Sadly, the 2015-2016 NBA season is now over for the Boston Celtics. However, preparations for the 2016-2017 season are about to begin! Over the next few months, Celtics brass will need to make decisions about who will stay with the team, who will leave the team, and what new pieces to pursue in the construction of the next phase of the rebuild.
Danny Ainge has some important decisions to make in the near future about which players he wants to keep and which he should let go. There were five players on this past year's roster who will now be free agents (two restricted and one unrestricted) or who have team options on their contracts. We humble writers here at CelticsBlog will debate what Danny Ainge should do with each of these 5 players.
Today, we discuss what should be done with Jonas Jerebko.
Wes Howard: The Swedish Swish (how has that nickname not gotten more use than it has?) was a bit of an underutilized asset to the team throughout the regular season. He fits all of what Brad Stevens wants in a player: he shoots well from outside the paint (39.8% from beyond the arc this year), he showcases defensive versatility (in certain doses, he can handle guarding at least three positions), and he works his tail off every second that he's on the court.
No, he can't really create his own shot. No, he's not a rim protector. However, he's a bargain at $5 million for next year with a rising cap, and he really showed how valuable he can be in the series against the Hawks, after a successful regular season as a solid role player. I say pick up his option for next year, without batting an eyelid.
Tim MacLean: I agree. I think the Celtics would be wise to keep him on board as long as it doesn't effect signing bigger fish. Having his shooting and defensive versatility at their disposal off the bench is valuable in doses. And I was specifically impressed with the way he defended Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder this postseason.
$5 million is nothing with the cap rising but, as I said, the Celtics should hunt bigger fish before they pull the trigger on exercising his option.
Sean Penney: Jerebko filled in admirably when the Celtics inserted him into the starting lineup in the postseason, but that won't be his role if he returns next season. He can still be a useful asset off the bench, as his ability to stretch the floor has value for a roster that lacks outside shooting as currently constructed.
His contract is a bargain, but it's also what makes him a desirable trade piece. Jerebko could be used as filler in a deal to acquire an upgrade, either for a team looking for an affordable rotation player or one looking to dump salary by cutting his non-guaranteed contract. There should be a spot on the roster for Jerebko next season, unless his contract is needed to facilitate a trade or the Celtics find themselves in need of cap savings to sign a marquee free agent.
Jeff Nooney: I agree. Unless that $5 million somehow makes the difference between landing KD/Horford (I can dream), I pick up his option in a heartbeat. He can shoot, defend a few positions, and grind out some nice hustle plays. That's well worth the money in my opinion.
Jeff Clark: As others have mentioned, Jerebko is the kind of guy that I'd feel comfortable filling out the rest of the roster with. He's at a good price for his skill set and experience—in particular since he brings an element of shooting that the Celtics desperately need.
I think the beauty of Jerebko's contract is the flexibility it affords Danny Ainge. There's almost a decision tree of sorts. If he's needed in a trade, then Ainge can deal him leading up to the draft. If his salary slot is needed for some big signings, then he can be released. Otherwise, his option can be picked up and he's with the team another season. All good options.
Kevin O’Connor: It's hard to say and depends significantly on how the makeup of the roster changes. Do the Celtics make a big-time acquisition? Well, then it might require letting go of Jerebko. Do they fail to add a star? Well, then you probably pick up Jerebko's contract for next season and use him in a similar role off the bench. It's tough to say "yes or no" to Boston's upcoming free agents because there are an unusual amount of variables.
Howard: That's a good point, Kevin. Furthermore, we don't know what sorts of players the (hopeful) big-time acquisitions might be. If we pick up a slick-shooting stretch big man this off-season, what would that mean for hanging on to Jerebko? With that being said, there's a lot of good that exists on this team. While we can't know everything about the puzzle pieces we might acquire, we do know which players have contributed and excelled in Steven's system. Additionally, with the dramatic hike in cap space, and the players available in this free-agent class, I don't know that the $5 million we could pay Jerebko would make or break our ability to make an acquisition.
I think we can all agree with Jeff, though—the flexibility of his contract is absolutely beautiful. Behind the budget signing of Crowder on a long-term deal, Jerebko's contract might have been Ainge's best move of the summer.
Bill Sy: I agree with what everybody is saying, but I'll play devil's advocate. Jerebko showed his worth and more against the Hawks, but could keeping him on the roster stunt the development for guys like Jordan Mickey and James Young? Yes, we still need to see what moves Danny makes, but we've got a bunch of young players that need to start getting playing time in their sophomore and junior seasons.
Penney: We also have to consider the number of picks the Celtics have in this upcoming draft, including three first-rounders. Ideally they would package some together to move up or trade for an established star, but what if they can't? If the team potentially adds at least three rookies, plus we are hoping to make a splash in free agency, eventually we'll run out of roster spots. Jerebko's non-guaranteed contract could be a causality of clearing a spot for a young player with more upside.
O’Connor: As Sean brought up, there's another variable. It's honestly just too early to say one way or the other full certainty. This is a truly unique NBA offseason.
Bobby Manning: Some I've spoken with seem to underrate that Jared Sullinger deteriorated when the team needed him most, late in the season. His play was a significant factor in losing the No. 3 seed and our playoff series. That's no small factor when I'm evaluating him vs. Jerebko, who doesn't have the everlasting weight/conditioning question and can spread the floor more successfully. Jerebko fits the Celtics Hustle culture far better than Sully. Save the money and bring back the Swede instead of Sully.
Sy: In Sullinger's defense, his hustle isn't as evident as Jerebko's. They have completely different games. I agree that JJ does seem like a better fit, especially against the Hawks, but Sully deserves his due. His defense and off ball action was very underrated.
This off-season might well be a wild one, particularly for the Boston Celtics. With so many draft picks, and only so many roster spots, it's difficult to predict what may or may not be done with any of the mountain of assets in Danny Ainge's back pocket. However, if there's a roster spot (and sufficient cap space) available, the Celtics could do much worse than picking up their option to bring back their sweet-shooting big man, Jonas Jerebko.