“There’s a couple different ways to look at it,” said Brad Stevens, after Boston had lost its last game of the season, badly, to the Washington Wizards on April 16. The Wizards, as they say, were “playoff-bound.” (Well, you would only say that if you were a sportswriter of the long-dead variety. Anyway, the Wizards are continuing to prosper, John Wall being one of the league’s great growth stocks at the moment.) The Celtics were … incredibly not.
“Are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role?” Stevens continued. “What I mean by that is: Are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, give you the chance instead of being the eighth guy to be the fifth? Or instead of being the fifth to be the third?”
The topic of tanking was delicately broached, in the context of Stevens’s building a team during a season after which almost everyone on the roster would be legitimate trade bait.
“They have a lot to play for. I think everything matters,” he said. “We talk about that as a team. That’s kind of the rallying cry going into the offseason: Every little thing you do matters … We’re all shooting for something, and every single day and every single effort you put into it matters toward achieving it. This is really not fun, to lose. We’ve had our moments of tasting winning against some good teams. We had our moments of letting some games get away, and you hope to learn from all of those and not let the bad things happen again.”
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Player: Brandon Bass
2013-14 base stats: 11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 27.6 mpg, 48.6 FG%
2013-14 advanced stats: 0.975 Off ppp (74th percentile); 0.826 Def ppp (72nd)
2013-14 salary: $6.5 million
Season highlight: Despite all the trade whispers, particularly when his name cropped up in December chatter about Boston's pursuit of Houston's Omer Asik, Bass ignored all the noise and focused on his job. He was rewarded at the team's season finale when he was honored with the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award. Said coach Brad Stevens: "The reason [Bass deserved the award] and I just told him this in front of the team, he’s as good of a pro as we have. ... I think we need to really embrace that deliberate work-ethic all around the way and Brandon Bass is a great example of that for our team."
Season lowlight: Bass got into a little bench dust-up with Jeff Green in late December, likely a product of Boston's defensive struggles early in the transition process. Like the trade rumors, Bass quickly squashed any concerns and remained focused on the task at hand. It's telling that, save for maybe a quick stint as a reserve in which he struggled, Bass rarely had a glaring lowlight moment.
Final grade: B+
Teacher's notes: Bass' season defies logic. He was a team-worst minus-398 in plus/minus and his defensive rating was a surprisingly high 106.3, more than a point higher than the team's season average. What's more, Boston's net rating was nearly six points better when Bass was on the bench. Yet Bass' individual point-per-play numbers, as logged by Synergy Sports, were some of the best on the team on both sides of the ball and teammates raved about the positives he brought. It seems impossible to grade him harsher because he did his job exactly to the level of expectation. All we can dock him for is the fact that the team failed to thrive when he was on the court, though much of that can be pegged to rebuilding pains.
What's next?: Bass enters the final year of a contract that will pay him $6.9 million next season. The Celtics must decide if that number, with a potentially rising cap, is too prohibitive for a depth forward, or whether his consistency and work ethic is worth the price tag to keep him around. The guess here has been that the team will continue to explore moving Bass to contenders that can use his versatility and professionalism, if only because power forward minutes seem pegged for the likes of youngsters Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, particularly if Boston adds the pure center rim protector it craves this offseason.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Bass' 2013-14 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Memphis' Mike Conley took home the honor with a total of 2,335 points, while Green was second at 1,971. Phoenix's Channing Frye (1,915), Washington's Bradley Beal (1,897), Portland's Damian Lillard (1,881), and Chicago's Mike Dunleavy (1,832) rounded out the voting among divisional representatives.
The NBA will make a $10,000 donation on behalf of Conley to his charity of choice, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, specifically for research pertaining to sickle cell anemia. The NBA will make a $5,000 donation to each of the divisional winner’s charities of choice, including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation on behalf of Green.
Green underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to repair an aortic aneurysm that forced him to sit out the 2011-12 season.
According to the league's press release, the award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship -- ethical behavior, fair play and integrity -- in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program efforts. The winner is awarded the Joe Dumars trophy, named for former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, the award’s first recipient.
NBA players voted with 11 points given for each first-place vote, nine points for each second-place vote, seven points for third, five points for fourth, three points for fifth and one point for each sixth-place vote received. Each team nominated one of its players for the award.
Green received 65 first-place votes of the 325 total ballots cast.
Player: Kelly Olynyk
2013-14 base stats: 8.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 46.6 FG%, 35.1 3PT%
2013-14 advanced stats: 0.91 Off ppp (52nd percentile), 0.9 Def ppp (36th percentile)
2013-14 salary: $2.0 million
GM's Take: "I think Kelly has had a really good second half," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "I think he gained some confidence when we went to the All-Star break and represented the rookie team. I think I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved. I think the coaches have done a good job of getting him stronger, a good job of teaching him the game and I think he’s a great player."
