Let's talk roster depth


With the five players coming in from Brooklyn in the upcoming trade and the four players picked up yesterday - two draftees and two undrafted signings - the Celtics will have a whopping 21 players on their roster (I am including Chris Wilcox even though he's an unrestricted free agent come July 1st). As NBA teams must have no more than 15 players on their roster during the regular season, that means at least six of those guys will not be playing for this team next year as they'll be let go either via trades or waivers.

To occupy my time as I wait for this deal to be completed, I've started thinking about exactly which moves could be made to trim this roster to 15 or even less; as a result, you have this fanpost. Keep in mind that I'm not claiming to be an expert on the salary cap rules, so if any of the moves I will be proposing are technically impossible, feel free to correct me whenever necessary. This isn't being posted under the guise of being a professional analysis; these are merely the educated guesses being made by a basketball fan who felt like sharing his ideas for critique. I'm not intimately familiar with most of the players I'm about to discuss, so forgive me if you feel I've given anybody an unfair evaluation.

So, with all of the necessary disclaimers out of the way, let's get to the good stuff! Just as a note, the players are organized in the positions on the depth chart I feel they would occupy when everyone is healthy.

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo / Phil Pressey / Lamont Jones

Point guard is probably not likely to be a very deep position as the Celtics' best player in Rondo will take up most of the minutes. That said, given that the Celtics are rebuilding, there's always a possibility that Rondo might be held out for a little while as he recovers from his injury; after all, there's no need to rush him back into playing. With that in mind, one of these guys is certainly going to make the final roster, but I don't see the need for both. Even if Rondo doesn't play at the start of the season, he will return at some point. It's pointless to develop two rookies when you know one's going to be riding the pine or even waived once your starting point guard comes back to the lineup. I'd say look to see either Pressey or Jones to make the cut, but not both.

I know next to nothing about either of these two guys, but they were both undrafted; as such, I don't feel particularly bad about using their stats to determine who looks like a better pick. Going off accolades and awards, I'm expecting that Pressey will be the one to remain on the team by this fall. As I noted, Jones was undrafted, so the Celtics can let him walk without any repercussions. Of course, I can always be wrong, but that's what the summer league and preseason games are for: allowing these two guys to duke it out for the spot.

The signings of Pressey and Jones indicate that the Celtics are trying to address one of the most glaring issues with the Celtics this past season: the lack of a true backup point. Avery Bradley was not the solution, as he's a natural shooting guard; there's not much to be lost from running him at the point for a few minutes, but you will have nothing but mediocre results if you make him the primary option at that position. While some might think, "Well, isn't that good in a way? If we're trying to tank, we're not necessarily trying to be good," you have to remember that Bradley is only 22 right now: you don't want to tank at the expense of hindering his development. Getting a true point guard allows Bradley to return to the two and hopefully flourish as he'll no longer be an option behind Garnett and Pierce. Because I don't expect to see three point guards on the team next year, I would expect to see Bradley spend some time as a backup point, especially if Rondo's out for a bit.

Also, I should note that there have been some rumblings of a possible Rondo trade. Personally, I'm not putting much stock into the rumors: Rondo is coming off an injury and the Celtics are seemingly looking to use him in a Paul Pierce circa-2005-2007 role, i.e. as the one constant during the rebuild. He's the last remaining member of the 2008 championship team and though he's reportedly not very personable, he at least brings veteran (and championship) experience to the table. With some help from a few other Celtics vets, he may prove valuable in the locker room, if not as a role model, then just as a player who garners respect from the younger and newer guys coming into the team.

Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley / MarShon Brooks / Jordan Crawford / Courtney Lee / Keith Bogans

As this is one of three positions whose depth will be directly affected by the trade, I'm going to split this into two sections: one wherein I talk about the pre-trade two guards and one wherein I talk specifically about those brought in from the Nets.

Shooting guard, along with power forward, is one of the two logjam positions, so a few cuts will have to be made here out of necessity.

Celtics guards: Avery Bradley is the best player at this position, so he will obviously start. There's not much to be gained from trading him as he's still young and on his rookie contract. He's also one of the vestiges of the Big 3 era, so he'll be useful in that sense as he might be a bit more approachable than Rondo, being the same age as many of the newcomers and seemingly more even-keeled.

