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Answering the deep Celtics offseason mailbag questions

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Rumors, rotations, and realistic expectations.

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

First of all, thanks very much for sending in some excellent questions for this mailbag. We got the expected questions about trades and rumors, but we also got a whole lot of fun, interesting, and thoughtful inquiries as well.

Might as well start with the weird ones and go from there.

Alex Schoen

What question would you like me to ask/submit for you to answer?

Good question, what would you like for me to like for you to ask?

Danny Ainge

Who else are we targeting?

Wait, is this a test? I swear Danny, I didn’t tell anyone about the huge 7-player, 3-team deal you had in the works. (oops, umm... nevermind)

Nick Lynn

What's the first thing Danny Ainge does every morning before leaving home?

Hey, I’m not a stalker, so I couldn’t tell you. Ask the Prince of Whales.

Now on to some more “normal questions.”

Armstrong

What grade would you give Boston for their personnel moves this far in the offseason?

Solid B+. Al Horford alone might be worth an A, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t greedy for more. Call it the curse of expectations. There’s still time to bump that grade up if Ainge finds the right opportunity.

zeev

please name the most reasonable 15-man roster for the celtics in 2017-8

Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko
Demetrius Jackson, R.J. Hunter, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey

So that leaves out James Young, Ben Bentil, John Holland, and Colton Iverson (if he comes to camp). Only one of them has a fully guaranteed contract, so I could see the Celtics finding someone with an open roster spot to take a flyer on James Young (in exchange for a heavily protected 2nd-rounder that will never convey).

Edit: Oops, I read the question wrong. This is the roster for this year. I haven’t the foggiest idea who will be on the roster next season—though I think Al Horford is the most likely to still be here, followed shortly by Isaiah Thomas.

John H.

What is your best case/worst case scenario for Jaylen Brown this season?

Best case: For this season I think I’m hoping for 10-15 minutes of defense and a jolt of athleticism. It is too early to expect him to get huge minutes on a playoff bound team, but he has too much talent to waste at the end of the bench.

Worst case: Injury. I can’t imagine a healthy Brown regressing too much from the potential he already showed at summer league, but injuries have a way of messing up a player’s development curve. Knock on wood and all that.

Pavkata

Pace and space galore? Now that we have arguably one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, do you think that Brad will cut down people's minutes and make them go all out while they're on the court? I can hear Tommy Heinsohn screaming with excitement "run, baby, run" all game long :)

Brad Stevens was already talking about “flying around” the court. Adding more depth to an already deep team will help that. The key, though, is defense and turning turnovers into easy points. We’ve already got the guards that opposing backcourts have nightmares about. Now we’re adding a guy that shuts down lane penetration as well. That should create more running opportunities.

Mark

If you could redo one Celtics first round pick over the last 10 years, who would it be and who would you have chosen from the available pool instead?

Great question. There are several choices but my top 3 favorites are as follows:

3. Draymond Green rather than Fab Melo in 2012 - My only hesitation here is that I’m not sure if Dray would be the Dray we know now if not for the perfect system in Golden State. Still, he’s so good that he would have succeeded on some level anywhere that gave him enough time and opportunity to thrive.

2. DeAndre Jordan rather than J.R. Giddens in 2008 - How great would it have been to have Jordan for the peak years of Pierce, Allen, and KG? Imagine him and KG patroling the paint on defense. Imagine him throwing down lobs from Rondo all day long. At the very least it would have eased the pain of trading Kendrick Perkins. Which brings me to...

1. Jimmy Butler rather than JuJuan Johnson in 2011 - How great would he have been in Boston all those years? There wouldn’t have been a need for the Jeff Green trade. (Edit: Nevermind, the draft was after the trade.) It took a while for Butler to develop into the star he’s become, but he was a stud on defense from day one.

Max

Would you prefer to trade our assets for a star right now or just be patient and wait for someone to become a star?

What’s that saying? A Larry Bird in the hand is worth two Nets picks in the draft. Or something like that.

I’d rather have the star in place right away because there’s no assurance that any of the players or picks we have for the future becomes a star. If you could promise me that 2 or 3 of those players and picks would 100% become stars, I’d be happy to wait for that to happen. That’s just not how it works so I’d prefer the sure thing.

Kevin

Do you think the Celtics would be wasting Al Horford's last few years of his prime if they fail to find a reasonable deal for another star? Also, if that Nets pick falls into the top 3 again in a strong draft, isn't it ridiculous to include it for anything less than a multi-time all-star?

I don’t know if it is a waste, but it would be a better utilization of his talents if his timeline lined up with another veteran star or two in the near future. That could mean this year or next year. Remember that KG was 31 when we added him to the team and Horford is still 30.

With that said, even if he was on a rebuilding team, he’d be valuable as a leader, example, and mentor to the younger guys. So I wouldn’t call it a total waste if we go the slower building route.

And yes, you don’t trade that 2017 Nets pick for anything but a legit star.

afl

If you could have signed Sully to the same deal as Zeller who would you have chosen to keep? I think Zeller fits their style more, but I'm a little worried they will get bullied on the boards.

I think it was a good time to move on from the Jared Sullinger era. I’m a little worried about the rebounding as well, but I think Al Horford might be a little underrated in that area. Hawks bloggers say that the defensive scheme they ran pulled him away from the boards a lot.

Besides, who needs rebounds when the other team’s guards can’t even get the ball over half court???

tom16

Is there a "mystery" player Ainge might be working on... Throwing smoke with the media rumors perhaps?

