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The Benefits of a Celtics Roster Set In Stone

 

Roster turnover is a reality on most NBA teams. Contracts expire, valuable chips are traded, rookies are drafted, free agents are signed, and inevitably a sizable fresh batch of players join a squad each and every season.

That formula has held true for the Boston Celtics for the majority of the past five years. While the core four of KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo remained firmly in place during that time (along with Perk for three of those years) the rest of the roster was a revolving door. Over that time, Boston had a number of one-and-done C’s, along with a few players who lasted longer (Eddie House, Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, and Tony Allen being the notables in that group).

Invariably, there are pros and cons to bringing in new blood each and every season in the NBA. Last year for instance, the Celtics overhauled their bench during the offseason, bringing in a less talented group (by Doc’s own admission), but one that ultimately caused far fewer headaches off-and-on the court than did the likes of Davis, Robinson and Delonte West.

On the other side of the coin is, the reality that new faces every year means everyone has to do a lot of learning to get on the same page. At times, players like Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass struggled on both ends of the floor while trying to grasp Doc’s systems. Those issues were further compounded by the lockout-shortened season, giving Boston almost no practice time to hammer home plays and sets.

All factors considered, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of continuity and believe it to be the most important factor with any championship contender. There is really no replacement for a talented group of players building a chemistry with each other over several seasons on the court.

Knowing where your floor mate will be on the court, remembering the play calls like the back of your hand, knowing just how to rotate on defense to cover up for each other’s mistakes. It takes time to build up these skills together and it’s a big reason why the Celtics have remained a formidable foe despite the advanced age of the Big Three over the last few years; their core has that continuity

It’s also why the C’s were able to get away with having virtually no practice time last season, even throughout the postseason, and still managed to give Miami their toughest playoff series. When you have played nearly five years together, practice isn’t quite as necessary.

It’s for this reason I can’t help but be particularly enthused about this Celtics offseason, as the continuity is spreading beyond the starting five. It’s obvious Boston has done very well to update the roster at each position, but pay attention in particular to the length of all of their deals:

Kevin Garnett: 3 years
Jeff Green: 4 years
Brandon Bass: 3 years
Jason Terry: 3 years
Courtney Lee: 4 years

Combine those guys with Rajon Rondo (three more years on deal) Avery Bradley (two more years) and Paul Pierce (two more years), along with the rookies who are all on three-year deals and Boston has got themselves quite the core. Allen is out of the equation, but nearly the entire projected rotation are on long-term deals. Thus it is a core that will be in place for a long time to come (barring any trades).

With a coach like Doc Rivers, along with a point guard like Rajon Rondo who knows the C’s system inside and out at this point, this kind of projected continuity should prove to be invaluable in the years to come.

Instead of having to work to integrate several new members of the roster each and every season, Rivers will likely only have to integrate one or two new rotation bigs each year, along with end-of-the-bench rookies or veteran free agents signing for short money. The familiarity the C’s carryovers will have from year-to-year should be invaluable in allowing Rivers to add useful wrinkles to his schemes on both ends, instead of having to go over the basics time and time again.

With a set roster for years to come, it’s hard not to fondly imagine the possibilities this versatile group will be able to build together over the years to come. Just more reason to give kudos to the job Danny Ainge and company accomplished this offseason.

  • Will K.

    had not seen these names all next to each other with contract length, very interesting. Great stuff Robb.

  • LACelticFan

    The future does hinge on Jeff Green. I am a Jeff Green fan and was initially excited upon him being drafted after following him at GTown, disappointed upon him being traded, excited upon the trade for Allen. Excited again upon him coming back to the team, disappointed with the ailment, but excited once more for his impending return. The guy is talented no question. Has all of the physical tools needed to be successful in the League. But will the mental part show up this season. Dont really mind the 9 or so million price, because there wasn't much else out there, and for all we know they could just be giving him a good faith check for working hard last year during the ailment. These things happen, we don't write the checks or sign them. But at 6-9, 228 lbs, 38 inch vert, he SHOULD be ready to step everything up about his game. The future of Rondo-Bradley-Green-Sully and Melo is coming. Hopefully we will get more than glimpses this season.

    • MJohnnyboy

      We also have Lee.

  • Josh

    Great article Robb, and to add what you said:
    Expect Bass and Bradley to really have a coming out party this year. They each showed glimpses last season, but with another season under their belts, and a complete training camp, I expect big improvements from both of them.

  • Nate

    Very excited about this offseasons moves and the teams future looks bright for us cs fans

  • Mark

    Nice article Robb…..I agree! If we could add a decent true center that plays "D" and rebounds, this would be an extremely tough team to play against.