With Terry gone, there are two shooting guards left from the 2012-13 season in Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee. As the Celtics are rebuilding and because they're adding more shooting guards in the Nets trade, it's a safe bet that at least one of those guys will not be playing for the team next season. Crawford's contract is much more palatable than Lee's and he scored more points per game, but don't let that fool you into believing he's the surefire pick. Crawford is a noted diva, having essentially forced his way out of Washington earlier this past season and serving as the catalyst in an altercation between the Knicks and Celtics during the first round of the playoffs after making crude remarks about Carmelo Anthony's wife. As the GM of a rebuilding franchise, is that really the kind of presence you want in your locker room? The team's going to be filled with young talent, some of whom will be playing their first NBA games, and they're inevitably going to be distraught and frustrated by the lack of success they will enjoy. The last thing you want is a guy with even the potential of needlessly stirring the pot. I expect Crawford to be moved, probably as part of a package deal, to some middling contender with a need for guards (hello, Milwaukee?).

There's also the issue of Crawford being a ball-dominant guard who's pretty lackluster on defense. That doesn't work well with MarShon Brooks, who's also a ball-dominant guard not known for his defense. Courtney Lee, while older, at least provides some useful 3 (pointers) and D(efense). Simply put, it's redundant to have both Crawford and Brooks; I would see Brooks as having far more upside, so Crawford is the odd-man out. Lee can function as a spot-up shooter, but that's neither Crawford's nor Brooks' strong suits.

Lee seems to have a chip on his shoulder after his less-than-stellar season in Boston, so I would expect him to come back a bit reinvigorated and wanting to prove he's worth the money he was paid - whenever he's actually on the court. Which brings us to...

Nets guards: Keith Bogans is purely salary filler being included as a sign-and-trade. He just turned 33 last month and has no place on a young, rebuilding team flush with two guards. He's not part of the Celtics' plan at all; look to see him waived.

MarShon Brooks will enjoy a homecoming of sorts as he's being traded to the team that originally drafted him in 2011. Brooks will likely make the immediate rotation behind Bradley; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he ends up taking on a sixth man role for the team. He's young and has never really been given the time on the hardwood to develop with the Nets. He'll hopefully benefit from the increased playing time he'll assuredly see, possibly even playing a long-term role with the Celtics moving on.

Small Forward: Jeff Green / Gerald Wallace / Terrence Williams / Kris Joseph

Celtics forwards: Jeff Green stands a very real chance of becoming the number one offensive option for the Celtics after showing flashes of excellence this past season. He's too valuable to move in a trade and, as with Rondo and Bradley, he also helps maintain the continuity of the team. Also, let's not forget: the man had heart surgery. He's managed to endear himself in the hearts of many Celtics fans; might as well give them something to cheer for after losing Doc, KG, and Pierce all over the summer.

T-Will had a decent performance in the playoff series against the Knicks; not much was asked of him, but he did the few things he was asked to do. He was unfortunately arrested following the Celtics' exit over allegations of menacing his child's mother with a gun. While I'm sure the team would have liked to bring him back if those charges are eventually dismissed, given that they are now trying to rebuild, I don't think he's a good fit. He's pretty young, but he's not going to add much to the table and he's only going to take playing time away from other forwards. Let's not forget: as I just said, the team is rebuilding. No matter what happens with this situation, a player dealing with a legal case - particularly one pertaining to alleged use of a weapon - is a distraction on any team, let alone one trying to find its new footing. I don't think Celtics management will want to deal with the headache of media scrutiny of Williams. Also, I'm not sure if a losing team is really the best environment for a guy who's going to be dealing with the stress of the legal system. Probably best for all parties involved if he doesn't come back.

Nets forwards: Many people are absolutely disgusted by Gerald Wallace's contract - and with good reason. It's a really bad contract that holds for the next three years, so it's going to be insanely difficult to move. The good news is that the team will be rebuilding for at least the next two seasons, so having that much money tied up in Wallace's contract is ultimately a moot point: the team wouldn't be doing any meaningful spending with that cash, anyway. For the three draft picks, the contract is worth it; there's always the chance of it being flipped as an expiring two years down the line.

While Crash had a rather disappointing year in Brooklyn, it's entirely possible that was due to being misused the entire year as a perimeter player when that's never really been his strength. Regardless, he was a large part of the reason why there even was a Game 7 in the Nets-Bulls series, so that should show he still has some value as a player. He's not better than Green, though, so he'll have to come off the bench - especially since Green is the guy who still has upside (remember, his growth was stunted by the heart surgery). Wallace will be one of the older Celtics players, but as he's had tons of experience in the league, he can play the token vet role on a team that will sorely need it.

