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Semi’s role, draft picks, and Gordon’s next contract - Mailbag answers

I pretend to know everything and speak authoritatively.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Here we are with another round of questions you have and answers I pretend to have.

I liked all of your questions so much that I decided to print and respond to each of them. I’m happy to provide my answers, but the questions alone are worth the read here.


Too many draft picks next year?

This year we had a battle over the 15th roster spot — many said: What does it matter, the 15th guy isn’t going to play / make a difference. Yet we’ve see him play and some are clamoring for him to play more. My take: I want to give all 17 players a chance to play and grow to see what we have. Yet we’ll have multiple new rookies coming in next year, which will make it harder to see what we have, even requiring us to jettison some players. Any ideas for how to solve this problem? I’d love to trade next year’s picks for picks two or three years down the road — but I don’t think those trades are available much, and if so only in a limited way at the draft. I’d like to have all of our rookies (including Carson and Grant (and Green and maybe even Vincent)) get significant playing time in Maine, but we need to keep some in Boston to play a few minutes here.

There have been at least 3 drafts in recent years (including this past one) where I was convinced that there was no way that Ainge would keep all the draft picks. Instead he made minimal changes and brought in a slew of rookies to add to an already young-ish roster. So just to keep up the streak, I’ll agree with you and say that Ainge will probably trade multiple picks and get out of the draft entirely (and I’m sure we’ll both be wrong and he’ll pick a new crop of rookies).

I will say that all this developing talent on rookie contracts is a very market-efficient way of stocking up the support roles around the ever increasing cost of paying stars. Said another way, Kemba’s big contract just started, Jaylen’s contract kicks in next year, Tatum’s big payday is coming soon, and Hayward’s contract situation factors in as well (more on that later). This team is going to be capped out for the foreseeable future so they need to be creative. That means building through the draft and using free agent exceptions (MLE, minimum, etc.).

Ideally all of the current rookies or sophomores will develop and grow into bigger roles. Realistically some of them will pan out and some will not. Some may even earn paydays that the Celtics aren’t willing to match (like Rozier) and some might become involved in trades as salary filler and/or valued incentives. While it is easier to trade picks than players, the reason those picks are valued around the league is their worth as a way of restocking a franchise.

It is all a complicated gigsaw puzzle that the front office has to navigate each offseason. I’m glad they have options to work with.


The Celtics have two experienced Bigs: Theis and Kanter.

We all know that Robert Williams is very talented. Who knows if he will contribute heavily in the playoffs this season?

If the Celtics want to make a run this year, do they need more Big man depth? We know that Taco and Porier are both (1 – 3 year?) projects.

Does this mean we will see more small lineups? That seems like a loser to me. Maybe you can prove me wrong with some sort of small-ball metric, Jeff. But I don’t think so.

The cop out answer is “it depends” but I’ll try to take it another step further. I’d first like to see just what we can get out of Theis and just how much progress Williams can make this year. Kanter is the known value and probably makes the most sense in a reserve role. Together, barring injury, there’s a best-case scenario where that group is enough to hold down the fort for the rest of the core to compete at the highest levels. But the “margin for error” is pretty thin there so some kind of help would be nice. The question is the cost.

We’ve covered this ground before but it is worth repeating here. It is all well and good to say that “we need to make a trade for a big” but you have to weigh the outgoing pieces with the incoming value you’d be getting. I’m still hoping someone pops up in the buyout market (someone who doesn’t care for the L.A. lifestyle).

Small ball is one of those things (thus far) that seems to be best implemented in short bursts and in limited doses. In particular against teams with large lineups (Sixers, Bucks) it doesn’t seem like a strategy that will stand up over the course of a seven game series.


Question with big implications.

If gordon comes back and plays at an all star level for the rest of the season (I believe he will), will he opt out of the last year of his deal? And if he does, will we be able to afford re signing him as well as extending Tatum?

I think that ship has largely sailed already. He’s shown that he’s capable of long stretches of near-All Star level play. Someone out there will be willing to pay him for his next contract. He has the option of opting out of his contract at the end of this year, much like Al Horford did this past summer. He’d be turning down one year of $34.2M but he could end up getting 4 years at over $20M per year (and as high as $40M if someone is willing to give him that).

The Celtics do hold his Bird Rights so if he’s happy here and the Celtics are willing to pay his price, they won’t need to clear cap space to sign him. However, there’s usually a limit to what Ainge is willing to pay and if someone (Atlanta?) empties the piggybank for him, Boston might need to make a hard decision to let him go.


Is Semi back?

He sure looked like a possible roster casualty until Hayward’s injury. We were seeing a lot of Grant Williams and Javonte Green, along with some time for Carson Edwards, but there weren’t many minutes or especially promising play from Ojeleye. It seemed like we knew what his strengths were, and there weren’t that many of them outside of his, you know, actual strength.

Since then, Green has all but disappeared, Williams has been in and out and has struggled to find his shot (while still contributing), and Semi has been a key veteran role player, even starting one game. Is this something that you think will continue? Has he shown enough skill and awareness defensively to continue earning regular minutes? Do you think he will shoot the 3 well enough to force teams to pay attention to him? Or is his time in the last few weeks a circumstantially required cameo, a swan song of sorts before Gordon comes back and Danny makes some upgrades to the bench before the trading deadline?

This is just my guess, but I think that he’ll continue to get minutes for a while if only because he’s a veteran and ahead of Williams on the learning curve. With that said, I don’t think it will take Williams long to pass him because he’s simply better than Semi at so many things. There’s just a little too much duplication there when both are a big undersized for the position.

