The impending addition of Evan Turner to the Celtics roster is the kind of low-risk move that the team’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge prides himself on during a rebuilding period. He finds a young talented player with limited market value (see: Jordan Crawford) and takes a chance that said player is able to bounce back and rebuild his worth in a Celtics uniform.
Normally, a promise of ample playing time is a prerequisite for a veteran reclamation project, but that’s not something in place for Turner right now in Boston. The Celtics have a logjam on the roster with 18 players under contract once Turner signs. To make matters worse, the majority of those players play the same position(s) as Turner, who has split time between shooting guard and small forward during his four-year NBA career. Let’s take a quick peak at the Celtics depth chart to see just how crowded the wing is:
PG: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey
SG: Avery Bradley, Evan Turner Marcus Thornton, Keith Bogans*, Chris Johnson*
SF: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, James Young, Chris Babb*
PF: Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk
C: Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani, Joel Anthony
Ainge can solve the roster crunch from a numbers standpoint fairly easily, via cutting players with non-guaranteed deals. Babb works hard but was a long shot to make the team’s roster even before the Turner signing. Johnson is a favorite of the Boston coaches for his hustle and work ethic but his outside shooting dropped off at the end of last season and during summer league action.
Bogans hasn’t been with the team since last December and his only value remains as a helpful $5.3 million unguaranteed trade chip. The team will keep him around this summer in hopes of using him to help facilitate a deal, but he’ll be gone by the start of next season one way or another. At worst, the team can give him away for “nothing” (or a protected second round pick) which would allow them to acquire another trade exception.
Getting rid of those three players does not eliminate the roster crunch as far as Turner is concerned. The Celtics will still have Bradley, Turner, Thornton, Green, Wallace and Young all competing for minutes at the wing spots. You can probably add Smart to that mix as well, since the team likely will plan on him playing off guard a bit with Rondo eating up most of the playing time at point guard.
Even with Young delegated to the bench or D-League for some seasoning, there is no way head coach Brad Stevens will be able to keep all of those players happy with minutes. It’s just not feasible with that many bodies. The fact that Turner was even willing to sign in Boston with that logjam in place was surprising to me, but signals one thing: more moves are coming.
We don’t know who or when, but Boston’s depth chart makes another trade or two (even after trimming the roster to 15) likely. We already heard about the report that the team considered dealing away Brandon Bass to the Warriors earlier in the month, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the team looks to trade away Jeff Green as well to open up some playing time for Turner.
Gerald Wallace is always a candidate to be dealt, but his hefty contract (2 years remaining at $10.1 million per season) make it a challenge to move him unless the Celtics are willing to add some significant sweeteners to any offer. A Rondo trade at some juncture can’t be ruled out either if the right offer comes along.
Ainge doesn’t have to be in a rush to make any additional moves. Patience has been the name of the game for the Celtics president during a quiet free agency period this summer. If no attractive offers present themselves now, Ainge can go into the season with a 15-man roster and look to find an opportunity to make a move in November or December with a team looking for some veteran help.
Make no mistake though, there will be a roster shakeup coming by the end of the calendar year since it’s unlikely Stevens wants to deal with complaints about playing time all year from Wallace (not the easiest guy to bench) or Thornton during a contract year.
In order for Turner to rebuild his value, he needs playing time. Just as he did last season, it’s up to Ainge to clear out the roster logjam he assembled and try to gain some additional value via trade while cleaning up the mess.