That’s certainly possible, but with all the noise around what Ainge has been trying to do, I’m not sure how many stones there are left that are unturned. At this point we’ve talked about just about every major star that might make some sense moving on from their current team. Past that you have to consider either guys that aren’t going anywhere (Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, etc.) or lower-tier guys that don’t really qualify as major difference makers.

Harrison Savage

Do you think it's time to part ways with Avery Bradley? I think it may be time we trade him away while his value is at its highest. Coming off of being named to the All Defensive team this past season definitely makes it so that this is the peak of AB's trade value and his contract is up in 2 seasons, and he'll probably want a big payday once its up. I think it'd be wise to trade him now before he wants to cash in because I'm very reluctant to give him a big payday while we still have Smart who can do a lot of the defensive things AB does so well and he's still on a rookie contract + will be a restricted FA once its complete unlike AB.

I agree that he has great trade value, and we do have a logical replacement for him in Smart. It is worth noting as well that both Bradley and Isaiah Thomas will be eligible for a contract renegotiation/extension next summer. So he might not be as much of a bargain as he is now for much longer.

On the other hand, I’m in no hurry to deal him unless it is part of a package to land a star. In a league that values 3-and-D guys, it is nice having a first team All Defense guy that can hit 3-pointers.

Rio Contrada

I really don't understand all the Marcus Smart hype. The dude had a historically terrible shooting season last year, actually regressing from his rookie campaign. FiveThirtyEight seems to think he's going to be an all-star, but if he has so much value around the league, don't you think this would be a good time to move him? Rozier may end up being the better all-around player anyways.

Think about how much impact that Tony Allen had in Memphis for so many years. And he’s never been anything higher than a net neutral on offense. That’s Marcus Smart’s floor right now. All he needs to learn is a few offensive skills to keep him on the floor and he’s going to contribute to winning lots of basketball games. Just wait and see.

King Guevara

Since the C's signed Jackson for 4yrs, do u think a trade involving a guard on the team is coming up?

I wouldn’t rule it out, that’s for sure. We keep looking for signs that Ainge is going to make a deal, but until something happens, we just won’t know. Jackson was projected to be a first-round pick, and Ainge himself said one need for the team was a ball handler. Plus he can hit the outside shot. So he makes sense on the roster in his own right. But it never hurts to have depth just in case some big deal (or a major injury) does come up.

Jhny

Who starts at PF? Most of the projections I've seen have Kelly in there, but he's still a terrible rebounder and while big Al is a great addition he's never been known for his strong board presence either. Starting Amir leaves us weak on O and moving Crowder up a slot to the 4 forces JB into a heavier role than he's ready for. This is why I think we're still a move away.

There’s no perfect solution. If there was, we wouldn’t be looking around for star players. Each player has strengths and weaknesses, and Brad likes to focus on maximizing strengths.

I like to think of it in terms of pairings. I like pairing Horford with Olynyk because Horford protects the rim. When he needs a rest you can bring in Amir to keep the paint locked up and pair him with either Jae or Jerebko at smallball 4.

Gw welsh

Why has the league friend zoned danny ainge with no trades. Assets we let walk away are not assets.

“Friend zone,” that’s funny. Hey, trades are hard. Teams don’t want to give up star players even if they are getting good value.

But you make a good point on the assets. At some point the value diminishes, in particular once you make selections with those picks. To wit: Jaylen Brown right now is less valuable than the 3rd pick was on draft night. That will be the case until Brown can prove his worth on the court—which could take years. With all the picks, at some point you have to make a consolidating trade or two or we’ll have to let good players walk sooner or later.

Shane

Do you think Gordon Hayward will sign with the Celtics next offseason? Is a MAX contract for Hayward a wise decision going forward?

It is very possible. I think he fits very well and has room to keep growing as a player. The “max” isn’t what it once was in terms of % of the cap, so I think he’s worth getting a deal at that rate. Or said another way, if you are going after free agents and you are going to pay someone a max salary, he’s a lot more worth that money than some of the guys that got it this summer.

Chase

I've read a lot of people covering Jahlil Okafor lately, but I still can't seem to like him as a player. I think he's going to be a poor man's Enes Kanter. Both no.3 picks, plays the center position, have big bodies, scores in the post, and has almost zero defensive value. But at least Kanter has some range on his jumpshot, hitting mid range jumpers from time to time, and is a dominant offensive rebounder/solid defensive rebounder. Okafor's horrible rebounding is what scares me the most. Am I being too bearish on Okafor? If so, can you make me see things in a different light?

The guy has offensive talent. There’s real value there. He’s got skill around the basket that you can’t teach. Our offense sometimes struggles to score, and it would be great to be able to toss it down into the post and let the big man punish smallball defenses.

The problem, as you laid out, is that he’s limited by being a specialist. Versatility is the name of the game at this point, and until he can prove that he has more to his game his upside will be limited.

So ultimately I don’t think he’s anywhere near a net-negative on the court, but I’m not eager to cash in many trade chips on him that might be allocated to another star later.

Billysan

Should we be satisfied with the moves so far? 51 games and second in the East is a nice improvement. We traded Sully for Horford and Turner for Jalen Brown. Why not 55 wins?

There’s a lot of “noise” in an 82-game season, so a 4-to-5 swing of wins can happen for any number of reasons (injuries, hot/cold streaks, hitting teams at good/bad times, etc.).

With that aside, I can see the Celtics winning in the low to mid 50s and competing for the 2nd seed in the East. That’s certainly something to be proud of considering how quickly Ainge has turned this team around.

Still, the banners are the important thing in the big picture, so that always has to be the driving motivation. Either for the near future or for the not-too-distant future.

That seems to be a good place to finish. Thanks again for all the questions everyone.