Season highlight: Over Boston's final three games of the season, Olynyk averaged 25.7 points on 53.4 percent shooting overall, while adding 9.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over 34.7 minutes per game. He displayed a confidence and fluidity to his offensive game that wasn't always present earlier in the season, while making some strides defensively. The Celtics were able to run offense through Olynyk giving his passing abilities and actually played at a heightened pace when he was on the floor (a team-high 102.86 possessions per 48 minutes over those final three games).
Season lowlight: Already burdened by heightened expectations from a breakthrough performance at Orlando summer league, Olynyk was fighting as most rookies do to adapt to the NBA game when he injured his ankle in a late November tilt with the Indiana Pacers. He missed the next 10 games and it wasn't until around mid-January that he started to turn the corner (an invite to the league's Rising Stars challenge buoying his confidence at the All-Star break).
Final grade: B+
Teacher's notes: There's no denying that Olynyk's grade is a reflection of the improvement over the final 26 games (the first half of the season had him in the C range). His numbers skyrocketed from pre-All-Star break (6.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 42.8 FG%, 28.3 3PT%) to post (11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 51.1 FG%, 42.6 3PT%). Even with Boston stocked at the power forward position, he separated from the pack and put himself in position to be a key asset no matter how this team looks moving forward. The key for Boston's coaching staff is improving his defense. Opposing teams really attacked him in the post and guards exploited him on switches in the pick-and-roll.
What's next?: Olynyk's body will likely be a focus for the strength and conditioning staff this summer. They've got to bulk him up a bit and build his strength to compete better with NBA bigs. Coaches will expand his offensive toolbox, while bringing his defense along. Olynyk's future is bright and he's under Boston's control at a reasonable rate for at least three more seasons under his rookie deal. He's likely to gain some additional seasoning if he competes with the Canadian national team moving forward.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Olynyk's 2013-14 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
A snippet from Ford: "The team would love to get their hands on [Joel] Embiid, as he would help them with one of their biggest needs. But Gordon is intriguing here. He's a hybrid forward, but his athleticism and motor allow him to thrive at both the three and the four defensively. He adds toughness and does all the little things coaches love."
With pick No. 17, Ford picks Switzerland's Clint Capela, a 6-foot-11 power forward.
A snippet of analysis: "he Celtics could make a long-term move with their second pick. Capela has NBA length and athleticism (think Serge Ibaka), but he's pretty far away from being an NBA player right now."
(Read Mock Draft 4.0 )
Player: Avery Bradley
2013-14 base stats: 14.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 43.8 FG%, 39.5 3PT%
2013-14 advanced stats: 0.92 Off ppp (55th percentile); 0.883 Def ppp (43rd)
2013-14 salary: $2.5 million
GM's Take: "Avery had a good season," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "I’ve seen improvement in Avery this year. The biggest issue with Avery has just been health. He plays hard and he’s had some injuries, but none of them are injuries that should prevent him from being a great player."
Season highlight: Late in the season, beset by ankle woes, many wondered if Bradley should simply be shutdown to prevent further aggravation. Coach Brad Stevens insisted there was value in finishing strong and Bradley proved his point with five excellent games to close out the season. Maybe no outing was more encouraging than the team's win in Cleveland where Bradley put up 25 points behind five 3-pointers while also grabbing eight rebounds. Bradley enters the summer with some momentum to build on thanks to that late-season reminder of his offensive talents.
Season lowlight: As Ainge noted, the only concern with Bradley is health. He missed the first 30 games of the 2012-13 season while rehabbing from double shoulder surgery, then missed 22 of the final 39 games due to his injuries this season. Bradley admits that he plays so hard that injuries are sometimes unavoidable. Ainge has reminded us that sometimes the best ability is availability. Bradley also lagged a bit on the defensive end, reflected in not receiving a single vote for Defensive Player of the Year (this after landing two first-place votes while finishing 12th overall in the balloting last season).
Final grade: B
Teacher's notes: Ultimately Bradley's offensive resurgence made up for a bit of his defensive decline, some of which is most certainly related to the team's rebuilding pains. The challenge moving forward for Bradley is to maintain that offensive output without letting it come at the expense of his defense, especially considering Stevens' desire to inject Boston with a Defensive DNA and make that the backbone of the team. Bradley must consistently impact the game defensively from the perimeter and help Boston's backcourt diminish some of the difficulties in staying in front of ball-handlers this season (and adding pressure to a now KG-less backline). Here's what we loved: Bradley grabbed 10.9 percent of available defensive rebounds this season, well above his average of 6.5 percent from the past two seasons. He drove down his turnover ratio despite having the ball in his hands more frequently (though we'd still like to see his assist numbers climb and he needs to eliminate bad-pass turnovers).
What's next?: Bradley will become a restricted free agent when the Celtics formally extend a $3.6 million qualifying offer before the summer. He's likely to command outside interest, especially with more money expected to be injected into the salary cap, but Ainge has stressed he sees a future here for Bradley and the guess here has long been that they'll find a reasonable number for both sides to bring him back (assuming no competitor puts in a prohibitive bid for his services).
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Bradley's 2013-14 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Fans can vote for the award beginning through May 5 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Rondo's charity of choice is the Blue Grass Community Foundation. His bio on the nominees page also notes: "Rajon Rondo supports many charities: the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Greater Boston Food Bank. He is a spokesperson for the Boston Celtics Step Your Game Up program and has granted numerous wishes this year including one with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition to supporting Boston-based educational programs, he actively gives back to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky by hosting youth basketball clinics. Through his foundation’s efforts, Rondo aims to provide children in low-income areas with safe, reliable resources and hope for the future."
The NBA has informed teams that it is projecting a rise in the salary cap of nearly $5 million for next season ... Sources told ESPN.com that all 30 teams were informed this week via league memorandum that an increase in the cap from this season's $58.6 million to $63.2 million in 2014-15 -- thanks to increased revenues -- is now expected. A corresponding rise in the luxury-tax threshold from $71.7 million to $77 million is also projected, sources said.
The benefit here is obvious: Teams are going to have more money to spend. You'll hear plenty about how star-craving teams believe this will help them in pursuit of players like Carmelo Anthony.
But how does it help the Boston Celtics?
The first thing that jumped to mind is the added flexibility it gives the Celtics in terms of signing someone like restricted free agent Avery Bradley. Sure, it could also drive up his price tag if another team was willing to use that newfound cash to help offer Bradley an inflated salary. What seems more likely is that the Celtics can more easily stomach a reasonable number, one that might have originally left them a bit leery due to cap and tax ramifications.
Like anything, the Celtics cannot be irresponsible with an increased budget and they shouldn't overpay for any player just because of available cash. It simply makes it a little easier to digest slightly higher numbers, especially since veteran contract values will climb across the league by introducing $150 million in potential spending next season.
The other benefit is that some of those contracts in the middle of Boston's payroll structure -- say Brandon Bass at $6.9 million -- might look a little more attractive if teams have deeper pockets to add complementary talent.
With CBA guru Larry Coon noting that the cap is projected to grow to $66.5 million for the 2015-16 season, there's simply more money for teams to play with, all while most salaries, like minimum and rookie deals, remain locked in until the next CBA negotiations.
Teams like Boston, which has a surplus of draft picks over the next five seasons, have an ability to lock in young talent at bargain rates and that could put them in position to be take advantage of that extra available income, especially with an ownership that has been committed to spending into the tax in order to field a contender.
Player: Jeff Green
2013-14 base stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 41.2FG%, 34.1 3PT%
2013-14 advanced stats: 0.928 Off ppp (59th percentile); 0.851 Def ppp (60th)
2013-14 salary: $8.7 million
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the rehab of Rajon Rondo, Green was fitted for a monster bull's-eye, one that he eagerly wore in hopes of establishing himself as a go-to presence. It didn't happen and even Green admitted by season's end that he couldn't be the focal point. He averaged a career-best 16.9 points per game, but his shooting percentages dived. Chalk some of that up to offensive experimentation, but Green struggled with consistency. The discouraging part was that his total rebound percentage (7.6) was a career low on a team devoid of a pure center and he still averaged more turnovers per game (2) than assists (1.7). If Green is to be a complementary player, he needs to be more of a presence in areas other than scoring.
GM's Take: "I think Jeff had a good year and Jeff has been consistently a very good 3-point shooter and very good in transition offense throughout his whole career and I think that he got even better at that this year and he got more versatile," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "The fact that he wasn’t more of a more below-the-crease or corner 3-point shooter, he shot the ball from all over the 3-point line, he shot the 3-point shot off the dribble, things that we wanted and we encouraged him to do to expand his game. He became more a focal point of the offense and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game and I think he’s going to have a better year next year than he had this year."
Season highlight: Green provided maybe Boston's most endearing moment of the season with his buzzer-beating 3-pointer over LeBron James as the Celtics stunned the host Miami Heat 111-110 on Nov. 9. Green finished with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting with five triples, including the winner off a pretty cross-court inbounds feed from Gerald Wallace. That hoop helped Boston post a season-high four-game win streak.
