Boston Celtics: What is the Core of the Celtics?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Celtics are the richest team when it comes to assets in the league. With a ridiculously young team of talented 1st round picks, with their own draft picks, picks owed to them and 1 elite trade chip in Rajon Rondo, it’s difficult to say which players are franchise cornerstones and which are just expendable assets. Well I am going to try and separate the 2, so bare with me, as this is basically me thinking aloud, but this is who I believe are the true core players of the Celtics and who are just assets.
The Core Players
– I believe that the Celtics will be trading Rajon Rondo by mid-season and that the 6th pick in the draft, Marcus Smart will become their best player, even as a rookie and will become their next franchise player. He is the key player for this franchise, is NBA ready and an elite 2 way prospect. He is a big and athletic point guard who is an excellent defender, scorer and rebounder, who is a 3 point shot and some better distribution skills from being an All Star and will be an All Star in 2-3 seasons. At 20 he is about to be given the keys to the franchise and he has the talent to meet his expectations. He is about to join the ranks of the best point guards in this league and will be their franchise player, he is that excellent.
– They showed that he is a big part of this team by signing him to a 32 million dollar extension, the most money they have given to any player in multiple seasons. Many think that they gave him too much money, but he was already an excellent-elite defender and he has become an offensive weapon for them, as he just averaged 14.9 points per game, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from 3. He is still just 23 and keeps getting better and could become one of the best 2 way shooting guards in the NBA. He and Smart, their 2 young guards will be the main pieces of this team once they trade Rajon and one of the best guard duos in the NBA. They will be an excellent offensive-defensive duo and whether you like the contract (most hate it), Bradley is a very big part of this franchise.
– Sullinger was an elite college player for 2 seasons and was an excellent NBA prospect, but his back concerns made him go from a 5-10 draft pick to getting selected 21st by the Celtics. Lucky for them, as in his 2nd NBA season he became their best big man, averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in only 27.6 minutes per game. His per 36 minute numbers were elite, as he averaged 17.3 rebounds, 10.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.9 blocks. He is just 22 and is going into his 3rd season and assuming he plays closer to 32 minutes per game there is no reason why he cannot average 15+ points and 10+ rebounds per game. Is he a franchise big man? No, but he is an excellent starter whose health and shooting percentage are his only weaknesses. As long as he is healthy, he will be a key player for this team.
– Young could go in the asset category, but they had their choice of numerous excellent prospects with pick 17 in this draft, but chose Young, who can become a go-to perimeter scorer for the Celtics. His freshman season wasn’t by any means excellent, but he has the talent to be a very big part of the team. He is too young and has too much potential to be considered an asset when he can give them the elite scorer on the perimeter they lack.
– Rondo is 28, one of the 10-15 best players in the NBA, is no fit with their young core and is an excellent trade chip that can give them more assets or 1 or 2 core pieces. He will be traded and the only questions are when and for what. I believe that they would be wise to trade him for a young elite talent like Greg Monroe.
– Green is another strong veteran starter, that can help a number of teams, but his 16-5 game and his 2-19 contract aren’t too attractive. Regardless, he has value and they can at the least get an expiring contract and a couple of 2nd round picks for him and maybe another young talent. He is just taking minutes from the young players. This team isn’t making the playoffs and Green like Rondo is no fit on this team.
– Zeller is probably going to start at center and he is a very productive and hard working big man who is an excellent 2nd string center or 3rd big man and is just 24, but he isn’t going to be a starting center on a playoff team. He has value for this team this season, but if putting him in a trade helps them get a big fish, then they will trade him with no problems.
– Turner is 25 and has played like a scrub and an All Star in the NBA. He just averaged 17-6-4 for the 76ers, but just 9-3-3 for the Pacers and although on a solid team his numbers are likely in the middle at 13-4-4, he has value on the court and if he proves himself this season in what role he is given, his production and talent could help them in a trade. Signing him to a small, short-term contract was a smart decision as he is better than his contract, which makes him an even more valuable asset in a trade.
– Yes he is only 23 and the Celtics traded for his rights, but he just isn’t that strong of an NBA talent. He is a big man that can shoot and score, but is he an NBA starter? I would say no, he is a role player in the NBA. Him being a talented stretch 4, which is arguably the most valued role player position in the NBA makes him a hot commodity, but he is just that, a role player and they shouldn’t consider him more than that.
They also have picks a lot of picks. They have their own 1st round picks and 2 more 1st rounders from the Nets, who because of age and financial problems will become a lesser franchise each season, so they will become valuable picks. They can use these picks for themselves to bring more young talent to the franchise or use them in a trade. I believe that this team has to make some trades to add more premier talent because besides Rondo and Smart, they have strong players but no potential elite players. They can trade Rondo for more assets or a premier talent, the 2nd of these options being a much smarter proposition and with their picks and young players that aren’t part of their core, they can conceivably add another premier talent. With cap space coming and a ridiculous amount of assets for trades, this team in the next 2 seasons can bring some big time players to town to help them become an elite franchise. If I was Danny Ainge I would trade Rondo to the Pistons for Greg Monroe and re-sign him giving them a franchise big man and then bide their time and by next offseason make a trade for another big talent. With a core of Smart-Bradley-Monroe-Sullinger-Young and another established elite talent, they can become a modern version of the Oklahoma City Thunder who used their picks and assets to build a contender. They have the assets to become one of the best teams in the league.