With just ten games remaining in this long 2013-2014 season before a franchise-changing offseason, there are numerous players on the Boston Celtics who have a lot to prove to fans and management.
Disclaimer: I only selected players who I think are at risk of being replaced this summer or in search of a new contract. Another factor was players who have something to prove to the fans. I considered Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger free because of their proven production; Kelly Olynyk safe for his evident improvements; Kris Humphries because he’s almost assuredly not coming back; and Gerald Wallace because we all hate him as much as possible.
1. Jeff Green
The obvious scapegoat for Celtics’ fans this tough season, I’ll try to refrain from too much bashing here. Green’s spot on next year’s roster is nearly certain, but his role is not. With two of the top three and three of the top ten draft prospects playing the same position as Green, there’s a legitimate chance that he finds himself in a battle for his position next year. Signed through 2015-2016 with a 9.5 million dollar contract, the Celtics are probably looking for more than a bench spark. For Green to truly solidify his spot in next years rotation, consistency is a must. It seems like every time Green has a great game, he completely disappears the next. Boston resigned Green with the intention of locking up a leading scorer. A steady string of production over the next ten games would mean a lot towards the way he is viewed in management. It could also save him from a whole offseason of fan questioning and bashing.
Bradley has had a solid season and has shown glimpses of improvement and chemistry with Rajon Rondo. Loved for his defensive toughness, Bradley has seen a huge boost in his scoring and shooting numbers. So why does he have a lot to prove as the season comes to an end? His contract status. Bradley is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason. While Ainge has said he considers Bradley to be in the backcourt of the future, other teams might consider the same thing. As we saw a few years ago with Tony Allen, teams (especially in the West) love lockdown guards. I personally would offer Bradley a contract around 6-8 million a year. While I personally don’t think he could be the starting shooting guard on a championship team, I think he could most certainly be the Sixth Man. He has played in only ten games since mid-January and, although he has played well the last few games, I think these final ten games will go a long way towards what kind of future he has here in Boston.
Since being signed in the middle of January, Chris Johnson has played very well in my opinion. Tallying 19.3 minutes per game (the same amount Kelly Olynyk averages), Johnson has averaged 6.4 points per game while providing consistently solid outside shooting presence (38.5% is best among active Celtics). His 1.2 treys per game also ties him for second-best on the team. His spot is far from being cemented for next year though. Since Avery Bradley’s return, Johnson has only topped ten points once. For Johnson to boost his image in the eyes of management, he’ll have to prove that he can play consistently well even in reduced minutes. A large part of Johnson’s stock is tied with other guards, mainly Bradley’s and Jerryd Bayless‘s. Throw in the possibility of a potential guard coming aboard in the draft, and the backcourt is getting crowded. Johnson will need to really play well these last ten games to prove he deserves a spot for next season.
4. Brandon Bass
Bass is 1/4 of a frontcourt that is starting to get a little crowded. The 8-year vet has played in every game this season and has started in 63 of them while enjoying an uptick in scoring and rebounding numbers from last year. But digging into the analytics has also shown that Bass has really struggled this year and hurt the Celtics. His Simple Rating of -5.1 ranks worst on the team (click here for explanation of Simple Rating, similar to PER) and the team plays 6.1 net points per 100 possessions BETTER when Bass is NOT playing. What that means is that the team is much better when Bass is on the bench. So why would he even have anything left to prove over these last ten games? With a 6.9 million dollar contract ending after next season, Bass has been in a plethora of trade rumors this season. Contending teams looking for improved rebounding and big men off the bench could strike gold with Bass. I personally don’t think he should be brought back based on the opinion that the growths of Sullinger and Olynyk are being stunted the more Bass and Humphries play. Around the trade deadline, Bass expressed happiness that he could stay in Boston. If he wants that stay to continue, he’s going to have to prove over these last ten games that he can score consistently (averging under 10 ppg in March) and rebound like he’s supposed to (averaging only 4.5 rpg this month).
5. Jamie Young/Jay Larranaga/Micah Shrewsberry/Ron Adams/Walter McCarty
Plot twist. Didn’t see this one coming did ya? The five names listed above are the five assistant coaches for the Celtics. Right off the bat I’d scratch Larranaga, Adams, and McCarty off the list. Larranaga does a lot of work with the D-League Red Claws, Adams is a shooting coach wizard, and McCarty is well-respected among players for his occasional spot in team pick-up games and relationship with the players. But the other two? Watch out for the White Mamba. Our old friend Brian Scalabrine was recently dismissed from his coaching role in Golden State and Danny Ainge has already stated that he’d be interested in a reunion with the former G.O.A.T. I have absolutely no clue how any of these coaches would be able to “prove themselves” over the last ten games, but if they feel their seats getting a little hotter, know it’s the White Mamba’s doing.