Season lowlight: Coming off a quiet preseason, Green declared, "I have to take on the challenge of being that guy. Of course I’ll have my ups and downs, but I’ll have more ups than downs. I can guarantee you that." There's a metric called Game Score invented by John Hollinger that mashes up individual aspects of a player's box score and delivers a numeric representation of his performance. Considering that a score of 10 is defined as an average outing, Green had 40 games of 10.0 or higher and 42 games below, according to Basketball Reference. It only hammers home the need for Green to do more to impact the game beyond scoring.
Final grade: C-
Teacher's notes: We can hear some of Green's harshest critics scoffing from the other side of the interwebs. Some voters are going to crush Green here and we'll be surprised if he ends up with a passing mark in the fan vote. And our inclination was to do the same, but only because Green is clearly capable of more. We're willing to concede that expectations might have been a bit too high overall, but we'll also stress that we're not certain that Green made as much progress as Ainge seems to suggest (though, hey, what rebuilding GM is going to say otherwise?). With a healthy Rondo and some other talent alongside him, Green has potential to be an excellent complementary player. You can tell Brad Stevens yearns to get the most out of him. Right now, the Celtics are not getting the most out of him on a consistent enough basis.
What's next? Green has two more seasons remaining on a deal that will pay him $9.2 million next season. Even with the cap set to rise generously, that's still a bit on the high side for the production the team is receiving. Drafting at his position, or adding a starter-caliber swingman, could make Boston think harder about any outside interest Green receives.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Jeff Green's 2013-14 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
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Ainge, having already made two trades a month earlier, is at ease with the approaching deadline and correctly predicts his team's inactivity at the February swap buzzer. Ainge seems more focused on the draft and the offseason that lies ahead, when he knows the real heavy lifting will be done.
Even still, he's reflecting on his trade history -- deals that went through and deals that didn't; deals that were real and deals that were media creations -- and an inquisitor wants to know if he's ever gotten cold feet about a potential franchise-altering swap.
"It's just basketball," Ainge said coolly as that familiar smile reappeared.
Two months later, as his team prepped for its season finale against the Washington Wizards, Ainge reaffirmed what he did that February day: The 2013-14 season hasn't been easy to endure, but he plucked positives from individual player development and always kept his focus on what the team was building toward in the future.
No matter how much Ainge, first-year coach Brad Stevens and the team's players braced themselves for the potential of losing games, it was never easy to endure. But the final buzzer of Wednesday's 57th loss essentially closed the book on the 2013-14 campaign. The Celtics bid good riddance and immediately turned their attention to a 2014-15 season and the unbridled optimism it provides.
Armed with a treasure trove of assets, Ainge enters a pivotal time in his team's future. With the right moves, and some friendly bounces from the pingpong balls, his team could launch right back into contender status. Ainge is brutally honest when he says he doesn't know if there will be the much-ballyhooed "fireworks" that has become the buzzword for the approaching summer, but he's hopeful.
He's far more certain of one thing, saying, "I'll work my tail off to try to duplicate what we've done in the past."
(Read full story)
Now that the Celtics have lost the drawing, they will have 103 pingpong ball combinations (out of 1,000) at May's draft lottery, giving the team a 10.3 percent chance at the top overall pick and a 33.4 percent chance at a top-three pick. The real disadvantage is that Utah owns a tiebreaker over the Celtics and would select before Boston in the event that neither team leaps into the top three spots. The Celtics can pick no lower than eighth overall.
The Celtics and Jazz finished with matching 25-57 records, tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NBA. Ties in the lottery are broken by a random drawing.
Brooklyn and Washington finished with matching 44-38 records, and ties for non-lottery teams are broken by coin flip. By virtue of Brooklyn winning the flip, the Celtics will choose 17th overall with one of three future first-round picks acquired from the Nets in last summer's blockbuster trade.
Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren detailed the team's percentage at each pick on Celtics.com:
Pick 1: 10.3 percent
Pick 2: 11.1 percent
Pick 3: 12.0 percent
Pick 4: 0 percent
Pick 5: 23.7 percent
Pick 6: 34.2 percent
Pick 7: 8.2 percent
Pick 8: 0.3 percent
With the usual caveats that nobody knows how this roster will look next season -- fireworks could give this group another makeover, or the team might be content to simply shuffle the deck a bit and add talent to its core -- we don't necessarily believe it's outlandish to think that Boston could compete moving forward with many of the same faces back.
