- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The return of Brandon Bass gives Boston all five starters back next season.Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics agreed to a three-year deal with forward Brandon Bass on Thursday:
• Top five in place: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said earlier this week his goal was to lock down his top five to seven players at the start of free agency. Having previously agreed to a three-year extension with Kevin Garnett, the return of Bass gives Boston all five of its starters from the end of the regular season (along with Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce). Mix that with a handshake agreement with Jeff Green and it has not been a bad first week for the Celtics, who wasted little time putting the band back together -- and more with the addition of Jason Terry.
• Vote of confidence for Bass: While we're still waiting for the exact value of the deal, it's worth noting that the Celtics were willing to give Bass the long-term commitment they were unwilling to give Glen Davis last offseason. Boston acquired Bass in a sign-and-trade with the Magic after Davis signed a four-year, $26 million deal. The Celtics might have been a little more willing to go longer term this offseason given the way they signed others to that length, but it's nevertheless a reflection of how the team appreciated how Bass kept his mouth shut and simply played basketball. And played it well.
• Bass' defensive development in focus: While he arrived with the reputation as a no-conscious bench scorer, Bass finished the season as a key cog in Boston's first-team defense alongside Garnett. Sure, having KG alongside aided his numbers, but Bass proved to be a stout one-on-one defender, allowing a mere 0.673 points per play, which ranked in the 95th percentile among NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. Opponents shot a mere 31.8 percent against Bass, who thrived as a post defender despite often giving up size by masking that with his athleticism.
• His offense was solid too: Bass shot a mere 47.9 percent from the floor, a drop-off from the year before (51.5 percent), but it's one of the few areas you can nitpick with his offensive game. Bass still averaged 0.955 points per play, ranking in the 76th percentile, according to Synergy data. Not surprisingly, he thrived from the midrange, averaging a whopping 1.035 points per play from 17 feet to the 3-point line, which ranked in the 97th percentile. He shot 51.5 percent from that spot (118 of 229). What's more, his leaping ability allows him to finish with dunks around the basket. (Though if he doesn't get to the rim, he is susceptible to being blocked, something Davis struggled mightily with during his time in Boston.)
• KG stays at the 5?: If Bass stays in the starting lineup, which seems to be a safe bet, it would seem the Celtics will keep Garnett at the center position, despite his reluctance to call himself anything but a power forward. Boston is still a bit thin at center, but the positional flexibility of their bigs allows them to mask that in a league devoid of pure centers.
• A year in the system: Bass admitted it was a bit of a culture shock stepping into the Celtics' locker room, and it wasn't until late in the season that he could look back and laugh at how Pierce and the veterans would call him out for mistakes early on. Bass struggled at times to come with proper help defense, allowing some easy buckets at the rim that drew the ire of his teammates, but he tightened that up as the season went along. You have to believe he'll hit the ground running in Year 2.
• Next up: Ray Allen: Earlier this week, Ainge said Allen and Bass were his top priorities. With Bass secured, the Celtics simply need Allen to finish off that top seven Ainge talked about. The veteran sharpshooter was meeting with the Miami Heat on Thursday, though the Los Angeles Clippers seem to be out of the running after using their midlevel exception on Jamal Crawford -- unless the Celtics were interested in a sign-and-trade involving Nick Young.
4dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
5dESPN Stats and Information Group