When the February 9 trade deadline wrapped up, the Boston Celtics, who had just added Mike Muscala, still had an open roster spot to fill, courtesy of trading away Noah Vonleh in January.
The immediate thought process saw someone like Terrence Ross or Danny Green being the ideal target, but almost as soon as they hit free agency, another team swooped down and swiped them off the market. Although, Will Barton - who has been floated as a potential buyout candidate, was recently brought out of his contract and still remains a viable option for Boston.
Of course, whoever the Celtics choose to bring in with their 15th roster spot, the primary idea is that they provide cover for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, while also allowing Joe Mazzulla to slightly reduce their minutes over the final stretch of the season. However, suddenly, the buyout market is providing slim pickings for a team that is in need of additional wing depth, especially when you factor in the limited role on offer.
During a recent interview on WEEI’s The Greg Hill show, Wyc Grousbeck touched on Boston’s limited options and even went as far as to mention how such a small role could be limiting the Celtics' chances of acquiring a genuine impact-maker, regardless of having the upper hand in contract negotiations due to the Danilo Gallinari Disabled Player Exception.
“I’d be very surprised if we went into the playoffs with an open roster spot, don’t think that’s going to happen. There’s a question whether you sign people to 10-day contracts to check them out if they’re willing to accept a role where the team’s pretty deep, so there may not be a lot of minutes. People don’t necessarily want to sign for that. It might not be good for their career,” Grousbeck said.
So, if we operate under the assumption that Barton will also sign elsewhere and that Boston can’t see any value in the current crop of free agents, then perhaps it’s time to look a little closer to home at the talent that has been developing in their system all season long. I’m talking, of course, about the players currently residing with the Maine Celtics.
Let’s take a look at some of the available talent and how they could potentially aid the Celtics between now and the end of the season.
Tony Snell, 31, is the most experienced of the players currently residing in Maine, boasting 601 regular-season NBA games and a further 47 playoff appearances. Importantly, Snell has spent time playing at both the shooting guard and small forward positions.
Is Snell a perfect fit? Of course not — but when it comes to the final roster spot on a contending team, you don’t need to be perfect, just serviceable.
With a career 39.4% three-point conversion rate and enough experience not to be a turnstile on defense, Snell is a ready-made end-of-bench option for Boston and has already been getting reps in their development system, so should slot seamlessly into what they’re trying to achieve schematically.
Furthermore, Snell started 12 games last season, 10 of them coming for the Portland TrailBlazers, so there should be no concerns if he needs to absorb a bigger role in the occasional game between now and the playoffs.
Similar to Snell, Denzel Valentine is capable of playing both the 2 and the 3, and has considerable NBA experience, racking up 256 games and a total of 4817 minutes on an NBA court throughout regular-season play. At 29 years old, Valentine is slightly younger than Snell but is less prolific from deep and is two inches shorter than his veteran counterpart.
Nevertheless, Valentine is a career role player and may find it easier to stomach a limited role on the end of a team's bench than Snell would; the question is, would he be as reliable when called upon? My guess is yes, provided the minutes are limited and role is well-defined.
My personal pick of the bunch, Luka Samanic, has all of the traits that you want from a stretch-four. With a good-looking three-point stroke, a reliable face-up game, and a developing back-to-the-basket offensive bag, Samanic has been producing for the Maine Celtics this season. Averaging 22.3 points on 37.2% shooting from deep, Samanic could fill a catch-and-shoot or pick-and-pop role in a pinch.
However, it’s fair to assume that Mike Muscala’s arrival around the trade deadline has all but removed the need for Samanic this season, especially as he wouldn’t provide any cover at the spots of need — shooting guard and small forward. As such, we shouldn’t expect to see Samanic on the Celtics roster this season.
He might still be raw, but JD Davison has been developing at a rapid pace with the Maine Celtics and is arguably one of the better playmakers in the G-League this season. However, one thing Boston doesn’t need is another guard. As such, if Davison was to get his shot at the NBA on a full-time deal, he would have to adjust his role, and while that could be good for reps at a higher level, it might not be great for his long-term development.
You see, Davison makes sense for the Celtics if he can occupy a similar role to what Javonte Green did during his time with the team. An athletic finisher who can inject explosiveness, speed, a sprinkling of ball-handling, and an additional block threat around the rim. Davison is shooting 34.1% from three this season on just 2.4 attempts per game, so his limited floor spacing could be a stumbling block. However, that could be counteracted with some inverted screen and roll actions.
I really like the idea of Davison in a Green role, but I’m not sure what that does for the overall development of his game as opposed to remaining with Maine for the remainder of the season.
As you can see, there are certainly some valuable commodities currently residing in Maine who could all step in to fill the 15th roster spot and provide some value in a defined role if and when they are needed.
Of course, Brad Stevens should continue scouring the market before turning his attention closer to home, but sometimes, it’s better the devil, you know (as they say), especially when we’re not talking about looking to acquire a primary rotation guy who is going to tip the scales one way or another.
Having so much talent in Maine is a testament to the work being put in from both iterations of the Celtics, as recently reported by CelticsBlog’s Jack Simone, and that should put our minds at ease if Stevens does decide to cherry-pick someone out of Boston’s G-League team.