Looking ahead to next season, even if the Celtics make minimal changes, the team is likely to have (1) A healthier Rajon Rondo; (2) A more experienced Brad Stevens; and (3) Two first-round picks, including a lottery selection (assuming they keep the picks). That's a pretty solid base to build off.
After Wednesday's season finale, Rondo, who said he'll offer advice on roster construction, was asked if he'd like to see additions to the roster.
"I think we finished the season with 10 guys, so hopefully we can get five more guys, a strong group of 15 guys," said Rondo.
Pressed on if he'd want big changes, Rondo offered, "Who knows? If it’s one guy that competes, buys into the system, and plays with the team."
The Celtics have two particularly glaring needs: A rim protector (or at least a talented pure center) and a go-to scoring presence that can aid late-game situations. Neither role is particularly easy to fill in the NBA. But let's say the Celtics use their trade exception and some future picks to go pry Omer Asik from Houston, or try to sign-and-trade for someone like free-agent-to-be Marcin Gortat. And let's say the ping-pong balls bounce their way and Boston ends up landing a high pick like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. Even with the return of the 10 players we advocated for in the Take 'Em of Trash 'Em poll, here's a potential depth chart:
Guards: Rondo, Avery Bradley, Phil Pressey
Swingmen: Jeff Green, Jabari Parker, Gerald Wallace, Chris Johnson
Bigs: Omer Asik, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Vitor Faverani
The Celtics could fill out their roster with the team's other first-round pick (assuming it keeps the selection) and Ainge could bring back additional talent if able to move the likes of Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony, or Keith Bogans' nonguaranteed contract in deals.
Does that 12-man roster compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference? Absolutely. We can't say it's a conference title contender, but it's in the playoff mix. We can't overstate what having some backline help with do for this defense, and adding another young player with a high ceiling would make the future very bright for Boston.
So much depends on how the ping-pong balls bounce on May 20 and what Ainge is able to do with his stash of assets this offseason.
But even Stevens believes his team will improve based solely on the experiences of this past season.
"First of all, I think that the guys that will be back -- and we don’t know exactly who that will be, right? -- the guys that will be back will be better," said Stevens. "I’ll be better. Does that guarantee that you’re going to be really good, or significantly better? No, because you still have to, night in night out, beat the opponent, who is also improving and also getting better. At the end of the day, a lot of it will be determined on how much we all improve in the course of the offseason and what pieces we add that complement the people that are already here, whether they go-to guys or whether they are complementary guys that just fit well. There’s a chance that we could really be looking at both of those. I think at the end of the day, we’ll see how that shakes itself out.
"But the guys that are here will be better if they are back. And I really feel strongly about that."
“We were kind of discussing who we’d be playing in the playoffs,” assistant coach Jamie Young said. “I just remember it being a normal day.”
After the coaches meeting, Young jumped on a treadmill for his typical post-practice run, but when he flicked on the TV, he realized that this day would be anything but normal.
“We never really talked about what we needed to do as a team, but just winning and playing well was something that we thought would be the best way to help,” Young said.
Meanwhile, Leon Powe watched coverage of the bombings with disbelief from 3,000 miles away. Five years earlier he had ridden a duck boat down Boylston Street after helping the Celtics win their first championship in more than two decades. The images from Boston were jarring as he watched the news reports from the opposite coast.
“I was deeply saddened by it. Hurt, mad, angry,” he said.
Powe spent only three years in Boston, but still considers it a second home. Heartbroken by what he saw from afar, he was certain of one thing: Boston would emerge stronger from the tragedy.
“They tried to break our spirit, and tried to break a tradition we have every single year as far as the Marathon,” Powe said. “And I told everyone on the West Coast, that’s not going to break the people’s spirit down there in Boston. They are so strong, and that’s just going to bring us together even more.”
Powe came to Boston earlier this month to represent the Celtics and their 2008 title team at Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park. It was also a chance for him to meet many of the survivors of the bombings, an experience that only confirmed what he believed.
“Talking to them, it was a blessing,” Powe said. “Their spirits are up and everything is good.”
Members of the Celtics organization who were here last year beam with pride with how the region responded in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Young plans to be in the middle of this year's event. He was approached about running as part of the Shamrock Foundation marathon team, which will include 15 members of the organization. Each runner committed to raising $5,000 with a goal of raising at least $75,000 for the charities the foundation supports.
Young never envisioned running a marathon, his longest personal run had been a half marathon, but the events of last year encouraged him to go for the full 26.2.
Last weekend, he logged a 20-mile run, doing the final 10 miles of the marathon course, including that trek down Boylston, then turning around and retracing his steps.
He’s never done a marathon, but Young said he's ready. He feels strong -- Boston Strong.
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