By Aaron Jackson
Before this year’s NBA Draft, the prevailing thought was that we would know Boston’s game plan after the picks were made. Very few thought that somehow Danny Ainge could actually somehow muddy the waters even more, but he found a way by trading away the #1 overall pick in exchange for the #3 and a future first rounder. Be that as it may, here are five thoughts regarding what Boston might do starting this Saturday when NBA free agency opens.
#1. Go harder after Blake Griffin than they will after Gordon Hayward. I know that Hayward and Brad Stevens have history. I know that the Jazz forward is a very good player, but where’s the fit? Hayward is a hybrid shooting guard and small forward…something the Celtics have a glut of. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart all play similar positions. Even if Crowder, Bradley or Smart get traded, that still leaves you with too many guys for too few minutes, especially once you consider Brown and Tatum had incredibly high draft picks invested in them. Either those guys are your future and you need to play them, or they aren’t and you wasted two of the biggest “assets” the team has had in years.
#2. Figure out what to do with Isaiah Thomas. There are some true point guards out there that can make an impact right away in free agency, Chris Paul being the biggest name. But it seems pretty clear that Ainge and the Celtics believe Thomas is an integral part of their future. That being the case, it’s time to approach him with a long term deal. If Boston’s front office truly believes they can win a title with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard, a belief I certainly don’t hold, they’re going to have to pay him max money. If they don’t, someone else will.
#3. Determine if their two “draft and stash players” from last year are ready to contribute. Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic, by most overseas accounts, should be playing in Celtic green next season. Yabusele in particular put up some gaudy numbers, albeit against weaker competition. Still, 21 points and 10 boards a game is nothing to sneeze at, and he found success in the D-League late last year as well. These two talents just further complicate a Celtic’s roster situation that is a bit out of control (too many players, too few spots).
#4. Find some veterans to provide bench depth. This is a key to any championship level team. The Cavs had Deron Williams, Kyle Korver and others. The Warriors had Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and others. The Spurs, Boris Diaw, David Lee, and about 8 other guys that were all veterans. Right now Boston doesn’t have a ton of those types of players. Gerald Green and Jonas Jerebko are nice, but a player like Tyreke Evans could be a good fit in a bench role. Andre Iguodala is also available, though he could take a discount to sign with Golden State again.
#5. Hope that Markelle Fultz isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is. The entire league said this kid was the best available player. The entire league thinks he will be not just a star but a superstar. Danny Ainge decided to go against the grain, and as good as Ainge has been in trades, his talent evaluation abilities when it comes to the draft has been mediocre at best. Boston better hope Ainge was right on this one or else they may need to search for a new GM in a couple of years. The prevailing talk among Ainge apologists has been “Fultz isn’t a winner. Didn’t even make the tournament”. That’s true, but what did Tatum really do? His team was perhaps the most loaded in college basketball and they failed to make it out of the second round. Is that really any better than just not making it at all?
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine