With the Boston Celtics season officially over, it’s time to move on the offseason. Without a doubt, this going to be the most important offseason in the “Brad Stevens Era”. The Celtics are coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, have some pending free agents, and have the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. Before the offseason officially starts on June 22nd with the draft, I have made a list on what the Celtics should do. What makes this offseason so fascinating for Boston is because it could go in a million different direction. If you want another take on this, check out Nick Cherico’s version of his offseason here. Here’s my version, let’s see if we agree.
Draft Markelle Fultz: What the Celtics with the number one pick will determine how the offseason goes. If they trade the pick for someone ala Paul George or Jimmy Butler; then they are going all in now. But what I think and more importantly, what Danny Ainge thinks is that you have to use the pick. If that Cleveland series showed us anything, the Celtics have a big gap between them and the defending champs. By drafting the 19 year old Fultz, you create a window of being a contender for years to come. The Celtics have a chance to do what the Spurs did with Kwahi Leonard; develop a young star in a winning environment. Also I don’t think there’s a debate over who should be number one, give me Fultz over Ball and his idiotic father.
Let Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Tyler Zeller Go: Another huge thing that the Celtics have going for them is that they have been extremely smart with spending money. By maintaining their flexibility, they have a chance to gain $25 million in cap space. Johnson’s and Jerebko’s contracts are up and Zeller has an $8 million team option. Johnson, Jerebko, and Zeller have been good teammates but they can be easily replaced.
Trade Avery Bradley: One problem that the Celtics face by drafting Fultz is that they are going to have a logjam in the backcourt. Choosing between Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier is no easy decision; but it’s one that needs to happen. After next season Thomas, Bradley, and Smart are all going to be free agents and the Celtics aren’t going to pay all of them. To me, trading Bradley makes the most sense because he has the most value. Bradley can fit into any system and has a small salary to move. I love Avery, but Markelle Fultz needs to play and probably start right away.
Acquire a True Center: One thing that plagued the Celtics all year was the rebounding. They ranked 27th in the league and that’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Being undersized doesn’t help the fact either, so they NEED to get a true center. A couple of guys that should be targeted by Boston include Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, or Nikola Vucevic. But one guy I think makes the most sense is Jahlil Okafor. The situation makes too much sense; the 76ers have too many big men and the Celtics have too many guards. So a straight up trade of Bradley for Okafor would benefit both teams greatly. Plus, Okafor allows Al Horford to move to his natural position at power forward.
Make A Serious Run at Gordon Hayward: So as I mentioned earlier, the Celtics are going to have money to spend this offseason and there will be free agents out there to get. As you know, there has been a free agent out there that has been linked to the Celtics for months; Gordon Hayward. Hayward led Butler to the National Championship game back in 2010 and who was his coach? One Mr. Brad Stevens. Now Utah can offer Hayward more money, but (and this is important) Hayward did not make any of the All-NBA teams. That means Utah can’t offer him the “Super-Max” and he’s more likely to leave Utah. Now taking money out of the equation, Hayward to Boston makes a lot of sense. Obviously his reunion with Stevens is one, but the other is moving to the East. While Utah has a very good team, they are in the West and have a lot of teams ahead of them. Boston is in the East and was just in the Conference Finals. Joining Isaiah Thomas with Al Horford could get Hayward to the Finals much faster.
If Hayward Signs, Trade Jae Crowder: By signing Gordon Hayward, the Celtics would have another logjam. This time it would be at the small forward position. My fear with signing Hayward is that the Celtics would continue to go small and play him at the 4. By doing this, the Celtics would continue to struggle rebounding and become worse on defense. Between Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Jae Crowder; Crowder would be the obvious choice to go. With Crowder’s great contract, the Celtics should be able to get something. Say like, the Celtics trade Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier to the Orlando Magic for SG/SF Mario Hezonja (the 2015 5th overall pick).
Resign Kelly Olynyk (But Don’t Overspend): While I’m not a huge Kelly Olynyk fan, I am absolutely a defender of him. He is the type of new age center that flourishes in Stevens’ 3 happy offense. Add to the fact that still just 26 and shot a career high from the floor this year at 51%. Being a restricted free-agent, the Celtics can match any offer that is thrown at him. I believe that Ainge and Stevens want Olynyk back, but they won’t over pay for him. But considering his lack of defense, I feel he isn’t going to command much attention on the market (especially with the restricted tag on him). I say Olynyk comes back on for 3 years at $33 million. If a team offers more than that, then best of luck Kelly.
Offer Isaiah Thomas a NEAR Max Contract: With the roster set for the new season, the Celtics would now have to face the daunting question; is Isaiah Thomas a max player? Thomas is coming off a career year. He averaged 28.9 points per game, shot a career best 46% from the floor, shot a career best 91% from the floor, made his 2nd straight All-Star appearance, and made the All-NBA 2nd team. So he should be a lock for an extension, right? Well not exactly. The main concerns that come from Thomas is defense, his height, and now this hip situation. If he gets surgery, he could miss the start of the season. So what do you do? Personally, I outright believe Thomas is a max player and that he and Fultz can play together. I also strongly believe that he wants to stay in Boston. So knowing all of that, if I were Ainge; I would offer Thomas a 4 year $100 million. It’s right below a max and I think it’s a fair offer that Thomas would seriously consider. If he doesn’t sign, then no problem. The Celtics have time to negotiate with Thomas.
So with all that, here’s what your 2017—2018 Celtics depth chart would look like. Below, here’s the players’ position, name, age, height, weight, and PROJECTED salary.
PG: Isaiah Thomas 28—5’9”—185—$6.2
SG: Markelle Fultz 19—6’4”—194—$6.0
SF: Gordon Hayward 27—6’8”—226—$26.5
PF: Al Horford 31—6’10”—245—$27.7
C: Jahlil Okafor 22—6’11”—275—$4.9
PG: Marcus Smart 23—6’4”—220—$4.5
SG: Mario Hezonja 22—6’8”—218—$4.1
SF: Jaylen Brown 21—6’7”—225—$4.9
PF: Guerschon Yabusele 22—6’8”—260—$1.9
C: Kelly Olynyk 26—7’0”—238—$11.0
That projected roster would come to put them $97.7 million, which would still put them just under the $101 million dollar salary cap. Not to mention that the average age of the team would actually go down to 24.1. And the amazing thing is…. this could legitimately happen. If the Celtics play their cards right, they can improve their roster from last year while setting up the groundworks for the future. One thing is for certain, we’re going to get fireworks for sure.
Written By: Steven Santoro (SVS_1993)