One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is the “Summer of George.” George Costanza gets fired from yet another job but this time gets a severance check. He proclaims the next few months as the Summer of George. He will try new and exciting experiences and take advantage of his time off.
Instead, in true George Costanza fashion, he sits around and does nothing.
This is now the Summer of Celtics and Danny Ainge better be a lot more productive than George was.
It all starts with the NBA draft. The Celtics have an embarrassment of riches. They have their own pick at No. 23, Dallas’ pick at No. 16 and the Brooklyn Nets’ pick which gives them the third best chance at picking No. 1. They also have five picks in the second round. That’s a helluva lot of capital that Ainge can use.
There is no way Danny will make, or should make, eight picks on draft night. The last thing his basketball team needs is eight more young, unproven players who will spend more time either in Europe or with the Maine Red Claws.
After the draft we have free agency. For the first time in a long time, the Celtics will have money to spend. They are committed to $27.6 million in salary for next year when the cap is expected to be around $89 million.
Let’s start by taking a look at their current roster. They have nine players under contract for next season: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olnyk, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, James Young, and Jordan Mickey. All are young players on team friendly deals. There are no untouchables in this group. If the right trade would present itself, I would have no problem in letting any of these nine players go but it would have to be a knock-me-off-my-feet deal to trade Crowder or Thomas. If the Bulls make Jimmy Butler available I would trade any of those nine players along with the Brooklyn draft pick.
Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller are both restricted free agents who do not have a future with this team. Sullinger is a major disappointment. He has the skills to be a very useful player on a good team. But his lack of conditioning and weight problems are a constant issue, and he did himself no favors by playing poorly down the stretch and in the playoffs. It’s time to let Sullinger be someone else’s problem.
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) April 29, 2016
Evan Turner is an unrestricted free agent. He has proven to be a very valuable member of this team. He is not a great long range shooter but he has a very good mid range game and has flourished in Brad Stevens’ system. He is a former No. 2 pick in the draft whose career has been revived here in Boston. He likes it here but is also looking for a decent pay day. The Celtics need to figure out if he is worth $10-12 million a year that he could get on the open market.
I like Amir Johnson, but not at $12 million. The Celtics have a team option on him. I would not pick up the option but try and get him back for more reasonable dollars.
So what do the Celtics need and how can they go about filling those needs? Let’s take a look.
Better Shooting: The Celtics were a poor shooting team in the regular season and just awful in the playoffs. The Hawks double and triple teamed Thomas and dared anyone else to beat them. No one could. To be successful in today’s NBA you need to have players who can shoot from the outside. In the draft the two players I think who can fit that bill are Buddy Hield from Oklahoma and Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Both should be available with that Brooklyn pick.
In free agency, the pipe dream would be Kevin Durant. I think he would listen to what the Celtics have to say but in the end I don’t see him leaving Oklahoma City. If he does, I think the Celtics are a more attractive place to land than Washington, the Lakers, or Houston. But this is a long shot for the Celtics.
Demar DeRozen has an opt out in his contract. He is more of a scorer than a shooter, and is not a good shooter from beyond the arc. But he is in the prime of his career and can put up points.
Bradley Beal is a restricted free agent. He is a young player who can score in bunches and is the type of shooter the Celtics need. I don’t see Washington letting him go.
Harrison Barnes is a player I would love to see wearing Green next season. He is a restricted free agent, who is lost in the shuffle of all the stars out in Golden State. He is the athletic wing player who shoot and score that the Celtics so desperately need. He is young and would be a key player on the next great Celtics team.
We saw how effective Kent Bazemore could be in the Atlanta series. He is an unrestricted free agent who will be on many teams list. He has proven this season that given the minutes he can produce. He is a good shooter from mid to long range and is not afraid to take the big shot. He would be an upgrade for the Celtics.
Rebounding and Rim Protection: The Celtics need a big man who can control the boards and be that last line of defense to protect the basket. There is no one on their current roster that fills the bill.
In the draft, the player I would look at is Damian Jones of Vanderbilt. He has size at 7-feet, 245 pounds and the skills to be an elite defender in the NBA. You combine his size with his quickness, and you have a great combination to defend the pick and roll game that so may NBA offenses are built around.
Al Horford is one of the free agent prizes at center. Horford is a fairly good rebounder and defender. He has a nice offensive game. Horford is a good player, not a super star but will be paid like one this this summer. The Celtics were said to be interested in him at the trade deadline and should be in the mix for him this summer.
Hassan Whiteside of the Heat is an unrestricted free agent. He is an elite defender, shot blocker and rebounder. He is also a bit of a head case who sometimes let’s his emotions get the best of him. I can’t see Pat Riley even though the Heat may have some cap issues when they re-sign Dwayne wade as expected. If I could have one player after Kevin Durant in free agency for the Celtics, it would be Whiteside.
Next season is the year I expect the Celtics to make a huge step in their rebuilding process. They have plenty of capital to make moves and acquire players. They have done a nice job of rebuilding from the Big Three era into a competitive team. But the next part is the hard part, going from a 48-win team to a team that can win 60 games and compete for a championship. The Summer of Celtics will go a long way into seeing if that happens.