  • Phil

    I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I'm on the complete opposite side of the fence. With the moves the Celtics have made, they lack any kind of flexibility at the top of their roster over the next three years. Continuity is one thing, but you still need the talent to beat the best teams in the playoffs. I don't see how any amount of continuity is going to keep the ceiling from lowering as the older players of the core get older.

    I think this team is good enough to win it all next year if things break their way, and maybe the year after that too. Year 3 is where it really gets fuzzy though. How good will KG, Pierce (I assume he'll be here as long as he plays,) and Terry be then? They could still be effective role players, but they won't be good enough to carry a team.

    To me, the whole argument comes down to whether you think Bass and Green are part of a core, or just recyclable role players. Obviously Ainge thinks they're the former (15m a year?) but both will have to improve dramatically in their late twenties to justify that.

    I'm extremely intrigued to see this team next year, and I like their chances. After that though, I think its a little unrealistic to expect continuity to mask KG's aging alone. It amazes me how much some people underestimate how much KG means to this team. If he completely loses it, this core is finished, and they lack the flexibility to bring in a comparable piece for a long time.

    • Vince

      I think your position is unpopular because most people prefer having really good players over flexibility. I don't see any value in flexibility when the players you MIGHT be able to overpay for are not as good as the ones you have that are underpaid (Rondo, KG, Pierce). Until Massachusetts drops its state income tax to zero and global warming makes Boston just like Miami, the top free agents will chase big dollars that come with hot weather, hot women, and zero taxes.

      • Phil

        The Rondo and KG deals are great, I'm not arguing that. Those two, and I assume Pierce once he gets his new contract are the players that will give the Celtics an advantage by signing at below market value.

        There's a huge difference between getting star players to sign, and getting role players to sign though. You can ALWAYS get role players to sign at market value with your team. That's what they did with Green, Bass, Terry and Lee (Green a little above, Bass a little below, so it balances out,) worries me so much. While I'm not sure on the exact numbers, in year 3, the Cs have Rondo, KG, Green, Bass, Terry and Lee under contract. That's around 12m, 11m, 9m, 6m, 5m, 5m and whatever Pierce resigns for (6-11m?) That team is already over the cap, and paying a huge amount in luxury tax if they add good players through the MLE and at the end of the roster. Now I don't care at all about Wyc Grousbeck's bottom line as long as he's willing to pay, but we've seen the Knicks shy away from fielding the most competitive team possible because of the luxury task. If its scaring them, who's to say it won't scare the Cs once the numbers add up?

        If you tell me that the only way the Cs could field the most competitive team in 2012 and 13 was by sacrificing flexibility in 1015, I'll accept that, and I think that's what they did here. Just don't try and tell me that paying Green, Bass, Terry and Lee 26m in addition to two 38 year olds is the best way to play 2015.

        • Marc

          What you listed for Year 3 of this squad is actually under the cap, falling at approx $50 mil. Add Pierce and they're may still be under the cap. It would be very similar to the situation they're in now, with some room to sign a couple of key players while going over the cap with Bird Rights, etc.

          Either way, your concern is 2014, 15 and beyond. What would you rather the C's do? There isn't a LeBron James or Dwight Howard available every offseason, and the Celtics wisely resisted clearing space just for space. They contructed a deep roster and added youth at the same time, a difficult task in the NBA.

          The question is how you define flexibility. Would you eschew re-signing our core players (KG, Pierce, Bass, Green) in favor of other role players? In the next three years, who is there to acquire above replacement level? Terry, Bass, Lee, and maybe even Green all have tradeable deals in the event the older guys fold, which I call flexibility.

          • smalltownID

            Difficult to argue with the roster and contracts at the top for now and in the next 3 years. I think there is plenty of room for argument at the lower portion of the roster. Like say roster spot 15. :) Especially now that Ray is gone and you only have 2 aging stars now.

          • Phil

            That's actually something that I think has flown under the radar a little; the Celtics aren't really a geriatric team anymore. They still depend on the aging KG above all else, but Rondo is the best player on the team, and Pierce's role is getting smaller and smaller.

            They brought in Terry as Allen's replacement for on court role and role as third old guy, but having an old bench guy isn't nearly the same as an old big 3.

          • Phil

            I was factoring in Pierce getting ~8m, but there's also Bradley's new contract once his rookie deal is up, and I assume the Cs will use at least the MLE in one of the next two years, if not both. That's an additional 10m added. The numbers are a little irrelevant, the thing that matters is that its MLE only for the forseeable future.

            I understand how the Cs' hands are tied though; I mentioned in the end of my reply that if going too long on all of these contracts was the price for getting the team for 2012, I'm okay with that. I was just arguing with the article that continuity was the best thing going forward. I don't think continuity and two MLE guys will be enough to compete in the future.

            Again, I love the moves for 2012, I just see this as maximizing KG's window. I think they'll need a big change to compete in three years.

