By: Kenny Doyle
As we approach mid-August it’s becoming evident that we can’t wait on Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony forever to make our final judgements on the offseasons of teams around the NBA, so here is the full recap for the Celtics offseason.
Gordon Hayward Signing: A+
If you want to read about the level of player the Celtics are getting in Gordon Hayward you can read what I wrote back in July. Gordon Hayward is an incredible player that fits in perfectly with the Celtics and will be an All-Star favorite heading into next season. Getting Hayward puts the Celtics one step closer to the ultimate goal of building a super team and being able to contend with the Cavaliers and Warriors. The goal for the Celtics for months was always to land Hayward in the offseason and they got it done. Hayward signing with the C’s was the difference between being a winner of the offseason instead of a loser.
Hayward was given the largest contract in the history of the Celtics and with it will come big expectations. Some fans were let down last season by Al Horford after expecting him to be more than he was. Unless fans are expecting Gordon Hayward to be Larry Bird, that shouldn’t be the case with him. Hayward should put up over 20 PPG and make the All-Star team with ease. It would be hard to see Hayward turning the Celtics into a legitimate title threat, but if Cleveland is weakened enough by a Kyrie Irving trade, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Celtics push themselves into the NBA Finals for a David vs Goliath matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Trading Avery Bradley and a 2nd round pick for Marcus Morris: C
In a move to clear enough cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to his max deal the Celtics moved Avery Bradley to the Pistons for forward Marcus Morris. It’s tough to let go of Avery, he is a tier below an All-Star level player. When you average in the high teens in points, play the type of defense he does, and rebound at the guard spot like him that shouldn’t be crazy to say. Avery was an extremely productive player for the Celtics and they traded him away for a role player in Marcus Morris.
On the other hand, Morris could be good on the Celtics. If he can rebound a bit better than he has in years past he could play the 4 for the Celtics at times and maybe put up 10 points a game. Morris is another body that you can throw at LeBron at times, Avery gets injured a lot, and the Celtics weren’t going to re-sign Avery when his contract expires next summer. That’s why this move isn’t an F. The reason it’s a C kind of move is because you’re giving up 1 year of a perfect 3 and D player in Avery, who’s one of the Celtics better rebounders on top of it, for 2 years of a much lesser player.
Another reason the Celtics could have made this move is to hold onto the 5-7 million dollar salary spot that Morris and Avery represent for an extra season so that they can match the money of a superstar like Anthony Davis in a trade if need be, but a trade like that is no guarantee, and the Celtics would have been a lot better this year with Avery Bradley on the team. The Celtics have young players that can fill Avery’s role to some extent in Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart (if they can take the next step forward in their progression), but the Celtics could have also traded Jae Crowder to clear the space needed for Hayward and Avery was a whole lot better than Crowder when both were on the court.
Trading #1 overall pick for #3 and a future 1st: TBD
I didn’t like this move when it happened and I would have been a lot harder on it a month and a half ago, but after watching Jayson Tatum in Summer League the fair thing to do is let it play out before making any judgements on this trade. Tatum proved to be every bit the scorer that Markelle Fultz is in Summer League. His 3 point range needs some work, but he was deadly in the post and mid range area. His post fadeaway is just about as unstoppable as it gets as an NBA rookie and his size up moves are a thing of beauty. Time will tell if that translates to the NBA, but we’ll just have to wait and see if trading the #1 pick to a division rival was really the right move by Danny Ainge.
Aron Baynes Signing: B
Baynes isn’t a flashy signing and how much he plays will be more up to how Ante Zizic performs in his rookie season than anything else, but Baynes fills a role that the Celtics needed someone to fill: a rebounder. Baynes will be filling either the Tyler Zeller role or the Kelly Olynyk role and he immediately steps in as a better rebounder than either of them were, as well as Al Horford and Amir Johnson. Baynes’ rebound percentage of 15.6 was better than any Celtic last season.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if Baynes ends up starting a lot of games for the Celtics though. While it seems like Marcus Morris may be a better fit in the Celtics pace and space system at the small ball 4, Al Horford does not like to guard the opposing team's center. Amir Johnson took on a lot of that responsibility last season and it’s not hard to envision that being Baynes’ job this season. Baynes will end up seeing a lot of time if Zizic isn’t the player the Celtics hope he is.
Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis: B
Two very unimportant signings with only one likely to make the roster, there’s not much to make of Theis and Larkin. Nevertheless, either is a solid option for the end of the Celtics bench. At 6’9” Theis is listed as a PF/C, but he is unlikely to see much time at the 5 in the NBA. He shot over 40% from 3 overseas which makes it quite obvious why the Celtics were interested in him. Theis has the size and the shot to fit right in with the Celtics.
Larkin is a high character player and leader. A first round pick after being a college sensation at Miami, Larkin fizzled out quickly in the NBA, but the Celtics are giving him another chance. While he likely won’t make a large impact on the court, his ability to be a calm head in the locker room would surely help a Celtics team that is getting a whole lot younger. Larkin is a solid shooter and would provide the Celtics with another ball handling option if they needed one once the season gets started. Both moves will likely be inconsequential, but they will be nice players to have around competing in training camp and neither will interrupt the Celtics plans with their roster or block any players who should be getting minutes over them should they stay on the roster. Certainly having either of these players at the end of the bench will be better than having James Young.
Final Grade: A-
While it hurt to see Paul George and Jimmy Butler moved to other teams, the Celtics still netted themselves an All-Star this offseason and it’s important to think more about what they did do rather than what they didn’t do. Adding Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum to the roster provides the Celtics with a key aspect they were missing last year. That being players that can create their own shot not named Isaiah Thomas. This will allow the Celtics offense to run through other players at times and not be as reliant on Isaiah as in 16-17.
The Celtics roster has improved a lot this offseason. Exactly how they plan on fitting all their small forwards into one rotation is on them to figure out. They likely have already mapped out exactly how they will do that and it’s up to all of us to speculate until we get to see their lineups in action. In a word, the Celtics offseason was: good. Not much more. We’ll find out just how good once the season starts. If Gordon Hayward is the player he’s hoped to be, the Celtics will be even tougher for Eastern Conference foes to handle.
Photo: (Celtics Life)