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Sorting Them Out

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paul3.jpgThere are 200 articles and blog posts “grading the Celtics.” That is fine for them, but I have no interest in it. Or rather I simplify it by giving the whole team an F for delivering only 24 wins. End of story. Not that it is any big deal, they get a clean slate and a whole new chance for a good grade next season. What I’m more interested in is what we have moving forward.

We heard a lot of talk from Doc and Danny in the preseason about “separation.” They wanted a chance to see what they had in the young players on this team. The injuries gave the team all the time it needed to evaluate the youth and make its decisions. Make no mistake, the team has already made up its mind who they want to keep and who they could do without.

The first example of this was Sebastian Telfair. There’s no way he was going to be on this team next year anyway, so removing the nameplate on his locker was just a way to look good in front of the press and fans (and Stern).

You can bet that Olowokandi is not in their plans either. And other than a possible invite to training camp (I’m speculating), they won’t invest too much time thinking about Kevinn Pinkney. So that trims the roster down to 13. Barring any trades, the Celtics have 2 draft picks that could fill out the roster to an even 15. Of course there are likely to be trades, but we'll cross that bridge this summer.

One of those spots will be held by Theo Ratliff until he’s traded or released after the trade deadline in February. Despite his claims to be working on coming back, nobody is expecting anything from Theo. In fact, he’s more valuable injured (with insurance paying back salary) than he is healthy.

So how do you categorize the rest of the roster? Here’s the fun part.

Core Guys

Another buzz word from the Celtics brass has been “core guys.” You can bet that core is centered on 3 guys right now. Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo, …in that order.

Jefferson doesn’t have Pierce’s resume yet, but he’s younger and plays a position that is harder to fill. Rondo is an unfinished product, but he’s the best pure point guard prospect we’ve had in a long, long while. It would take a huge deal to pry him away.

Outter Core â€" Young Veterans

There’s a group of guys on this team that are too young to really be called “veterans” but too experienced to be lumped in with the rookies and sophomores of the league any longer.

Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, and Tony Allen could each be playing rotation minutes on any team in the league. They don’t (or won’t) break the bank to keep around, and they have plenty of miles ahead of them. These are the kinds of guys that teams like the Wizards or Cavs or Heat would love to have more of. That makes them nominally valuable, but you probably won’t get as much for them in trade as you would get from them in production next year. So there’s no reason to shop them, but they are available at a price.

Veteran Contracts

When healthy (not a given) Wally Szczerbiak and Brian Scalabrine can be useful players on the court and in the locker room. They are not worth the paychecks they are getting, but I’m beyond caring about that. They make what they make and no amount of hand wringing is going to reduce their cap figure. In the offseason, Danny will hope that he can find someone to give him some value for Wally, but if it doesn’t happen, they at least know he won’t be a malcontent. When he’s fully healthy, he can still give you 18 â€" 20 a night as a deep threat.

I’ve never understood what the big deal was with Scalabrine’s contract. He’ll make $3 million next season. Teams toss $3 million around like its candy. If they cut Telfair, they’ll be eating $2.5 million right there. But I digress. Either his salary will be used to match salaries in a trade or his winning personality will be used to keep things light in the locker room.

Slam Dunk Champions

green1.jpgOf course there’s only Gerald in this category because he’s wholly unique. He has the potential to be better than just about anyone on the team but currently isn’t better than half of them. Will his game take off next year (or the year after) the way it has for several prep-to-pros players or will he hit a ceiling? I haven’t the foggiest. However, I’m sure the team has come to some kind of conclusion. One of the interesting developments of this offseason will be seeing just how willing the team will be to shop him in trades.

His value is tricky to gauge. The Celtics have had a season to evaluate him, but so have the other teams (you know, some teams have scouts that evaluate NBA players). So they know full well what his talents are (jumping, shooting, knack for scoring) as well as what his current liabilities are (defense, ball handling, understanding and anticipating the flow of the game). Will that be worth what we’re asking for? If a team really wants Al Jefferson and gets a stone wall, will they settle for Gerald Green? It will vary from deal to deal, but the number of times that his name appears in trade rumors should be a telling indication of how much the team really believes in his ability to contribute in the next 2 years.

Filling Out The Roster

Leon Powe and Allan Ray are nice stories and a great example of what Danny Ainge can find in the draft. If there are roster spots available, they’ll be back. If a trade or two increases the size of the roster, they’ll be the ones battling for the last few spots.

Lets Make A Deal

So, bottom line going into trade season is that we have some assets we can offer up. Theo’s contract, Gerald Green, Young Veterans, and maybe a pick in the 3 to 5 range. Will that be enough to upgrade the roster? Time will tell. We'll have to wait till May 22nd to see what our team needs are, but that's another article for another day.