Unless a major trade happens (fingers crossed!) Boston has 12 players under contract, not counting any of their rookies, meaning their roster has more or less taken shape. The NBA hard-caps rosters at 15, so the Celtics have room to sign three rookies if they’d like, something I’m sure they’ll wait to do till the very last moment to have maximum trade flexibility.
So, with the roster potentially set, let’s draft the Boston Celtics, not in terms of fantasy value or value this year, but taking into account their contract, team control, and potential. The first overall pick would be the player that you would most want to build your team around, the second pick would be the next player you would want to build your team around, and so on. Since it isn’t perfectly clear yet which rookies the Celtics will sign (or which ones are staying overseas) for the purposes of this exercise I’m working with the 12 players Boston has under contract plus Jaylen Brown. Starting with Avery Bradley, here is the last half of the draft, the 7th-13th picks.
This pick is where value passed the next couple seasons really comes into play. Bradley is the fourth best player on the Celtics and is still young, — last season, his best, was probably the first year of his prime. 2016-17 will be his age 25 season. Bradley is the type of player who is plug-and-play; no matter what team he’s on, there is a role for him. In 2015-16, out of 27 players who took more than five 3pt shots a game he was 18th in efficiency with a solid 36% clip. Last? Kobe Bryant with a gouge-your-eyes-out 28%.
Known as a defensive specialist, Bradley passes the eye test but has never rated well under advanced metrics. He’s a really good defender, but probably overrated overall. His one red herring is his height; 6’ 2” for a shoot guard is really bad and may relate to the difference between the numbers and eye test for his defense. Bradley rarely grabs rebounds and it is easy for dead-eye shooters to shoot over a guy who is five inches shorter.
So, there are arguments for Bradley to be higher on this list, good arguments that may be better than mine. But, with two years left on his contract (albeit at a very reasonable salary) there isn’t the team control I want when building my franchise. Compared to a guy like Terry Rozier (who balled in Summer League and projects to be a similar player with a better handle) who has three years on a rookie scale contract then hits restricted free agency, a possible eight more years of team control, those two years don’t look as valuable.
Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko
These two can have their section written together; both players are in the final year on their contracts and are malleable – they could play on any team or in any system. Johnson is obviously the better of the two – a consistent starter for years who finishes strong at the rim, plays great defense, and always makes his teams better while on the court. Jerebko has the versatility to fit in with switchy defensive schemes and can shoot well enough to stretch the floor on offense, his overall game just isn’t nearly as strong as Johnson’s. Being known NBA qualities make them more valuable than the three players listed below them, but without contract security they can’t be placed any higher than this spot.
To be clear, Amir Johnson is the obvious 8th pick and Jerebko the 9th.
Mickey wins the contest of former Celtics first round picks who can’t find there way onto the court, placing above R.J. Hunter and James Young for this draft. Mickey has received the least playing time of the three but had a tremendous rookie season in the D-League averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, and over 4 blocks per contest. He also shot a solid 7-20 (35%) from three-point range. An NBA “unicorn” is a big man who can protect the rim, switch on smaller guys, and space the floor – Mickey has the potential to do at least two of those things. He may belong ahead
of Jerebko and Johnson in these rankings but with so little NBA experience this spot feels right.
The only reason Hunter is ahead of James Young is the extra year on his rookie scale contract. Hunter got on the court sparingly last year and didn’t perform particularly well shooting 36% from the field and 30% from three. For what it’s work Hunter always looks good on the court; he’s a very fluid athlete with a nice stroke who always looks active and engaged while playing.
Nothing too much to say about Young; he hasn’t shown any ability to compete at the NBA level. His best basketball skill is his three-point shooting but he regressed badly during the 2015-16 D-League season after a semi-promising rookie campaign in that league. Young still has two years on his rookie scale contract, and was touted as having solid potential coming out of the draft, but if he can’t get on the court this season he may be looking overseas for employment.
Picks 1-7 will be up this weekend.