I like Semi but I’m also putting him at the top of the “most likely to be traded” list. He can hold on to his playing time by hustling and knocking down open shots, but eventually Williams should figure out his shooting stroke and become a staple in the rotation soon.


To me, the core of the team is Tatum, Hayward, Kemba, and Smarty. Brown seems redundant. Not everyone will agree, I know. What are the odds Brown gets dealt, this season or next?

There’s little to no chance of Brown getting traded this year if only because of the complicated salary matching machination rules on rookie contract extensions like his.

With that said, the team will have to evaluate the best fits going forward. I think there’s plenty of room for him and Tatum to grow together but does it make sense to pay both of them and Gordon and Kemba? It might depend on how much value they can get on the edges and through the draft (see answers above).


What about Waters?

Tremont Waters is doing everything right, including a game-saving performance the one time we put him in a green jersey. I want to know why he isn’t active more often, or even continuously, while we wait for Gordon to come back from his hand injury. Shouldn’t take more than 45 days. Probably no more than 14.

To my eye, our offense has been shabby for the past 5 or 6 games. We seem to have forgotten how to cut or pass. It has gotten worse and worse the longer we’ve played without Hayward. When shots are falling, or the refs are putting us on the line, the shabbiness is disguised somewhat, but the ball movement is still not what it should be. Then, here comes Tremont for one game, and BINGO! The ball is popping when he’s in there. He knows how to make the defense react with one or two quick dribbles, and then widen the crack with a perfectly timed pass. Doesn’t have to be an assist, just a pass to someone who is now in a good position to make the next play. Why on earth did we send him back to Maine?

While I agree with your assessment of Waters and his impact on the team, I think they are simply trying to preserve his eligibility on the two-way deal for as long as they can while letting him develop with real playing time in Maine.

Even though he had success in his brief exposure to the NBA, he’s still an undersized rookie that has plenty to learn. I’m in favor of taking a long view with him. He could be a great value for years to come. No sense in rushing him for the short term needs of the now.

hoi polloi

Am I a bad person if...

…I just want to watch a good, fun team play a good, fun brand of basketball and I don’t spend my time coming up with that one smart move that will definitely win us a championship?

If every fan went about being a fan the same way as all the other fans, then this would be a very boring blog. You do you.


Will Hayward fix the bench scoring woes or do we need to make a move for someone?

Bench scoring may be this team’s biggest hole, not center. Does Hayward’s return shuffle the rotations and fill this void? Does Langford give us anything? Wannamaker has been a pleasant surprise, but not getting enough from Edwards and Grant scoring wise right now.

Peak production Hayward certainly seems to mitigate a lot of the issues the team is having right now. I feel like all the optimistic theoretical stuff I wrote about him over the past 2 years finally started coming to life at the start of this year. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off. He’s just a great gear in the machine that keeps everything moving in the right direction.

Just consider Langford to be a redshirt freshman. Put him out of your mind. Or to borrow another sports analogy, consider him a “September call-up from AAA” (like in baseball). He’ll get some spot minutes later in the year but he’s got to get healthy and work a lot on that shot if he’s going to be of any use to us down the line.


Knowing the Celtics organization as you know, please tell me this:

Is there a place or a person I can write to in order to have all minutes currently given to Kanter, Ojeleye, Grant Williams, and Edwards cut to zero and distributed among Robert Williams, Theiss, Green and Waters? It’s a compromise proposal, I’m not even demanding Tacko at this point.

Here’s what I know about the organization (based upon great reporting from people much smarter and better at their jobs than I am). Danny Ainge listens to everyone in the organization from ball boys up to Wyc. Everyone gets a say and a chance to make their case. Brad Stevens likewise listens to everyone (his whole staff and throughout the organization) and actively seeks out input from coaches from around the world. At the end of the day, however, they have strong convictions about their own opinions. Neither of them is going to let fans influence them in one way or another if they firmly believe in their decisions.

So my advice: Become a ballboy, because you never know.


Who will be GM

when Ainge retires (or limits himself to a more ceremonial organization president role) at the end of this season?

Unless you know something I don’t know, there’s no indication that Ainge is hanging up his phones at the end of the season. I hope Danny sticks around for as long as he is willing to but I know his health and family will play a big role in that decision (and of course I want what’s best for him personally).

When the time ultimately comes for Ainge to move on (and I have no insider information on this) my best guess is that Mike Zarren would take over as GM. He’s been considered for other openings already and is widely respected around the league. I think he’d be a great choice.


Should we cash in some chips

for one of the talented bigs taken in the 18 draft? Especially W Carter of the Bulls. Seems like a do it all big for the talent thin Bulls. The price would be steep, but when Celts are this close is it time to go for it. Package could include some combo of R Williams, Langford, Memphis pick, Tacko, Theis, Kanter, other picks and any of the others from this year’s draft.

I like Wendell Carter a lot too but you are right that it would be a steep price. Is it worth giving up someone like Williams plus other pieces like the Memphis pick to get it done? Would the Bulls even consider that? Maybe and maybe. But I tend to think we could get more value for that Memphis pick later on.


It’s never going to happen, but hypothetically: If Portland offers Lillard straight up for Kemba, do you say yes?

Also: At this time, which Celtic most deserves to be named an All-Star this year?

That would be a bad look for Ainge given the revolving door of star point guards in recent years, but I think he’d probably ultimately do it anyway. Since we’re playing this game, do you think the Blazers would consider Hayward and the Memphis pick for CJ McCollum? None of this is going to happen, but it is always fun to argue about it in the comments section (respectfully of course).

Great mailbag everyone, thanks again for the questions!

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