There were people who thought the Boston Celtics would have been better off landing a lottery pick in this year’s draft rather than being swept in the first round of the playoffs. I, folks, am one of those people.
I fail to see the value in a group of players, most of whom aren’t even a part of this team’s future, being manhandled by a behemoth opponent in the name of gaining playoff experience. It would be one thing if the Celtics had their core already formed, and all they needed was to grow together through shared experiences and increased familiarity. But, that isn’t the case with the Celtics.
All that said, to the credit of this scrappy group of players and a coach on the rise, the Celtics took many people by surprise thanks to a 17-9 finish over the last two months of the season.
Now, thanks to their unlikely late-season run, they sit with the 16th pick in this year’s draft, a proverbial no man’s land in which juggernauts such as Royce White (2011), Luke Babbitt (2010), Jiri Welsch (2002) and Kirk Haston (2001) have been eagerly snatched off the board.
Making the playoffs might not have been such a good idea after all.
The silver lining is that this year’s draft appears to be as deep as any in recent memory, and the Celtics also have the 28th overall pick, which they received from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Doc Rivers deal.
This year’s Celtics have several very prominent weaknesses that need to be addressed. They were terrible at protecting the rim, dead-last in blocks with 3.6 per game, and they didn’t shoot the ball well from the floor, 48.7 percent effective field-goal percentage (20th) and 32.4 percent from three point range (28th).
They were actually pretty good in most other categories. They took care of the ball, only turning it over 13.8 times per game (10th best) they shared the ball, averaging 24.3 assists per game (5th) and they played really good perimeter defense, as evidenced by their 8.1 steals per game (9th). They were also in the upper half in offensive rebounding, 11.1 per game (12th) and defensive rebounding, 32.7 per game (11th).
Where Do They Go Now?
Boston will have plenty of salary cap to target big-name free agents. As of now, they only have $42 million of salary on the books for next season, $10 million of which is tied up in Gerald Wallace, and the Celtics have already stated that they are willing to part with one of their first-round picks in order to move Wallace and his over inflated salary. They have 11 first-round picks at their disposal over the next five years to use as capital to secure additional assets.
They clearly need to focus their efforts on finding rim-protectors and players that can spread the floor with their perimeter shooting. At the 16th spot in this year’s draft, there are several options that make sense for the Celtics.
R.J. Hunter, SG out of Georgia State, might be the most pure jump-shooter coming out this year and would be a perfect fit, adding a much-needed deep threat to the Celtics’ offense.
Myles Turner, C out of Texas, would be another good option for them to add some size in the paint. His 7’4″ wingspan would definitely make life much more difficult around the rim for opposing teams.
Christian Wood, PF out of UNLV is as thin as a rail, but has great shot-blocking ability and a decent face-up game. Cliff Alexander, PF out of Kansas is a physical force on the court, and is able to impact the game without the ball, exactly what the Celtics need from their bigs. Both players could be available with Boston’s second first-rounder.
In terms of free agency, the Celtics have plenty of options. Kevin Love has been repeatedly linked to the Celtics as one of their primary targets. He would be a nice addition in terms of his ability to stretch the floor and knock down open three-pointers, but he doesn’t add much in the way of rim protection.
For Love, he would definitely be the clear-cut star on the Celtics’ roster, a major distinction from his role as the third option on the Cleveland Cavaliers. That is something, if the speculation about his motivations are true, he would certainly welcome.
In terms of available players who would add a much-needed element of interior defensive prowess, Draymond Green is probably the best option the market. Green is probably a long shot as he is likely to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors, but the Celtics would be wise to throw as much money at him as possible to lure him. He would be a perfect fit in the Celtics’ defensively stout system.
Tyson Chandler is a slightly cheaper option, but would still strengthen their interior defense significantly. He should be in the Celtics’ plans if they fail to land Green. Roy Hibbert could be another target.
There are also plenty of players available this summer to strengthen their perimeter shooting. On the higher end, Wesley Matthews would be an incredible fit with their tough-as-nails defensive backcourt, as a perimeter shooter. Other cheaper options include Rodney Stuckey, Marcus Thornton and Marco Belinelli. Any of those three, while not the defensive player Matthews is, would give the Celtics some firepower from deep.
The Celtics may be the team to watch this offseason in terms of major moves to overhaul their roster. Danny Ainge has never been one to shy away from making any and every move necessary to produce a championship contender. One thing is clear, the Celtics’ roster will look entirely different at the start of next season.