After this year’s first round exit, Isaiah Thomas and the rest of Celtics nation is looking to Danny Ainge for some fireworks this summer.
This year Boston looks forward to their fireworks beginning in late June, as opposed to July 4. That’s because on June 23, 2016, the Celtics can finally tap into their stockpile of draft selections for the 2016 NBA Draft. The C’s boast a total of eight picks, highlighted by the #3 slot, courtesy of
pillaging a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
Whether they stash some of those young guys overseas or flip some picks into assets, there’s going to be some major movement for Boston this summer. They are entering free agency with plenty of cap room, and three of the team’s best players (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder) are locked into cap-friendly, long term deals.
General Manager Danny Ainge has constructed the Celtics with young talent, an elite coach, and financial flexibility. On paper, these are most of the requirements to reach the next level, and evolve into a championship team. But will it happen in the next few months, or over the next few years? This summer GM Ainge can accelerate the process, or keep the Celts progressing slowly in cruise control. Boston fans only care about one destination though—Banner #18.
Together Jordan Martins and Christian Williams recap the season, breakdown the playoff results, analyze draft prospects and free agents, and give Ainge some advice on how to pop off those fireworks…
Written by Jordan Martins & Christian Williams (of North of Boston Media Group).
Jordan’s Take on The Celtics Playoffs Run:
The Celtics made real strides this year in order to earn the fifth seed with 48 wins.1 They fell to the Atlanta Hawks in six games, which is marginally better than being swept by the Cavs last year. Coach Stevens earned his first two playoff wins, and a relatively young team gained more postseason experience.
One thing is for sure—you need stars to win in this league. The “We’re One Superstar” mantra got exposed when Isaiah Thomas was harassed by a swarming Hawks defense, and no one else could manufacture much offense. Overall, Isaiah did play really well, despite droughts during certain quarters. He found ways to be effective, and got to the line when his shot was not falling. Even when aggressively double teamed in the Game 6’s elimination match, he finished with a double-double, posting 25 points and 10 dishes. And who could forget his career high 42 point performance in Game 3?
Isaiah was left to shoulder a heavy scoring load once his backcourt mate Avery Bradley went down in Game 1. IT4 clearly needs more help in order for Boston to advance deeper in the playoffs. I believe with a healthy Bradley the Celtics take the very narrowly decided Game 1, and this is a different series. Even the non-Tommy and Mike, TNT and ESPN announcing crews lamented the loss of the scrappy guard. Bradley’s lockdown defense would have slowed down Jeff Teague, and he would’ve stretched the floor given he’s one of Boston’s best three point shooters.
The playoff series against the Hawks showed Boston’s resilience despite injuries, but also showed the dire need for more scorers and rim protection. Hustle, defense, and Brad Stevens’ smarts can only get this team so far—shooting, size, and shot blocking are sorely needed. Let’s make these upgrades, Danny.
Christian’s Dispatches Live From Boston Garden:
Not getting out of the first round this year undoubtedly sucked, but one thing is absolutely for certain: Celtics fans love this team. The energy during Game 4 at the Garden was infectiously electric. You couldn’t sit down in your seat if you wanted to, because you’d miss the game watching someone else’s backside in front of you for two hours. With Avery Bradley out and Isaiah needing to do almost all of the scoring to keep them in the series, I think the most important player the Celtics had was their home court. The energy in that building during games 3 and 4 allowed the team to will itself back into a tied series. The blowout loss in Atlanta for Game 5 I think took the wind out of their sails, and by Game 6 they hand nothing left. All of that goes to show how important home court advantage was for this team. Add a few more wins during the regular season, I have no doubt that they make it through to the second round.
The entire city of Boston’s #MOOD when they watched the Celtics get the number 3 pick. Shoutout to The
Boston Sports Guy, Bill Simmons.
DRAFT PICK WATCH (UPDATE)
Christian has been obsessively watching prospects all year, and is more than happy to share his thoughts on who the C’s can grab with the number 3 pick.
Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Einstein’s wise words couldn’t be more relevant to the Celtics luck (or lack thereof) in the NBA Draft lottery. I mean, doesn’t it feel like we’ve been here before? Hands sweaty with anticipation as one-by-one the ping pong balls fall into place, calling out the order of teams looking to rebuild the future of their respective franchises. Fans have watched the NCAA tournament and spent countless hours on YouTube “scouting” the next generation of stars. “This is our year,” thinks Celtics Nation collectively, “We’re finally going to land the big one. Top baby! The next living legend to grace the parque flo– OH F***!.” Just like that, the Celtics card is held up sooner than our imaginations were ready for, and we watch in disbelief as the sure thing of this year’s draft goes to another city.
