Calling the Boston Celtics‘ frontcourt a mess would be the understatement the young offseason. The team had eight forwards and centers under contract this past season; needless to say, that is far too many to keep around next year.
While it is difficult to foresee anyone taking on the burden of contracts of say, Gerald Wallace, the Cs do have multiple contracts coming off the books at the end of next season, which could serve as valuable trade chips for a possible big-name deal.
First, the Celtics must make a decision on what to do with Kris Humphries. The big man had a very successful season in his first year with Boston, averaging 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in just 19.9 minutes a night. Not successful enough to warrant a 12-million-dollar deal mind you, but he did look productive in his limited floor time.
He is everything but automatic from either elbow, and runs the pick and pop with Rajon Rondo as well as any other big on the Cs’ roster. Obviously, he won’t command anywhere near $12 million per year when he enters free agency, but how much is he worth, and is he worth anything at all to the Celtics, who already have Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger fighting for playing time?
Well, that all depends on what the Celtics choose to do with Bass. He has arguably been the Celtics’ most consistent player during his three-year tenure with the team. Each night, you know exactly what to expect from Bass: between 10 and 15 points and 5-8 rebounds. He isn’t much of a rim protector standing at just 6-foot-8, but his defensive impact is felt on the perimeter.
He has quick feet and a strong 250-pound base, making it pretty hard to back him down. The Eastern Conference is home to some of the best combo forwards in the NBA, and as it stands right now, Bass is the Cs’ best option to stick on them.
But as valuable as he is on the court, he is equally, or maybe even more valuable as a trade chip. The Celtics are a sub-30-win team, and Bass would be much better suited knocking down his patented baseline 16-footer on a contending team. His contract, worth $6.9 million next year, is going to expire at the end of the 2014-2015 season as well.
From all accounts, Bass is a fantastic teammate and has become a locker room leader this year for the young Celtics, but the team should be looking to deal him, perhaps in a package that would send a couple of second-round picks in return.
If Bass is traded, it would make sense for the Celtics to hang on to Humphries, who is more versatile in the sense that he can play at either the four or the five. A deal worth something around $4.5-5 million a season wouldn’t be unreasonable by any means.
Next would be the verdict on Olynyk, who had quite an impressive run to close out the season, posting averages of 16.6 points and 7.3 boards per contest through eight games in April. As far as offense goes, he clearly has the highest potential as a scorer out of any of the Cs’ bigs. The problem is, Olynyk’s poor defensive tendencies prevent him from being an effective center, and with Sullinger solidifying himself as the team’s starting PF, Olynyk’s niche for the club is a bit unclear.
He did come off the bench this season, but if his play to close out the season was a sneak preview of the near future, it would hardly be appropriate to permanently relegate him to a bench role. For that reason, it is crucial that Olynyk spends the summer increasing his strength so that he isn’t pushed around so easily. The responsibility of teaching him how to improve his defensive footwork and how to prevent excessive fouling falls upon the Celtics’ assistant coaches.
The Celtics have spent the last year developing their young players in hopes that they would turn into solid rotation players. Now, it looks as if they are ready to take the next step in that process: starting their two promising young big men. The pairing will undoubtedly have its issues, but as with any young NBA talent, there is a ton of room for improvement.
This offseason is a big one for the young Celtics’ bigs, and hopefully with another summer’s hard work, we will be able to see exactly what this duo is capable of.