Previous editions of the Case for a Roster Spot for the 2020-21 Boston Celtics have focused on individual players on the roster bubble. We broke down pros and cons of the offense, defense, intangibles and contract for Tacko Fall, Semi Ojeleye, Tremont Waters, Javonte Green and Brad Wanamaker. This edition will be a little bit different. This time around we’ll look at other directions Danny Ainge could go when constructing next season’s team.
Trades are never easy or common in the NBA, even for the Celtics, despite Ainge’s “Trader Danny” moniker. That makes it tough to predict them, let alone say one is likely to happen. In the case of building next year’s Celtics, a trade could make sense.
Factors working in favor of a trade are that Boston is a contender. As in right now. The Celtics are a piece away from pushing them from being a contender to possibly being a favorite. In addition, Boston has the depth to make a trade without hurting their rotation. And, the Celtics have plenty of draft picks they could add to any offer (more on that in a bit!).
Could Ainge cash in a few of his assets in the form of young players and picks and really go for it? It wouldn’t be a complete surprise. Most of the positions have long-term options occupying them, making some of the backups very tradable. If the right deal is there to improve a spot, or add veterans who make sense, Ainge could move on from players like Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Robert Williams or any of the draft picks.
If things hold to form, Boston will have three first-round picks (#17 (via Memphis), #26 and #30 (via Milwaukee)) and a second-round pick (#46 (via Brooklyn)) in the 2020 NBA Draft.
To put it simply: That’s too many picks. The Celtics just added seven rookies to their roster this season (including Green and Vincent Poirier as NBA rookies). No way a team wants to have as many eight or nine first and second-year players on the same team. Even if the Celtics don’t do a trade, they aren’t going to make four picks with intentions of them being on next year’s roster. So, what other options are there?
First is, well, a trade. We’ve seen Ainge move up and down the draft board in the past. He’s also been content to take the Bill Belichick approach and turn one of this year’s picks into a pick for next year. There is a high likelihood that happens again.
What if there isn’t a trade? Expect Boston to select at least one “draft and stash” player, if not two. This could be a European player who stays overseas for a year or two and develops before coming to the NBA, a la Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic. Hopefully that works out better than it did for either Yabusele or Zizic. Another path is what many call the “domestic draft and stash” where it’s a college player who agrees to spend a year playing in the NBA G-League. That’s becoming a more and more common route teams and players are taking.
Waiving a player
Always a possibility. Ainge has no fear of waiving a player and eating guaranteed money, if that is the best way to build the roster. He’s done this before with Yabusele, Demetrius Jackson, R.J. Hunter and others.
Who are the options for that approach this year?
·Carsen Edwards: This one would be tough because Edwards was a fairly high draft pick in 2019 at #33. Boston was also high enough on Edwards that they gave him a four-year, $6.5 million contract. Both 2020-21 and 2021-22 are fully guaranteed at $1.5 and $1.8 million respectively.
So, why would Boston waive Edwards? His rep out college was that he’d be a shooter/scorer. In limited chances at the NBA level, Edwards was anything but. He shot just 32.7% overall and 30.9% from behind the arc.
Edwards’ initial numbers look better from the 13 games he played in the G-League, but need a closer look. Sure, he scored 22.2 points per game, but his shot was still pretty rough. On a whopping nine three-point attempts per game with Maine, Edwards shot just 28%. That’s simply not good enough for a 6’1’’ player that isn’t really a point guard.
$3.3 million over the next two seasons would be a lot of money to eat, especially given the Celtics could be in the luxury tax, but Edwards needs to show more before his spot on the roster is a lock.
·Vincent Poirier: Poirier came over with hopes he’d be Ainge’s next find from Europe, joining the path blazed by Shane Larkin, Brad Wanamaker and Daniel Theis. Instead, Poirier spent the vast majority of the season buried on the bench, even when injuries struck the Celtics frontcourt.
Like with Edwards, contract is a concern with waiving him. Poirier is fully guaranteed for next season at $2.6 million. That’s a lot of cash to ask the owners to simply eat. It’s more likely Boston would look for a trade to dump that money first.
There’s also the fact that many are still high on Poirier despite his lackluster rookie NBA season. He was one of the elite rebounders in Europe for a couple of years. That skill-set is still there. He’s also a solid rim-runner, and that was starting to show up late in Poirier’s rookie year.
Add it all up, Poirier is likely to be back for at least one more year.
Players with options leaving
Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter both have player options. Hayward’s is for $34.2 million, and Kanter’s is for $5 million. This one is pretty simple though. That’s a lot of money to pass up on, given the current environment, for either player. It’s very unlikely either opts out and leaves Boston.
Here’s a way too early prediction for what next year’s Celtics roster could look like. We’re grouping the players in Brad Stevens’ parlance of ballhandlers, wings and bigs.
·Ballhandlers: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Tremont Waters, 2020 Draft Pick (Two-Way)
·Wings: Jaylen Brown, Carsen Edwards, Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, 2020 Draft Pick
·Bigs: Tacko Fall (Two-Way), Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier, Daniel Theis, Grant Williams, Robert Williams
That means that from this season’s roster both Javonte Green and Brad Wanamaker would be playing elsewhere. This prediction also assumes that Danny Ainge will trade or stash two of the 2020 draft picks.
It’s a long way off before we’ll know for sure. If the 2019-20 season resumes and finishes, the Celtics will have a better idea of what they need to be title contenders based on how the playoffs go. Maybe the answer is that they’re already there and don’t need much. Maybe they have a big hole to fill. No matter what happens, Danny Ainge and staff will have some big decisions to make on who comes back for next season from this year’s Celtics roster.