Kris Joseph is an interesting prospect: he was originally drafted by the Celtics (like his fellow Net, soon-to-be fellow Celtic, MarShon Brooks). He was later waived and then picked up by the Nets and is now returning to Boston. He could potentially be waived again as his contract is only partially guaranteed, but I feel like the Celtics might see him as useful and cheap depth on their roster given his age. He probably won't be given the opportunity to develop like many of his contemporaries, but he should see some playing time here and there. As long as he's still on the team, that is.

Power Forward: Brandon Bass / Jared Sullinger / Kris Humphries / Shavlik Randolph / D.J. White

As mentioned earlier, power forward is one of two really bad logjams in the depth chart. There are five players slotted to play here and realistically, we'll see three make it.

Celtics forwards: D.J. White is gone; I don't care what anyone says. The writing's been on the wall since this past season, when he played a whopping 12 games. He will probably be the first player cut when Ainge has to start narrowing down the roster.

Shavlik Randolph was a pretty good player when he was actually allowed to play, but he's 29 years old and a career backup big - he's not coming back either. He has more of a chance of returning than D.J. White, but that's effectively saying, "he has more than a 0% chance of returning."

Things can get rather interesting for Brandon Bass. I feel like the Celtics will eventually move him for a younger power forward or potentially slot in Olynyk (as Ainge views him as a PF). However, I'm not ready to rule out the possibility that they'll keep him around as Sullinger will likely not be ready to play at the start of the next season. Without Randolph and White and a recovering Sullinger, that leaves Humphries in the PF rotation - whom Bass has historically outperformed, so he'll take the starting spot. I would feel bad for him if he were moved, though; I just watched a short documentary on his life and he noted that he's never played in the same place for more than two years, which would come true yet again with this. He'll live, though - I'm sure he can comfort himself with his millions of dollars.

Nets forward: A lot of people hate Kris Humphries for a multitude of reasons - including Rondo (imagine how awkward that first meeting between the new teammates will be). However, he's in the last year of his deal and he's a good off-the-bench big: he's still got value, despite your personal feelings of him. Many fans seem to think (or are hoping) that he'll be moved during the offseason once Boston acquires him, but I don't see that happening. If they're going to move him, I feel like they'll at least wait until the trade deadline. If the team holds Sullinger out until, let's say January, that gives him a month and a half to reacclimate himself with the team - and coincidentally, gives the team ample time to shop around for Humphries deals with contenders who need an extra reserve big for their playoff runs. They can also just stay pat and allow his contract to expire as he'll be off the books, anyway. If the team runs Olynyk at PF and keeps Bass, Humphries is probably gone; however, I feel like they'll probably be forced to run Olynyk at the center position. After all, as I said before, you don't want to hinder the growth of your young players during a rebuild; forcing Olynyk and Sullinger to split PF time behind Bass is counterintuitive.

Center: Kelly Olynyk / Fab Melo / Colton Iverson / Chris Wilcox

My depth chart here, as far as the first two names, is entirely a crap shoot. I have no idea how Olynyk will do in the NBA, but I do know that Fab is still a raw prospect and may not be ready for a starting position. I picked Olynyk just because he seems a bit more... headier than Melo (the grades controversy when he was at Syracuse, suffering a concussion from hitting his head on a door frame). Both players should benefit as unproven talent with ample court time without having Chris Wilcox ahead of them (as he's certainly not returning as a free agent), unless the Celtics package Bass and Crawford for a proven big. Colton Iverson's probably not making the final roster - I just don't see it happening.

So with all of the above considered, the roster - without any specific trades envisioned - could potentially look like this, come opening day:

PG: Rondo / Pressey

SG: Bradley / Brooks / Lee

SF: Green / Wallace / Joseph

PF: Bass / Sullinger / Humphries

C: Olynyk / Melo

With a total of thirteen players, that gives the team two empty spots to work with. Despite the fact that I discussed a possible trade for both Bass and Crawford, I feel like Crawford's more of a "really need to move" situation whereas Bass is "would be nice to move, but not necessary." They might stand firm with Bass, especially if they're going to have a rookie and two "fake" sophomores in the frontcourt.

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