BOSTON (CBS) – With the season now over for the Boston Celtics, it's time to look towards the future.
We all fell in love with the scrappy bunch of C's this season, a group that really came together after the trade deadline once Danny Ainge was done playing mad scientist. Once Brad Stevens had a set group of guys to go with, the C's became a cohesive unit and put together an impressive stretch of basketball over the final six weeks of the season. With a 40-42 record and postseason berth, the Celtics exceeded all the expectations for last season.
But now, those expectations are going to increase greatly when the Celtics next take the court. While making the playoffs was a pleasant surprise this season, anything short of a playoff berth next season will be a disappointment.
So who will be sticking around for the rest of the rebuild, and who is heading out the door this summer? That's fairly difficult to determine, especially with Ainge pulling all the strings.
A lot can happen over the next six months, and Ainge certainly has some work to do to make this team a title contender again. He's armed with a pair of first-round picks (No. 16 and No. 28) in the upcoming draft and even more down the line, so he has plenty of chips to pull off a big trade this summer if he wants to. He also has cap space to make a splash in free agency, if any of those big name free agents actually want to come to Boston.
The Celtics have nine players under contract for the 2015-16 season, with Jae Crowder about to hit restricted free agency. Brandon Bass, Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome are all set to become unrestricted free agents when the postseason ends.
On a team rebuilding themselves towards greatness, or at least trying to do so, no one is untouchable. While fans probably made connections with newcomers like Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner during the season, any player could be dealt at any time over the next few months -- or even into the season. If Ainge finds a trade that he thinks will improve his team, he's going to pull the trigger, no matter who is involved.
So for now, with all of them still technically wearing green, we'll take a look at who should stay and who should go from the 2014-15 Boston Celtics.
Jae Crowder (RFA)
Regular Season: 9.5 points, 4.6 rebounds per game (57 games) | Postseason: 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds per game
Crowder found a nice role on the Celtics after arriving from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo trade, and the man once viewed as a trade throw-in has made Boston the real winner of that deal. He provided some nice defense and shooting off the bench, and his defense against LeBron James in the playoffs earned him the start in Game 4 against Cleveland.
A restricted free agent, the Celtics should make retaining Crowder a priority.
Verdict: Keeper. Crowder is a perfect Brad Stevens player, and likely won't command a huge contract.
Brandon Bass (FA)
Regular Season: 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds per game | Postseason: 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds per game
Bass was one of just three Celtics to play in all 82 games this season (along with Tyler Zeller and Evan Turner), and never complained going from the starting lineup to the bench -- or with numerous trade rumors circling around him. He's a true professional on and off the floor.
He struggled in the playoffs, but Bass has been a solid contributor in each of his four seasons in Boston.
Verdict: For the right price, Bass is a good veteran to have on a young team. If he's willing to take a pay cut, and potentially sit on the bench behind younger players, then Bass should be welcomed back.
Jonas Jerebko (FA)
Regular Season: 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds per game | Postseason: 2.8 points, 3.5 rebounds per game
Jerebko is another player who helped the Celtics find their groove following the trade deadline, and was a solid contributor off the bench in Boston's run down the stretch.
Verdict: Keeper. Jerebko was a nice spark of energy off the bench during the regular season and playoffs, and could develop into a great role player under Stevens.
Gigi Datome (FA)
Regular Season: 5.2 points, 1.3 rebounds per game | Postseason: 1.3 points, 0.3 rebounds per game
Datome didn't get much playing time, but when he did it didn't take long for him to become a fan favorite. Stevens has often said that Gigi owns the best shot on the team, and fans would love to see him get a chance to show off that skill. He could be a solid role player going forward, and it really doesn't get much better when Gigi is on the floor for some "Gino Time."
Verdict: Must. Have. More. Gigi.
Regular Season: 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game | Postseason: 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game
The rookie was all over the place in his first year in the NBA, but overall was very impressive on the defensive side of the floor. His offense is going to be a work in progress for the next few years, and there are only so many flops one can watch without cringing. Mix in a few questionable plays on the court (from those horribly timed three pointers to his nut shot on Matt Bonner) and a very untimely tardiness in the playoffs, and the 21-year-old has a lot of maturing to do.
But at 21, there is plenty of time for that to happen, and you can certainly see why Smart was such a high pick in last year's draft. He could be a very important player for the future of the Boston Celtics.
Verdict: As close to a keeper as you can get, but again, no one is untouchable when you're rebuilding.
Regular Season: 13.9 points, 3.1 rebounds per game | Postseason: 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds per game
While Bradley had a very good regular season, though his shootings numbers dipped after a career-year last season, he struggled mightily in the playoffs. He had a tough time staying with Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, and was never able to get into a flow offensively during Boston's four-game sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers.
Bradley is still a very good role player, but his defense was exposed against Cleveland's stars this postseason. He'll never be a No. 1 scorer -- nor should that be expected -- but the Celtics will have to put a very good scorer around Bradley to let him focus more on his defense.
Verdict: Keeper. His price tag is a little much at $7.7 million (which increases to $8.2 million in 2016-17 and $8.8 million in 2017-18), but with free agents about to get some really silly money on the free agent market, Bradley's deal won't look as bad by comparison.
Regular Season: 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists per game | Postseason: 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game
Turner did a little bit of everything for the Celtics this season, and was described as Brad Stevens' Swiss Army knife on the floor. His 5.5 assists per game led the team, and he often found himself handling the ball as a point-forward.
The former No. 2 overall pick found a nice role in Stevens' system, but like Bradley, also struggled mightily in the postseason (despite putting up decent numbers). Turner is signed for one more season and comes relatively cheap at $3.4 million. He could be part of the future, but he could just as easily be part of a trade package after raising his stock last season and his small price tag.
Verdict: Potential keeper. A long-term deal may be in the cards for Turner, but if his price tag gets too high, the C's will likely wait and see what other options are available.
Regular Season: 19.0 points, 5.6 assists per game | Postseason: 17.5 points, 7.0 assists per game
Thomas played 21 regular season games for Boston after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns, and the Celtics won 14 of them. He played a major part of Boston's late-season playoff push, "assisting" on Marcus Smart's game-winning layup over the Raptors on April 4 before scoring a season-high 34 points a few nights later in a key win over the Detroit Pistons.
Thomas gave the Celtics the offensive jolt they needed, and despite being just 5-foot-9, he gave them an explosive player who could get to the free throw line. Thomas led the Celtics with eight free throw attempts per game -- Marcus Smart was second at 3.8 attempts per game.
Though he struggled in the playoffs, scoring just 26 points total in Games 3 and 4, Thomas should be in Boston's plans for the future (he's signed for three more years at a very reasonable amount). He would benefit from having a true scorer on the roster with him, which will be one of the priorities for Ainge this summer.
Verdict: Keeper. No further explanation needed.
Regular Season: 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds per game | Postseason: 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds per game
Zeller put up career numbers in his first year in Boston, starting 59 of his 82 games played, averaging a career-high 10.2 points and tying his career-high with 5.7 rebounds per game.
As with all big men currently employed by the Celtics, his rebounding numbers need to increase for him to be truly effective. But he's signed for just $2.6 million next season, with a $3.7 qualifying offer for 2016-17, and could be a solid depth player if the Celtics fill their need of a rim-protector this offseason.
Verdict: The Celtics need a true center, but Zeller is a great option to have off the bench with such a small price tag. If he's not included as part of a trade, Zeller is a keeper.
Regular Season: 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds per game | Postseason: 4.5 points, 1.3 rebounds per game
Olynyk's numbers went up across the board in his second NBA season except for one very important stat for a seven-footer: Rebounding. His per game average dipped from 5.2 to 4.7 rebounds, and his lack of ability to come down with a loose basketball remains (one of) the most frustrating part about his game.
Stevens and his staff wanted (no, demanded) Olynyk to shoot more threes, and after a season-opening period of trepidation, he gave in to that request and actually hit the shot with some confidence late in the season. After a rough shooting month in March (shooting just 28 percent from downtown), Olynyk hit 48 percent of his long-range shots in eight games in April.
We also saw Olynyk get a little tough this year. He scored 19 points on April 4 in a win over the Indiana Pacers with a mutant-like swollen eye, courtesy of an elbow he took at that morning's shootaround. Even with half of his eye swollen shut, Olynyk drained seven of his 10 shots from the floor (including 3-of-4 from downtown). Fittingly, he only had two rebounds in that game, but at least there was an excuse.
Then, of course, there were the playoffs, when Olynyk became a household name for his WWE-like takedown of Kevin Love, dislocating Love's shoulder and sidelining him for the postseason. Olynyk's a pretty popular guy now for all the wrong reasons, and if the Celtics wanted to try to sign Love this offseason, he may have ruined any shot at bringing him to Boston.
Verdict: "The Canadian Crusher" we saw in Game 4 was one of the first/few times Olynyk has shown any toughness on the floor in the NBA. He's going to have to add some bulk and more physicality to his game if he wants to stick around, and it would really be great if he could pull down some more rebounds. Not a keeper.
Regular Season: 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds per game | Postseason: 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds per game
It's very hard to tell what the Celtics have with Sullinger, because he's yet to put together a full season of work in his three years in the NBA.
Sullinger played in just 58 games this season, with a foot injury sidelining him following the All Star break. His conditioning has been in question since Ainge drafted him 21st overall in 2012, and the C's president even called him out about it following his injury. It was thought that ailment would sideline Sully for the rest of the season, but he worked hard and was able to come back at the end of the regular season and for the playoffs.
The big-man greatly increased his stock in Boston's four postseason contests, averaging 12.3 points and seven rebounds per game. He was at his best with the Celtics facing elimination, scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in Boston's Game 4 loss.
But did he increase that stock as a future Celtic, or a trade chip for Ainge? While he's shown promise, Sullinger has also shown immaturity. He was late to Boston's morning shootaround twice this season, and was punished both times -- losing his spot in the starting lineup the first time and sitting out the entire first quarter the second.
Verdict: It's worth exploring trades, but after a solid postseason series against Cleveland, Sullinger may have given himself another shot in Boston, albeit on a short leash.
Regular Season: 3.5 points, 2.3 assists per game | Postseason: 0.0 points, 0.5 rebounds per game
Pressey is a solid guard off the bench, but the Celtics have plenty of solid guards off the bench. He was ready whenever Stevens needed him throughout the regular season, and is a good player to have in case of injury, but that's about it.
Verdict: A nice piece at a nice price, but Pressey is replaceable.
Regular Season: 1.1 points, 1.8 rebounds per game | Postseason: 1.0 rebounds per game
Wallace saw the floor sparingly throughout the season, occasionally used as an inbounder extraordinaire early on, but his impact really came in the locker room and on the sideline. A 14-year veteran, Wallace averaged just 8.9 minutes per game -- the lowest since his rookie year back in 2001-02. But he was that calming voice on the bench in games, helping echo Stevens' messages, and had no complaints about his playing time (it's hard to complain when you're making over $10 million as an unofficial assistant coach).
Verdict: He's a great locker room leader, but if anyone wants to take his $10.1 million salary, there's no problem letting Wallace move on. He could be a very valuable trade chip at the deadline.
Regular Season: 3.4 points, 1.4 rebounds per game
The 17th overall pick in last year's draft has plenty of upside, but we didn't see much of it in his brief time in Boston.
Young appeared in 31 games for the Celtics, averaging 3.4 points in 10.7 minutes per game, but did most of his damage in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws. In 17 games, Young averaged 21.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, hitting the 30-point mark in four games.
Verdict: It's hard to tell what Young can be after he spent most of his season either injured or in Maine. He was inconsistent in his brief time with the Celtics, but it's hard to trade away a 20-year-old offensive talent with loads of potential. He's a building block one way or the other though.
If there is one untouchable on the Celtics right now, it's their head coach.
After a 15-win improvement from his rookie season in the NBA, there is little doubt that Brad Stevens has what it takes to be a successful coach on the professional level when given the right roster. Even without the right roster, he had the Celtics competitive and a lot of fun to watch.
He survived having Rajon Rondo on the team to start the year, managed to get the most out of the roster despite Ainge's bevy of trades, and had everyone playing hard at the end of the season with a playoff berth in sight. He showed an incredible ability to draw up game-winning plays following time outs, and has other coaches and superstar players around the league singing his praises.
So Brad, please, please, please, please, please, please don't go back to college. We hear it's not as much fun the second time around, anyways.
Follow Matthew Geagan on Twitter and tell him how wrong he is @MattGeagan.
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