  • skeeds

    great stuff as usual. In my opinion, having a stable supporting cast might be even more important than having a long term commitment to a star. Because you can drop higher level players in a new situation with less risk. Look at the Ray Allen – Jason Terry swap. Is anyone worried that Terry won't "adjust"?

    But having a tested, strong group of supporting players, that know their place, understand the system, and most importantly, feel SAFETY with a good contract, playing for a contender, is priceless. We might only have a vague idea about the kind of household Doc runs, but if this offseason is any indication, it must be revered among players. Green and Bass never even hinted at leaving. Terry agreed to come 2 hours into free agency. Courtney Lee agreed to a S&T to play for a team with 2 starter level SG's already.

    And I don't think Ainge's killed flexibility. Having a pool of above average, productive young guys, like Bass, Bradley, Green and Lee, plus some promising young pieces, he's in position to make a move anytime he wants. And he would. He might be done with dangling Rondo in every GM's face, (if he's not, he's crazy) but he's gonna shop Bradley just as aggressively.

    • Phil

      Being able to deal Bradley, Green's hopefully expiring contract and Bass's expiring contract is a possibility in year three I suppose. If Bradley continues growing, you might be able to get a really good player for him, and the Cs would have the extra pieces (1st round picks, salary flotsam to match,) to get something done. I like a core of Rondo/KG/max player X obtained in trade/Pierce/Lee/Terry. That team could be really good in 2015, and KG and Terry come off the books after that.

      Its important to not overrate these assets though. Just having young(ish) players that can contribute isn't enough, you need them to be on favorable deals to really have trade value. Iguodala is a perennial all star, and the 76ers have been trying to trade him for 3 years because he's overpaid. Bass and Green are not assets until they get to the last year of their contract.

      Anything can happen by trade though, and Ainge has shown he's willing to make any deal. That kind of flies in the face of the flexibility argument being used here though. If the Cs are competitive in 2015, it probably won't be because the players know each other better than any other team in the league.

      • skeeds

        First of all, being able to trade doesn't necessarily mean trading for an all star. We already have Rondo, and we shouldn't aim to empty our ranks to acquire anyone, as for example the Knicks did for Melo. There is only one true gamechanger, Lebron James. No one else is worth it. There are many "lesser" deals that these pieces could get us and that could keep this team at a very high level.
        For example, OKC will probably be forced to part with either Ibaka or Harden next summer. That's a S&T Ainge can pull off with his eyes closed. I could come up with at least 20 non-superstar players that can push this team over the top. That's the advantage you get when you have the best playmaker in the league.
        I don't understand why you're only valuing Bass and Green as expiring contracts though. Green might have some proving to do, sure, but Bass just had a career year. He's a solid starter with a very reasonable contract. He's the ideal guy a team would want as compensation for losing their star. Strap him together with Bradley and Courtney Lee and you have a package that can land you a big name.

        • Phil

          I'm not arguing that Bass or Green aren't capable players, I'm just wondering what team is going to trade for them on their own. They don't appeal to young, rebuilding teams, because by the time that team is good, Bass and Green (Lee to a lesser extent,) will be around 30 looking for another contract. If you trade them to a contending team looking for one more role player to get them over the top, you're going to get late first round picks and cap relief only. That's why I question where the assumed trade value is coming from. The only teams that take on contracts like that on a whim are the bad ones like Phoenix, Orlando under Otis Smith and New Jersey under Billy King, and most of those are out of the bad contract running.

          If they're part of a trade for a much better player, then Bradley is going to be the majority of the reason the deal gets done. Bradley shouldn't be in the same category (trade asset,) as the other guys on this roster. He's in his own class as far as trade value goes; he's currently an NBA level starter, with extra potential, on a cheap rookie deal. If he shows signs of even more potential this year, his trade value will be huge.

          I also think you're describing trading for the same type of player that I am. I used a max contract player as an example rather than all star or gamechanger, since I don't like either term as a real way to judge players. Ibaka and Harden will both have max contracts when they hit RFA. I'm under the assumption that Rondo will be this team's best player for the next five years, and any potential trade wouldn't change that.

          My whole original argument was that consistency wouldn't be enough for this team to compete in year 3, but that the opposite; more trading, could. If Bradley becomes good enough to swing a deal for a major piece, you forget consistency and improve your team drastically.

  • Chief

    Good read Robb, can’t wait to see what this team can do.

  • Reggie35RIP

    Good read and agree completely. Good mix of young up-and-comers and experienced veterans.

    Team chemistry doesn’t just happen overnight. With all these longish term contracts it will allow the team enough time to gel. And if for some reason it doesnt work out – as Skeeds said – we’ve got valuable pieces to move if changes need to be made. The future’s looking bright.

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