The C’s stayed right where they were slated to go on Tuesday night, landing the third pick overall. A lot of teams would be elated to have a top 3 pick. Yet still, the fact that one of the most storied franchises in all of basketball has NEVER had the number one pick is kind of bewildering. Technically this was supposed to be Brooklyn’s pick, so there are worse things than making the playoffs then getting gifted a chance at top 3 talent. Besides, the Celtics have had some luck at slot number three: 1980 they selected Kevin McHale, 1997 it was Chauncey Billups. Let’s hope that this year the payoff (and patience) is more McHale than Billups. Let’s take a look at a few players I think are worth taking with that pick. To be clear: this is assuming Ben Simmons and Ben Ingram won’t be available, as they’re the best players in the draft.
Jamal Murray: If the Celtics decide to keep the number 3 pick instead of bundling it up in a trade, I think that Jamal Murray should be their first option. The Celtics are desperately in need of a wing player that can shoot with some consistency outside of Isaiah Thomas. Murray is that guy. The 6’5” freshman averaged 20 points per game while shooting 45% from the field and 41% from three point range. The boy can shoot simply put, and the way he comes off screens gives you Ray Allen nostalgia—or at least Rip Hamilton.
He needs to improve his ball handling skills a bit, however Boston is overloaded at point guard, so Murray would come in specifically to be an off-ball guard. Murray played for Kentucky—say what you will about Calipari—but the guy knows how to get his kids NBA ready. Despite being a young freshman, Murray managed to be a dominant scorer in a tough conference.
Kris Dunn: Dunn has been a solid player for most of his collegiate career with the Providence Friars.2 Averaging 16.4 per game to go along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists, Dunn plays with an aggressive confidence that you want in a star guard. He’s slashing style of play reminds me of a younger Dwayne Wade or John Wall, except he’s less athletic/explosive. He’s also a New England kid, hailing from New London, CT. It just feels like he should be playing in green and white next year.
My only apprehension to selecting Dunn—besides the fact it may be a year or two before he develops into Wall/Wade-Lite—is that I don’t want the Celtics drafting another tweener guard under 6’5”. We’re oversaturated with that guy. Don’t get another, Ainge, unless you’re planning to move Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart for talent at other positions, then I’m intrigued. Speaking of other position needs…
Dragan Bender: Every year around this time we hear about the young Euro legend that seemingly comes out of nowhere to steal the hearts of NBA GMs, and every year I groan a little louder. For every one of these 7 foot wunderkinds with the potential to be the next Dirk, there’s 10 more that are more likely to be the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili. I know I’m not a scout, and I know that there are quality talent evaluators for different teams taking the time to fly out and give these guys a serious look. Still, I can’t get too up for these guys averaging 3 points per game in the Euro League. And that’s not a knock on the Euro League, but more so that a lot of these dudes aren’t what they’re made out to be. Of course I could be wrong and the overseas player in question could have real super star potential.
Last year I joined in on the collective, “the f**ks a Porzingis?!” when the Knicks took him at number 4. How wrong we were. You win again, Phil Jackson. Still, I will retain my doubts. Don’t forget Celtics fans, Ainge tried to sell us on Jiri Welsch (even wore his own 44) and that dude was 6 foot 7 feet of moldy cabbage. So what do I think of Dragan Bender you ask? Well, he has all the trademarks of a stereotypical European player. He can shoot. He has some solid fundamentals above his age. He’s tall and lanky, needs to put on more weight, but can get by on what he has for now. He’s kind of a stiff whose athletic ability is underwhelming. Best case scenario is that he becomes Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani with waaaay better defensive skills. Most likely he develops over time into a solid utility role player, doing a multitude of things decent to good, but not great. Wait… don’t we have one of those already? Isn’t our whole team one of those?!
Buddy Hield: Kind of like Jamal Murray, I think Buddy Hield fills a need that the Celtics are desperate for right now. Consistent perimeter scoring at the off-guard position. The four year man out of Oklahoma was the darling of the NCAA this past season, taking home the Wooden Award, upstaging Ben Simmons in their matchup, and having a ridiculous scoring stretch in the tournament. The Cinderella story came crashing to an unceremonious end thanks to a straight up ass kicking by Villanova, however Oklahoma owed most, if not all of their season’s success to Hield. The dude can flat out score period. We’re talking a solid 25 points per game. Teams knew coming into the building that he was the guy to stop, threw everything at him to stop him, and he still would drop buckets on them. This was not just a guy with a green light to chuck by the way. Hield was crazy consistent shooting 50% from the field and 46% from three. The Celtics NEED a guy like this.
The red flag with Hield in today’s NBA world is has he reached the ceiling of his potential? College seniors carry an unfair stigma coming into the league that we’ve seen all they can be. The general thought is that if they were this good, why did it take them this long to make it to the next level? The obvious counterargument is that they weren’t ready, bro. Some stars bloom later than others (see Lillard, Damian). I am curious to see how much Hield’s game can grow beyond what he’s shown this year, but I would not be upset if Ainge takes him at number 3. If anything, he can come and help the team right away as a contributor.
Plan C/Summer 2007: The other alternative is that Ainge finds a way to recreate the magic of Summer 2007, packaging the pick with other assets to bring in real star level talent.