Boston Celtics Manager Danny Ainge is on a mission to build the next Championship winning team in his time in the big seat of the NBA’s most successful team. Not satisfied with the immense development of the team under Brad Stevens, Ainge has flipped the switch on the hungry, motivated blue collar bunch for star power.
You can forgive the long tenured administrator’s laggard traits following the likes of Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and direct rival Cleveland Cavaliers for amassing enormous talent, after all the NBA is noted for its copy cat behavior. One move goes well and the rest jump in; Golden State Warriors played small ball and won a Championship and the strategy has since become the template to win a title.
Word coming from Cleveland in the wake of Isaiah Thomas’ addition is to have Kevin Love at Center and LeBron James at Power Forward to be able to stand the might of Golden State. Other have gone extreme by suggesting James should play Center so he gets surrounded with shooters. Despite over achieving in a short time, Boston’s mild challenge to Cleveland in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals made it clear to Ainge he had to tinker with his roster; Which he has by signing free agent Gordon Hayward from Utah Jazz and trading for Cavaliers Point Guard Kyrie Irving this offseason.
These moves have sent ripples through the roster as all but four players who played for the team last season are set to return next season.
Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, James Young, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller are no longer with the team. Team leader Thomas has been moved to Cavs with Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic plus cash, and future Draft picks to land Irving. Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart are the only ones left. Brown and Smart are top ten picks so it was difficult to see them leave while Horford was last season’s big acquisition and Rozier flat out balled last season.
As the roster stands, Boston has 16 players with one spot open for another two way contract player due to recent changes in the league. But all the dishing and taking was bound to have an effect on the roster’s makeup after the stormy few weeks. With days remaining for training camp to begin, Boston’s roster looks unbalanced, inexperienced and Guard-heavy. The team has seven first year players including third overall pick in this year’s draft Jayson Tatum, and Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele from last year’s group. Boston also has six Guards but seriously lacks bodies at Power Forward positions; Marcus Morris and Yabusele are the shoe in options available.
Should Boston open the 2017-2018 season with this setup in a highly anticipated game against Cleveland, the team will be mauled by the Cavaliers deeper more experienced team. Thanks to the acquisition of Crowder, Cleveland has a very good replacement for LeBron who can also man the Shooting Guard role in a bigger lineup for the inconsistent JR Smith. It is an improvement on the prior season where Cleveland’s response to a tired James was older veterans Richard Jefferson and Dahntay Jones.
On the other hand, Brown’s inclusion means Hayward is likely to see a lot of minutes as a Power Forward with Smart and Irving taking up spots in the back court and Horford playing Center. Unfortunately for Celtics fans that is where the fun stops since Boston’s second unit could have Shane Larkin/Rozier at Point Guard and Morris, Tatum, Baynes and Semi Ojeleye in the other spots on the court. Clearly, this isn’t good enough to achieve Boston’s main goal of winning the Eastern Conference any time soon even in the absence of James. Having a lot of rookies was great for the Celtics a few years ago but the sizable greenhorn presence on the team cripples its chances of challenging the best in the league.
Sending some of the first year players to the Gatorade League or deep down the depth chart or packaging them to land a ready contributor like Dante Cunningham or Terrence Ross should be on the cards. After missing out on an experienced role player like Michael Beasely to New York Knicks, the Celtics can sign out of contract second unit fillers like Boris Diaw, Terrence Jones and Anthony Morrow. Boston’s shakeup is still in vogue and Danny Ainge will be trusted to deliver another round of moves.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter