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The Celtics Are in Great Shape, But This Offseason Can Change Everything


This offseason will be the most pivotal one since 2007 when the Big 3 was formed. They have a chance to continue with this particular squad and solidify a star or try to improve gradually with mid level free agents and one big trade. The future of the franchise can be shifted by what happens leading up to the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Celtics will still have the most NBA championships in the NBA despite only winning one championship since the Larry Bird era. Even in 2008 the Celtics had to claw their way to get Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the Bay State via trade.

This time, the Celtics are coming off a 47-35 season and have over $50 million in cap space to pursue free agents and possibly some of the guys who’ve been rumored to be on the trade block. These names include Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George, Philadelphia C Jahlil Okafor, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, and possibly Clippers PF Blake Griffin.


All these players would be tough to acquire almost any of them considering the Celtics were in the NBA’s favor in the NBA Draft Lottery. Conspiracies aside, the Celtics have some great options with the #3 pick if they were to decide to keep the pick and use their players as ammo for a trade.

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Jamal Murray/Kentucky

Some of us learned about the Canadian SG at the Pan American Games last year, and he balled out as the best player in the entire tournament. I would also say he’s the best scorer in this draft. The Celtics may lose Evan Turner despite the reports that a hometown discount may be had for him.

Murray could also be an option to help a Celtics offense that struggled to hit shots in certain points of games last season, leading them to blowing big leads. The only issue is that the amount G’s already on the team would lead to trades after. Rozier, Smart, Thomas, Hunter, and Marcus Thornton (overseas after being a 2nd round pick from William & Mary.) Murray is 6’5”, but might not be a SF.

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Dragan Bender/Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bender has been reported as a Croatian but he is from Bosnia & Herzegovina. He’s also probably the second most famous athlete from that country only to former EPL ST Eden Dzeko.

Certain Boston media members have already ridiculed Bender because he averaged two points a game in Israel. Brandon Jennings is a fine example of this case being anything more than a caution. But like some Euro prospects in the past, he’ll have a buyout that the team would have to pay in order to have his exclusive rights, that stands at a reported $1.3 million to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Bender has a lot of skills that resemble what you see in some of the other East European prospects in year’s past, like Kukoc, Ilyasova, Porzingus, and notable others. His potential could see him become a Pau Gasol or a Dirk Nowitzki, but at 18 years of age, it’s way too early to jump to that conclusion.

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Jaylen Brown/California

The only reasons I’d consider Jaylen Brown is if they trade down or trade Jae Crowder for Okafor or another “prominent” player. Brown has the physical attributes (like Justise Winslow/Stanley did) to be at least a factor in year one.

His basketball skills haven’t matched his athleticism. He’s not a very efficient player. Brown’s 3pt shot is a cause for concern, shooting 29% at Cal. I also question if he has the same issues that Shabazz Muhammad had coming from UCLA, just not being anything to offer in the half court game.

The Celtics also own the 16th overall pick and 23rd overall in the first round with five second round draft choices. So you have to think there will be risks and trades made on the Celtics front.

These prospects include Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis, Henry Ellenson, Domantas Sabonis, Thon Maker, and Marquese Chriss as interior weapons who the Celtics could try to move up for or trade for.

Each of them has capabilities as PF/C with their combination of size and athleticism. With Maker and Chriss you take the chance that you buy into them for potential.

Personally, I prefer trading the 3rd pick for an impact player, and then use the next two picks for Sabonis, Valentine, or Maker in some way.

Trade Options:

The Celtics need a player who would be an instant impact on the glass, as a rim protector and as an interior scorer. Celtics fans can hang their hat on 2015 2nd rounder Jordan Mickey, a PF from LSU, who broke the NBDL record for most blocks in a D-League season and impressed in small time with the Celtics.

The team has a plethora of guards, as mentioned previously, and could use this offseason to load up on bigs and/or a star to pair with Isaiah Thomas. Some names that could be truly available and realistic don’t include Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, Paul George or Jimmy Butler. With the 3rd pick and not one of the top two, this is a pipe dream because the NBA expects everybody to be a star player and don’t allow coaches to develop talent.

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Jahlil Okafor/Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers got the lesser of the three talents in last year’s draft and although Okafor’s offensive skills are not lesser than #1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns but defensively, Okafor was a liability and forced Nerlans Noel into foul trouble in some games. Okafor is what I would consider “soft.”

His off-field behavior in Boston this past winter is what I would call unacceptable, as he was denied at a Boston club because he tried to use a fake. His behavior during that altercation came off as a typical arrogant punk, and that is by no means the behavior you want from an “alpha” star especially in this market. I think he would get eaten alive here based on how the Boston media treats the other sports (except the Patriots cause they get a pass a lot of times).

If all they give is #3, and only #3, I’m okay with a trade for him. But his character and lack of motivation on the defensive end worries me A LOT. I’d rather have Noel here (he’s from Everett, MA, twenty minutes from the garden).

 

usa-today-8987395.0Al Horford/Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks will always be viewed as a second rate NBA team and that’s a sad truth. Horford was the player that I think is very underrated in terms of skill set. He provides an all-around offensive skill set that Brad Stevens can utilize. I also believe that Horford would have interest in coming here also.

Horford can be a matchup nightmare at times because he can pull-up for a jump shot and run the floor while also being able to defend players like other stretch PFs in the NBA. Horford and a trade/Durant signing would be a golden scenario but probably out of reach at this particular time. But either way, a versatile big man checks all the boxes.

 

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Batum, is a great defender and would be a fallback option if other deals and FA signings slip by the Celtics

Nicolas Batum/Ian Mahinmi from Charlotte and Indiana

This combination would be a great backup plan if all else fails in signing Horford and other trades and big rumors (Durant). The Celtics could probably still trade for Okafor with the 3rd pick and Crowder or Smart. Then the Celtics could sign Batum and Mahinmi as unrestricted free agents.

 

The Celtics roster in this scenario

PG Thomas, Smart, Rozier

SG Bradley, Turner (resigned at this point), Hunter

SF Batum, Valentine (16th pick), Young

PF Okafor, Mickey, Maker

C Mahinmi, Johnson, Olynyk

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Mahinmi might be overlooked by many teams including Indiana because they’ve committed to Paul George at the 4 and Turner as the likely 5. Mahinmi could probably start in Boston.

This lineup might not win the East. BUT it’s a core you can have going forward as Thomas, Smart, Bradley, and Okafor are the core. Mahinmi would join Amir Johnson in the C spot as the rim protector and hopefully Jordan Mickey can emerge a bit so Thon Maker can play for the Red Claws.

Final Verdict:

This season was the most exciting season the Celtics have had since 2010, when they lost to the Lakers in seven games in a classic NBA Finals. Since the Big 3 era, this past season should reflect things to come at the Gahden.

Ainge has drafted very well in the middle to late rounds with guys like Bradley, Sullinger, Olynyk, and in the past with guys like Rondo, Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, and a few others.

Denzel Valentine and Thon Maker are among many names that would be ideal fits for depth on the Celtics roster. Valentine could play right away and Maker can develop in the D-League possibly for an entire year like Avery Bradley had done when he struggled early in his career.

Whatever the Celtics do, I know as a Celtics fan, that Danny Ainge has said on numerous that he loves this draft class. He’s been looking Nigel Hayes from Wisconsin, and reportedly the team saw Bender in person and loved him. The Draft is still a month away, so it’s unclear how the draft will shape after Simmons and Ingram are drafted at the first spots in the draft.








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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]