by Henri Rousseau
As Danny Ainge has re-built this team in the years following the Big 3, he is constantly looking to the future. His progress-oriented mindset has finally paid off, as the fruits of his many years of labor have brought this team to be the deepest and best young team in the league. He is not afraid to make a monster deal for a star, trade a player dear to the city, or break things up a few years early. Danny’s mindset is what makes this team so fun to discuss and wonder about. So without further ado, here are things to watch for and have on your mind when discussing the future of the Celtics.
After the 2018-19 season, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, and Daniel Theis are due to be normal free agents. Expect Terry to be gone next year, after leading the team in playoff minutes, averaging 16.5 / 5.3 / 5.7. That got the attention of young teams around the league, with the Sun’s being the team in the rumour mill. Other possible teams: Magic, Knicks, Hornets (if Kemba leaves). Morris through ten games has looked great, playing great defense and shooting unbelievably well ( 14.7 / 6.9 / 1.0 on .51 / .49 / .86 on 4.9 3PA). If he plays this well for the whole season, along with his defense and height, his price will be too high for the Celtics to match. There’s almost no chance his 3pt shooting remains this good though, and I’d say it’s a 50-50 chance he returns next year on a team friendly deal. Daniel Theis is one of my favorite bench players on the Celtics. He seems to know his role, and play hard on defense. If he can stay healthy this year, I can see Danny signing him to another contract as a bench guy. The national media seems to pretty much ignore the guy, and I can see that working to the Celtics advantage in re-signing talks.
After this season, Kyrie, Horford, and Aron Baynes have player options. Kyrie has already said he is declining his, and intends to resign with the Celtics, providing we will take him. The only possible scenario in which we maybe wouldn’t give him the max is if he gets injured on that knee again. Horford is the Draymond Green, the James Harden, the secret ingredient of the Celtics success, the player that makes everyone around him better. I could see him declining his player option, which would net him 30 million, to take a more team-friendly deal. But if he doesn’t, he deserves every last penny after coming here and being the first major building block of the modern Celtics. Aron Baynes is another player who I can see coming back next year. We know he’s a defense first, team player who wants to win. I don’t think you could find a better fit for him, seeing as he wants another ring.
The 2019 free agent class has been one people have been discussing, mainly wondering if this is the year the Warriors core could be broken up. If we keep Kyrie on a max, but Horford takes a team friendly deal, we can maybe squeeze a mid level player onto the roster. I’ve divided some notable free agents into 4 tiers:
Tier 1: Players that Will Not Be On the Celtics, but Watch Where they Go
Kevin Durant – The best scorer in the league, who could very well be off of a 3 peat, changes any team who gets him to an immediate Finals contender. Most likely going to a big market team.
Kawhi Leonard – While he seems to have found his place in Toronto, with Uncle Dennis whispering in this guy’s ear, you never know where he can go. Debatably the best two way player in the league (AD being his competition), he also makes his team a finals contender.
Klay Thompson – Dubbed by many to be the second greatest 3 point shooter of all time, and providing great defense, he could try to lead his own team, or be a stellar 2nd option.
Khris Middleton – Both in Milwaukee’s 9-1 start to the season and his performance in last year’s playoffs Middleton has proven himself to be one of the best secondary scorers in the league. Expect him to get paid, and I shudder to think what he would be like next to a KD, Curry, or with Pop on SA.
Tier 2: It Would Take a Miracle but There’s a Minute Chance
Harrison Barnes – He got a huge payday following his championship with the Warriors and never lived up to it, maybe he’s looking to contend again. It would have to take a big pay cut but you can never have enough wings who can shoot threes.
Spencer Dinwiddie – This guy has always been the shining light I cursed at when the Nets somehow won a game. His length and scoring ability could be used so well by Brad coming off the bench, in tandem with Smart. Another pipe dream, but if he wanted to play for a contender and sign the MLE, I would be ecstatic.
Kelly Oubre – One of those guys who seems to just have bad blood with the Celtics since the Kelly Olynyk incident, I still love this guy’s upside: shooting, length and defensive ability. If the Wizards decide to escape finishing 5th in the Eastern conference and losing in the playoffs, and don’t match an offer from the Celtics, a team with Big Sleepy (Robert Williams) , JB and Oubre would have unmatched athleticism.
Tier 3: The Perfect World
IT – It had to be done. Imagine IT coming back on a one year deal to play 6th man in the Celtics green. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. But in all seriousness, some bench scoring would stick out among our team of good defenders and help our team through those stupid end of 2nd quarters where we refuse to put the ball in the basket.
Tier 4: Maybe realistic, but Doubtful Considering our Draft Picks
Ricky Rubio, J.J. Redick, Terrence Ross – Three players that could fill the role of backup guard to replace T-Ro. They are all players who would maybe want to play for a contender and could inject some offense into our bench alongside Morris.
The best franchises in any sport know that the best way to build a contending team year after year, is through the draft. Look at San Antonio, Golden State or even the Patriots. Homegrown talent provides the base of a good team, and free agents are the mesh in between and the icing on the cake. Danny Ainge has emulated these franchises to the best of his ability, (we do not acknowledge the Justice Winslow offer), and has accumulated the famous ‘war chest’ of draft picks. Well, we are reaching the end of the ‘war chest’ age. This year is the last year we have draft picks of other teams, assuming they all convey. Let’s look at how things can convey:
Best Case Scenario
The Kings pick falls #2, the Grizzlies pick goes #9, and the Clippers pick goes #15. Out of these, I think the Clippers pick has the least chance of conveying, with them contending in a loaded Western Conference. For the Memphis pick, cross your fingers and pray for Mike Conley’s health, and some good luck in the lottery. The Grizzlies are, unfortunately, in the Western Conference as well, but with a healthy Conley and Gasol who knows what they can do, I think it’s very reasonable this pick could convey. The Kings pick is the last of Danny’s memorable moves we can talk about in the future and say; we’re fine, we have shitty team x’s pick. It ends an era which started with Marcus Smart and will hopefully end with Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, or any other player in this loaded draft class. Now, while the Kings have started out hot at 6-4, keep in mind they are an extremely young team that will tire over a grueling season… teams like Orlando had a similar record at the start of last year.
Worst Case Scenario
The Kings pick goes to Philly at #1, and we get Philly’s draft pick, probably in the early 20s. The Memphis Grizzlies sneak into the playoffs, and the pick falls in the late teens. If the Grizzlies pick didn’t convey it would actually be better, seeing as Mike Conley and Gasol would be one year older and the pick would be top 6 protected. And somehow, as hell simultaneously freezes over, the Clippers make the playoffs, giving us another late teen draft pick. This is a very unlikely timeline, but it is the worst that can happen. If neither the clippers nor Memphis picks convey, seeing as they have older teams, the picks values actually increase as the protections wane.