When the Celtics walked off the TD Garden floor following their first-round series loss to Cleveland on Sunday, it was almost certainly the last time fans would see the team as presently constituted. Changes are coming given the team’s truckload of draft picks, trade exceptions and cap space so let’s take a look at the roster as it looked to end the season focusing on who may be staying and who may be going.
Brandon Bass – With the exception of his powerhouse, putback dunk in Game 4, Bass’s season ended quietly with him averaging just five points and 2.5 boards per game in the series against the Cavs. The venerable, veteran forward is now a free agent, and while his worth as a tough, max effort guy who is almost automatic from 10-15 feet will always be valuable, the Celtics may well let him explore the market.
Avery Bradley – Bradley just finished the first season of a four-year, $32 million deal and showed a great deal of improvement, particularly as a shooter and from a durability standpoint. Ainge loves Bradley with a capital “L,” as evidenced by reports that the fifth-year guard was untouchable at the trade deadline. So if he’s staying around, his next step is to become more versatile on offense and improve his ability to get into the paint and to the rim.
Tyler Zeller – The Celtics probably couldn’t have expected much more out of Zeller than he gave them this season. His touch around the basket and solid interior game (81.1 percent from 10 feet and closer as per NBA.com) made up for the fact that he’s not a prototypical center (especially on defense) despite being a seven-footer. Still, if the Celtics can bring in a big man to anchor their starting lineup and their interior defense, Zeller would make the perfect backup.
Marcus Smart – Obvious maturity issues aside, Smart had a nice rookie season that showed how good he already is at some NBA necessities while also exposing how far he has to go at some others. His defense makes him look like a veteran and that speaks to his general, all-around effort. But while he proved to be a better 3-point shooter than expected, the rest of his offensive game has a ways to go and we’re not yet sure what kind of a distributor or playmaker he really is since those responsibilities were left primarily to Evan Turner. Smart will likely be given every chance to improve and succeed in Boston, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him go as part of package if Ainge attempts to make a major deal.
Evan Turner – Probably the biggest individual surprise of the season, Turner came to Boston with a somewhat tattered reputation and responded with a very good year for a lot less money than former No. 2 overall picks in their fifth year usually get paid. The Celtics owe him just about $3.5 million for next season, so it’s easy to see him coming back, especially given how versatile he proved to be, not to mention his joining Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Jo Jo White, Antoine Walker and John Havlicek as the only Celtics to post over both 400 rebounds and 400 assists. One question that will need to be addressed is whether or not his presence impedes the progress of Smart should they both stick around.
Isaiah Thomas – Thomas was a revelation when he arrived at the trade deadline, giving the Celtics a go-to scorer who could get to the foul line pretty much whenever he wanted (5.2 fouls drawn per game in March, 4.0 in April). He changed everything, electrifying the team as its run to the playoffs really took off. Thomas proved very mortal in Games 3 and 4 against Cleveland once the Cavs figured out how to keep him out of the paint and turn him into a jump shooter. And his size makes him susceptible to being targeted on defense. But he’s still a proven commodity on offense and he’s on an incredibly team-friendly contract (three more years, roughly $20 million more) which makes him a valuable asset to the Celtics whether they choose to keep him around or spin him off.
Jared Sullinger – Who knows? Despite a handful more ill-advised 3-point attempts, Sullinger was as engaged and effective in Games 3 and 4 against the Cavs as he’s been in ages. But will that carry over? Ainge was very public in discussing Sullinger’s conditioning issues and whether or not there was any veiled criticism of his work ethic contained within those remarks is up to you. What’s fact is that Sullinger is signed for next season in the final year of his rookie deal and will be a restricted free agent after that. If Sullinger is in shape and stays away from the three-point line, from which he shoots just 28 percent, he could be a very good player. The Celtics will probably give him one more chance to prove it.
Kelly Olynyk – Well, if you believe Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics had best find a trade partner for Olynyk if they plan on chasing Kevin Love in free agency this summer. Aside from all that, Olynyk must get stronger, more decisive and more consistent (as his game logs for the season will attest) if he wants to thrive in the NBA. He’s a seven-footer who can’t bang and while he’s shown flashes of being a solid, if not dynamic, stretch-4, his frequent hesitation to shoot or drive when the ball comes to him is a problem. Whether or not he stays with the Celtics will largely depend on what direction they go in free agency, the trade market and the draft in terms of big men.
Jae Crowder – Crowder, the out-of-nowhere gem of the Rajon Rondo trade, proved to be everything a team should want in a role player: versatile, tough, fearless and exceptionally hungry. It’s not a mystery why the Cavs went after Crowder instead of Olynyk in their attempts to exact revenge for the Love injury. The Celtics can make him a restricted free agent with a $1.1 million qualifying offer and you can expect them to do just that.
Jonas Jerebko – If the Celtics indeed let Bass walk, they have his replacement sitting right under their nose. Jerebko, 28, may not be as stout or equipped to operate in the post as Bass but he’s got better shooting range, can guard multiple positions and is all energy. The wiry Swede is an unrestricted free agent and could probably be had for relatively short money. The Celtics should keep him.
Luigi Datome – The fan fave. Gigi is a free agent and loves Boston, he’s a marksman who greatly impressed Stevens and given how little run he’s gotten in his two NBA seasons, there may not be much of a market for him. Bring him on back!
Phil Pressey – Pressey has one more year on his rookie deal at less than $1 million and has been a very good soldier while serving as a valuable depth piece. No reason to assume he won’t at least be at training camp.
Chris Babb – Last guy on the roster. Babb signed a multi-year deal earlier this month that’s not guaranteed, which makes him a prime candidate to be dealt for accounting purposes. If he’s not dealt, he’ll be a summer league and training camp body and will get a chance to earn a roster spot for next season.
James Young – Perimeter shooting is so important and the Celtics are in dire need of someone who can knock ‘em down with some consistency so Young will be given plenty of time to develop. He has to get better defensively if he wants to stop riding the D-League express and receive less spotty minutes but for now, Young’s going nowhere.
Gerald Wallace – Wallace served as something of a uniformed assistant coach this season with a couple nice, on-court moments sprinkled in between. His massive contract is finally up after next season and there’s already discussion of the Celts offering up one of their first-rounders to anyone who might take that final year and $10.1 million off their hands, as per Basketball Insiders.