This past summer, Danny Ainge re-signed Jonas Jerebko to a 2-year, 10 million dollar deal, with the second year non-guaranteed. The collective response of fans of the Boston Celtics was "OK." Now, after the season (and postseason) he has had, that contract looks like one of the better moves Ainge made over the course of the summer.
Jerebko was a gap-filler for the Celtics all year. He worked and hustled as hard as he could with the minutes he received, while Stevens figured out the most effective rotation for his overcrowded roster. His role was eventually solidified as a bench big, coming in for solid minutes to provide floor spacing, ball movement, and the quickness to switch onto ball handlers when needed. He filled his role admirably--Jerebko moved the ball well, guarded a variety of positions, and shot 39.8% from long range in 15 minutes per game. For the record, he also rebounded, pulling down 19.4% of available defensive rebounds.
In all, it was a solid regular season, but not one deserving of excessive fanfare. With Isaiah Thomas' All-Star season, Jae Crowder's continued emergence, and Avery Bradley's refinement into a legitimate offensive weapon, we didn't hear much talk about the lanky Swede.
Despite his consistent contributions, the story of Jerebko's year wasn't told in the regular season, but in the playoffs. In a terrible turn of events, Avery Bradly was injured at the end of Game 1. Add to that the unavailability of Kelly Olynyk and the terrible matchup of Jared Sullinger against the fleet-footed Hawks, and Boston was put into a very difficult position. It didn't have several of the players it needed to fulfill its pace-and-space offensive style.
In the six-game playoff series against Atlanta, Jonas started for the last four games, in which he shot 52.9% from the floor, knocked down 35.2% of his looks from beyond the arc, and averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.25 blocks in just over 31 minutes per game. He saw time as a power forward in traditional lineups, but as Brad Stevens moved to a small-ball lineup, he saw an increasing number of reps at center. He brought energy, versatility, and some much-needed shooting to the Celtics during those four games.
It would be unwise to read too much into the results of a single series, but these last few games of the season might be a glimpse into how Jerebko will be used during the upcoming season, if he's still with the team. He brings energy, spacing, and defensive versatility to a team that relies on all three to be successful. Let's be clear--he is not a star, and he never will be. However, he is a rotation piece that fits perfectly into the type of team that Boston has become.
Who knows what this offseason will bring. Trader Danny has set himself up to be as active as any GM in the league over the next few months. That means that the team we see to start the 2016-2017 season may be drastically different than the one we have right now. With his skill set, as well as his non-guaranteed contract, Jerebko could be a valuable trade chip. We may not see him suit up in green next year, and his fit on the team could become irrelevant.
However, Jonas Jerebko, the Swedish Swish, has proven that he is a valuable asset. Whether he's on the team next year or not, he's proven well worth the contract he received this summer, and he has shown that he can be an effective player on a playoff team.