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The Terry Rozier problem

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The most pressing concern for the Celtics, at least in the short-near term future, is the poor play of Terry Rozier and his impending restricted free agent status. I previously advocated for the Celtics to keep Rozier this season, with the thinking being that Rozier raised the Celtics ceiling the playoffs, provided injury insurance, and, by extension, gave them an option in case Irving left.

Since then, Irving very publicly indicated intent to resign with the team and we have reached a point where some (okay maybe most) are clamoring for Brad Wanamaker to get Rozier’s minutes. I stand by my reasoning, but it’s clear that with a full rotation, Rozier hasn’t contributed much to winning, and the only real reason for the Celtics to keep him at this point is further injury insurance. Rozier himself told Yahoo! Sports’ Vincent Goodwill that the roster was “too talented.” A trade seems to be the most practical course of action for both sides.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

However, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Mavericks are now trying to find a home for Dennis Smith Jr., it seems unlikely that a Rozier trade will materialize a healthy return for the Celtics without including a pick. The historically deep PG market, Rozier’s regression this year, and availability of more tantalizing players under longer team control means that the Celtics don’t have much leverage in any trade talks.

A team could easily talk themselves into a starting Rozier looking more like the player from last year’s playoffs, but at this point in the season, perhaps only the Magic have any real incentive to acquire him as a starting point guard this year. Other teams with starting ball-handler needs can simply let their tank season run its course and simply try to get Rozier in restricted free agency with the knowledge that the tax-paying Celtics will likely not match any eight figure offer sheet.

Simply put and barring extreme circumstances, Rozier will likely not be a trade asset for the Celtics between now and the deadline, and we are far more likely to see him as a sweetener or part of a large package, rather than the main piece in a swap. At this point, a high second round draft pick would be good return for him, but I’m unsure if the Celtics could even find a taker for a deal like that. It will be interesting to see if Danny Ainge makes Brad Stevens play rotation musical chairs for the rest of the year or bites the bullet on a poor return to find Rozier a new home.

Dallas Mavericks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Quick aside on Rozier: this is why we should never demonize players players for taking the money when the chips are down. First of all, players getting paid is always extremely good. A team being held hostage by the salary cap is a direct result of small-market teams squawking that they can’t compete and then signing Omer Asik for five years. If they want more money to get better players they can always relinquish more money to the players union for a cap jump.

The speed with which Celtics fans have turned on Rozier has been pretty alarming, after he had such a large hand in what was an extremely fun playoffs. Terry has been bad, and at this point it seems like finding a trade that gets him a bigger role and the Celtics a better fit would be best for both sides. I’m not even saying it’s necessarily wrong to hold player accountable with mean posts or whatever we as fans do, but if you’re someone who bemoans players not taking a hometown discount...well, this is why you don’t do that. Fans’ goodwill comes and goes. Bank accounts are forever(ish).

In the interest of full disclosure I’ll always have a soft spot for Rozier and his high charisma, and hope that after he moves on Celtics fans remember the “I don’t know who that is” Terry Rozier and not the 2018-2019 version of him.