts that this was what they set out to do and they managed to do it in a way where they still gained assets, which is the most important factor for a rebuilding franchise. Also being able to snatch up Brad Stevens is huge in my mind, a low risk-high reward signing. Retaining flexibility is the main goal at the end of the day. Being able to rebuild in the fashion that Ainge wants is what he set out for in the first place and he now has that ability.