The Celtics offseason didn’t meet the expectations it was given at the beginning of the summer. That’s because expectations were absurdly high.
Not only were we hopeful of landing the 1st overall draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, we also thought for a moment that Kevin Durant might actually join the Celtics. And if you saw CBS accidentally post an update saying he picked Boston, then you briefly thought he did join the Celtics. There was little consensus on who or what the Celtics needed to add outside of Durant. Many clamored for a sharpshooter while others said we needed to trade the Brooklyn picks for a superstar. Demarcus Cousins. Paul George. Somebody. Anybody. Just get it done, Danny.
Danny Ainge didn’t take the peanut gallery’s advice, but before we look at who was added, let us commemorate those that we have lost.
Expectations were as low as a new Adam Sandler movie for Turner after he meandered to the end of the Pacers bench and eventually free agency in 2014. The cards were totally stacked against him, though, as replacing the beloved Danny Granger, former spiritual leader and floor general, was guaranteed to make Turner one of the most hated Pacers upon his arrival. In addition, the Pacers were tasked with taking out the most hated team in basketball, LeBron’s Miami Heat. Indiana lost the series in six games while Turner played all of four minutes. Turner reinvented himself with Boston as a point-forward in the sixth man role and finished fifth in sixth-man of the year voting (where Jamal Crawford inexplicably finished first). His four-year 70 million dollar contract with Portland is well deserved, and unfortunately too much money for the Celtics to pay given the cost of one of their additions that will be discussed later. It’s a significant loss, but not one that will hurt their postseason grade.
If I know one thing about Danny Ainge, it’s that he really likes lottery picks that fall in the draft. Sully was once considered to be a first pick candidate that the Celtics grabbed at 21st overall in 2012 after back problems cost him his lottery position. Sullinger engineered his game to become a consistent double-double threat as a smart post player and a potent rebounder. If boxing out was on the box score, I think Sullinger would be top five in the league. Here’s a fun fact about basketball: You need to stay in shape, and Sullinger’s play against the Hawks in the playoffs was evidence that he failed to so. The Raptors are going to love what Sullinger brings to the team, so long as he leaves a little baggage behind. The Celtics lose out on some rebounding with Sullinger leaving, but he was replaced by what fans were demanding in free agency: an All-Star.
Now that we’ve paid our dues, let’s look at who the Celtics added to fill in the gaps.
First of all, the supposed need to draft a shooter was greatly over exaggerated. The Celtics shot 33% from deep last year, good for dead last. However, an average of 104.9 points per game was good for sixth. I know the three pointer has almost completely phased out the mid-range two, but Celtics can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry whether it’s from beyond the arc or not. While there are plenty of league-average shooters on the team, the overall percentage was weighed down by Sullinger, Turner, and Marcus Smart. With two of those players gone and Marcus Smart reworking his shot, I’m confident that the Celtics offense will be just as potent. Oh, and they drafted Jaylen Brown who is going to be another lock down defender who can literally jump out of the building. The Celtics had the least amount of dunks last year, and Brown tries to dunk the ball literally every time he touches it. I think he’s a perfect pick.
Obviously Green is not a flashy signing, but I think he’ll be put to good use as Jaylen Brown acclimates to the NBA. He also offers some three point shooting and some more absurd athleticism. The most underrated aspect of the signing is that he’s familiar with Boston and its notoriously harsh media presence, something he was undoubtedly forced to deal with in the 2006-07 season when the Celtics won all of 24 games.
Oh baby. Is this what is feels like to sign a free agent? The second most coveted free agent of the summer chose to sign with Boston, and the fit couldn’t be any more perfect. Horford is a four-time All-Star for a reason (other than the Hawks suddenly winning a ton of games). He does everything and he’s only gotten better. Not only is he a consistent scorer and great defender, he’s also coming off his best season to date in terms of three point shooting and shots blocked. Now, the Cs have a possible defensive line up of death ™ in Bradley, Smart, Crowder/Brown, Johnson, and Horford. Danny Ainge’s most significant free agent signing as a Celtics GM has potential to push the team over the hill to at least being legitimate Eastern Conference contenders.
Would I trade Sullinger and Turner for the 3rd overall pick and Al Horford? Absolutely. That’s not really how it went down, but it’s a great tradeoff nonetheless. We missed out on a little bit of rebounding and a lot of Kevin Durant, so I’ll give the Celtics a final offseason grade of A-.