The Celtics offseason situation would be pretty daunting for any GM. Forget the fact they have a popular head coach in limbo, with just five players under contract (assuming Pierce opts in which is no sure thing, and Sheed is retiring) the Celtics already have 55 million dollars committed for next year between those players. Then you factor in one of those guys could be out well into next season (Kendrick Perkins). Yikes.
So the Celtics are over the cap, have several holes to fill and still want to compete for a Championship next year? That’s a challenge if I ever saw one, and there are a very limited number of chips that Danny Ainge holds to improve the team, one of the biggest coming tonight with the NBA Draft.
With that in mind, let’s just say Danny Ainge has several places he could turn with the 19th pick in the draft this evening. Trading up, trading down, it’s all on the table. The key thing to remember is that Ainge needs bodies, so no matter what moves he makes tonight, expect 2-3 new Celtics to be introduced when all is said and done this evening.
Still it’s tough to hypothesize which way Ainge could turn. Still with the knowledge of the free agents available, it’s safe to make a few educated guesses on what way the C’s will turn with their picks this evening.
1) The Celtics really need a young big
If you asked me last month, I would have told you the frontcourt would have been an area of strength for this team entering the offseason. Fast forward to now, with Rasheed Wallace likely out of the picture and your starting center potentially out until December, there are some pressing issues to say the least.
Size, rebounding and athleticism was this team’s achilles heel against Los Angeles and it is something that needs to be addressed. Zach took a look earlier this week at the big man free agent market and it’s slim pickings for the amount of dough the C’s are able to spend. With Perkins and Big Baby looming as free agents after next season, Boston needs to lock up a younger guy, someone who can help this team continue to contend next year in what will likely be this team’s last hurrah.
That need to help now makes me believe the younger raw centers that this draft is full of with guys like Daniel Orton, Solomon Albai and Hassan Whiteside, I expect the C’s to stay away from them. Too much risk, not enough of a chance they will help right away. If they do grab one of these guys that are likely projects….it will be a bit disconcerting, perhaps signaling the team is looking more towards the long term future instead of trying to make one more run right now. Let’s just say I’m hoping it’s not the case. If the C’s trade down though, it’s possible they would take a risk on one of those centers, but not at 19.
There are though plenty of polished big men (not centers) that should be hanging around for Ainge with the 19th pick or if he trades down. Guys like Damian James, Craig Brackens, Larry Sanders, and you never know, maybe a guy like Cole Aldrich or Patrick Patterson falls to them somehow.
No matter what, Ainge should have options in the late 1st round/early 2nd round of this draft, if he is in fact trading down. And who could blame him if he does that? He has a strong track record picking up seasoned NBA ready picks in latter stages of the NBA Draft throughout his tenure with the C’s with more hits (Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Delonte West, Tony Allen) than misses (J.R. Giddens, Gabe Pruitt, Marcus Banks). Ainge needs a couple hits tomorrow night and needs it in a big way.
2) The Draft is Deep at the 2/3 Spot, but so is the Free Agency Class
The backup swingman position should be priority 1A entering this offseason as far as I’m concerned. You need a guy that can play 25-30 minutes, help spread the floor with the second team, and keep the onus off of Ray Allen’s (he’ll be back barring another team grossly overpaying him) and Paul Pierce’s minutes all regular season long and into the postseason.
One of the main problems for this team in Game 7 is both of those guys ran out of gas, since Doc had no one he could trust to put in for either guy for an extended period. You can’t blame for Rivers for that, but it definitely came back to burn him as the team collapsed offensively until it was too late.
So why not turn to a younger guy in the draft to step into that role? It’s certainly possible and Ainge will have options again in what is a very deep draft. If Ainge does in fact make a deal to pick up an additional pick at the end of the 1st round or beginning of the 2nd round, there are more than enough candidates to give the C’s great value at his spot, with plenty of experienced college guys capable of helping now.
Names like Quincy Pondexter, Darington Hobson, James Anderson, Jordan Crawford are just a few of the guys that have the potential of dropping into the bottom third of the 1st round.
That being said, I could see the team filling this role in free agency, where there are a number of attractive candidates available for some, if not all of the mid level exception type money. Mike Miller. Kyle Korver. Raja Bell. John Salmons. Rasual Butler.
We’ll have more in-depth profiles on who fits later next week, but you clearly have better options there than you do in the big man free agent class, so it might be wiser to spend limited resources there. Clearly, a lot depends on the futures of Pierce, and both Allens, but even if all of them come back, there’s still a need for immediate help.
3) The team needs a backup point guard….it’s just not the highest priority right now
Pretty self explanatory there. If the Celtics do move down and pick up multiple picks, I wouldn’t put it past Danny to take a flier on a guy in the 2nd round, or if someone like Eric Bledsoe falls to him somehow. Don’t count on it though, with the Celtics having other needs looming larger.
Prediction: Celtics trade down for two picks in 25-40 range (as rumored) and C’s pick up a swingman that can shoot and larger power forward than can score. If he holds on to 19, he goes with a polished power forward. Whatever happens though, I wouldn’t count on Danny standing pat. He has too many needs not to do something.
Now it’s time for you guys to make some predictions. What will Ainge do? Who are some names you think the C’s could be eyeing? Any sleepers?