Summer Forecast preview: Offseason grade
August, 8, 2014
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty ImagesOur annual Celtics Summer Forecast series debuts in earnest on Monday and will run throughout the month of August. We've rounded up our familiar panel of summer prognosticators -- a motley crew featuring our friends in the Celtics blogging community -- in hopes of telling you how the 2014-15 season will play out for Boston. We'll gaze into our crystal balls and attempt to answer all your questions before this year's team even hits the floor together for the first time.
But before we launch into our series looking ahead, we asked our panel to take a quick look back. In today's Summer Forecast preview we asked: On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, how would you rate the Celtics' offseason?
Borrowing from our Offseason Reset last month, a recap of the moves Boston has made this summer:
• June 26: Drafted guard Marcus Smart (6th) and forward James Young (17th)
• July 2: Agreed to four-year, $32 million extension with restricted free agent guard Avery Bradley
• July 9: Acquired center Tyler Zeller, guard Marcus Thornton and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick as part of a three-team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers
• July 10: Announced the signings of Smart and Young
• July 15: Acquired a conditional second-round pick and a $4.3 million trade exception as part of a sign-and-trade deal that delivered free agent Kris Humphries to the Washington Wizards
• July 21: Agreed to terms with free-agent swingman Evan Turner
On the surface, it's not much to get thrilled about. What seems important to remember is that expectations got out of hand even before the offseason even arrived.
Owner Wyc Grousbeck suggested "fireworks" were possible, which created a buzz and a summer catchphrase, and there was full-on delirium when Kevin Love sauntered about our city in early June. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge remained steadfast that he had to keep the big picture in mind and wouldn't mortgage Boston's accumulated pile of assets for just a tiny push of the rebuilding acceleration pedal.
The votes from our 13-member panel averaged out to 3.58 stars and no voter gave a grade lower than 3 stars, while there were five 4-star grades and one 5-star mark.
This armchair general manager's assessment? If we were on Star Search we'd probably go 3 ½ stars. Depending on the moves made to trim down to the 15-man roster, Boston has potential to nudge to a 4-star rating before the season tips.
But, ultimately, only time can tell us just how good Boston did this offseason. Time will tell us how the Celtics did at Nos. 6 and 17 in the draft (remember, everyone loves their rookies this time of year). Time will tell us if it was worth rolling the dice on Turner. Time will tell if being patient this year will pay dividends in the future.
But Boston sure seemed to get as much as possible out of what little it had. It parlayed a $10.3 million trade exception from last summer's Brooklyn deal into Zeller, Thornton (and his expiring deal) and a future first-round pick). Boston got a decent-sized trade exception and a potential second-round pick for helping Humphries land in Washington.
What Boston makes of those new assets will help determine just how good the Summer of 14 truly was.
Read on to see how our panel graded (and to submit your own grade):
Jay King, MassLive.com (3 stars)
Has it been a perfect offseason? No. Dreams of adding another star never materialized. Rajon Rondo’s future remains uncertain. Brad Stevens still has nobody to protect the paint. The roster still contains a hodgepodge of mediocre players who don’t all make sense on the same team. Still, the summer wasn’t a waste. Danny Ainge drafted Marcus Smart, who should help immediately, and James Young, an 18-year-old with a lot of talent; added Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller and a future first-round pick for basically nothing; took a low-risk flier on redemption case Evan Turner; and re-signed Avery Bradley to an expensive-but-not-crazy deal. The Celtics (not including their nonguaranteed guys) now have eight 25-and-under players, including some they really like, plus as many as nine first-round picks (probably eight) over the next four years. The future still looks promising. It does. We just don’t yet know when it will arrive or which players it will include.
Kevin O'Connor, CelticsBlog (4 stars)
Let’s forget about the “fireworks” expectations for a minute. Danny Ainge and his front office managed to acquire a talented young center (Zeller), a sharpshooter (Thornton), and a protected first-round pick for essentially nothing; that’s what you call an A+ trade. They also went out and signed Turner to a bargain contract; even though he has underachieved in his career, he could actually see an increase in efficiency under Brad Stevens’ motion-offense. Plus, they drafted a terrific combo guard in Smart and a low-risk/high-reward scorer in Young. Boston failed to make a splash for a star player like Love, but for a team in a transition phase they had an absolutely successful offseason that isn’t getting enough credit.
Jay Ouellette, Red's Army (4 stars)
Let's keep in mind the current state the C's are in when grading their offseason thus far. Sure, the combination of Grousbeck's comments and Love's visit to Boston got us all excited, but, in reality, none of the major moves happened. Ainge was still able to make a couple of solid picks in the draft and added more decent players as chips for later use. Rebuilding takes time and patience and a lot of hard work and creativity. Ainge and the front office don't lack any of these attributes and, as fans, there's really not much more you can ask for than your leaders at least working hard to make the team a contender, not simply a nice playoff team. This is not a final product by any means, so, given what was realistically out there, I'm fine with the progress thus far.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (5 stars)
Sometimes, you try and trade apples for prime rib. When that doesn't work, you look for deals on apples for oranges. And if all else fails, you keep your apples and turn lemons into lemonade. [Editor's note: Somewhere, Kevin Garnett nodded along in approval of that extended food analogy] That's been the Celtics' offseason so far. After missing out on rumored deals for Love, Asik, and/or moving up in the draft, Ainge turned an expiring trade exception into Zeller and Thornton, completed a sign-and-trade with Humphries to generate another TPE for next season, and signed low-risk, high-reward Turner. Those aren't exactly fireworks, but by turning assets that he was going to lose anyway into players that could help later, he's setting the franchise up for the future. For Celtics fans, just look at how the rival Lakers have fared the last two summers. They got nothing when Dwight Howard left, garnered zero assets in Pau Gasol's departure, and could potentially get nothing in return for Steve Nash. While Boston is flush with options, Los Angeles will go through another season with limited prospects.
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (4 stars)
Considering the hand the Celtics were dealt (landing sixth in the lottery), I think Ainge has put together a very solid offseason. Expecting to bounce back into contention after just one year isn't reasonable, and Ainge made the smart decision to be patient, rather than make a major deal just for the sake of doing so. Boston looks to be in great shape to pull off something big next summer, and I think Ainge deserves some credit for not forcing the wrong move when the right one just wasn't out there.
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (3 stars)
Unable to produce the “fireworks” that were suggested to fans, including trading for Love, Danny Ainge made a number of smaller moves instead. He may have jumped the gun on signing restricted free agent Bradley, but with Bradley’s improving game, and a projected rise in the salary cap, that contract should turn out to be fair. Smart and Young were excellent picks for a rebuilding squad. The team was also able to use its trade exception on a young player in Zeller, filling out a position of need, while also obtaining another future first-round pick in the trade. Turner represents a traditional buy-low/sell-high proposition for the former No. 2 overall pick and 2010 college Player of the Year.
Julian Edlow, WEEI.com (4 stars)
I give the Celtics’ offseason 4 stars; pretty good for a team I’m predicting 32 wins for [Editor's note: Hey, spoiler alert, that's Monday's forecast]. For starters, I though Ainge killed the draft. Smart is going to be a good player right away and should have a bright future. Young is a project, but a very intriguing one that can clearly shoot the ball. The main reason Ainge gets 4 stars is because he didn’t screw anything up. In an age where GMs tend to take what they can get and sign players to lengthy/pricey contracts that they regret before the All-Star break, Ainge showed us his patience. I’m looking at you, Josh Smith. At the same time, Ainge didn’t get 5 stars because he was unable to land a legit talent to pair with Rondo. While everyone is waiting for a 2007-style offseason, the right move is to deal Rondo and go all in on the youth movement. At this point, it’s all about building for 2015 and beyond.
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (3 stars)
I'm disappointed Ainge was unable to find a dance partner in a major deal this summer, but that says more about the rest of the league than it does about his efforts. With what Ainge was able to do, he's done a solid job, with the opportunity for those chances to be even more productive in the end. Smart and Young were solid choices that should become solid NBA pros with the potential to be quite good, maybe even an All-Star in the case of Smart.
KWAPT, Red's Army (3 stars)
I was torn between 2 and 3 stars. I gave it a 3 strictly on Ainge drafting Smart. His defense and toughness will go a long way in helping Boston get back to being the defensive dynamo it once was. Overall, Ainge did the best he could with what he had. We all wanted fireworks, but it takes two to tango.I drooled over the possible Love deal, but it became apparent Minnesota didn't want what we had to offer. Zeller and Thornton are both obviously nothing more than role players and not the building blocks to Banner 18, but all in all, Ainge did OK.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (3 stars)
It’s hard to be fulfilled when the lingering memory of the promise of Turner is the hallmark veteran addition of the offseason. But once you put aside the over-ambitious expectations set by the fireworks suggestion, June and July were marked by a clever series of moves to give the Celtics more tangible depth. More importantly, they have even more draft picks for assistant general manager Mike Zarren to hold the league hostage with as it decides whether to use his Wheel draft order concept. Eventually, they will cash in on those picks for a top talent, but Ainge knows how to be patient and strike at the right moment. For now, he’ll have to rely on Zeller and Thornton to save the world.
Also voting: Brian Robb, CelticsHub (3 stars); Michael Pina, CelticsHub (4 stars).
Your turn: We invite you join the conversation. Vote in the poll above and sound off in the comments about what grade you gave the Celtics this offseason.
(Chris Forsberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNForsberg. Hop HERE to submit a question for his Celtics Mailbag.)