The biggest question mark for the Celtics, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com writes (Insider subscription required), heading into the offseason is this: Can the franchise land a star? Pelton projects the Celtics will likely have $21.1MM in cap space. The Celtics have the cap space to offer a max deal this summer while bringing others (including soon-to-be restricted free agent Jae Crowder and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Jonas Jerebko) back, Pelton adds. In an ideal offseason, Boston would ink Kevin Love, if the big man chose to opt out of his deal with the Cavs, and also package its pair of first-round picks to move up and draft Willie Cauley-Stein as a rim protector and versatile defender, Pelton writes.
Here’s more from Beantown:
- In the same piece, Pelton writes that soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Brandon Bass will probably fill the role of a veteran who can knock down the midrange jumper for a different team after playing well for the Celtics this season.
- Crowder plays with a ton of energy, plays physical and plays with emotion, all of which makes him an ideal player for a playoff-team and someone who would help the Celtics in coming seasons, if the team were to re-sign him, Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com writes. Crowder, someone Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he’d like to have back, averaged 10.8 points per game and five rebounds per game in the four games Boston lost to the Cavaliers. Boston can match any competing offers for the forward who turns 25 in July as long as they tender a qualifying offer worth only $1,181,348.
- Despite trading away their two best veterans, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, before the season’s midway point, the Celtics made the playoffs and that’s a credit to second-year head coach Brad Stevens, who finished fourth in NBA Coach of the Year Award balloting, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Stevens, 38, has come a long way since last year, Deveney adds. While Stevens described himself as “clueless” in his first year, scouts told Deveney that the former Butler coach is now a respected leader in the league for both his offensive system and focus on transition defense. The team consistently played hard under Stevens, who, as Deveney notes, is often praised for his even-keeled demeanor. What’s special about Stevens’ offensive system is that it runs 10 players deep, so it will be interesting what role — if any — that has in the Celtics’ offseason plans. It’s very possible Stevens’ coaching style could benefit the Celtics in that regard because, as Deveney points out, Stevens has shown an ability to adapt his style to the players he has.
Kevin Love suffered a dislocated left shoulder in Sunday’s game against Boston and will be evaluated further, the Cavaliers announced. The incident happened in a first quarter skirmish between Love and the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk. Love immediately headed for the locker room and did not return. The Cavaliers said Love will receive “examination, imaging and evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health over the next 24 hours.” His status for the rest of the playoffs will depend on the results of those tests. Love was wearing a sling after the game, but said his shoulder was feeling better and he hopes to be ready for Game 1 of the next series, tweets Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Love wasn’t forgiving toward Olynyk, tweets Dave McMenamin, saying, “I thought it was a bush-league play … I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”
There’s more from the Central Division:
- Jimmy Butler has emerged as the ideal complement to Derrick Rose in the Bulls‘ backcourt, according to Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Heading into free agency this summer, Butler has left behind his “role player” days and has become a full-fledged star, Friedell writes. “We have a very strong backcourt right now,” said center Joakim Noah. “Both him and Derrick, it’s very good. I’m very happy to have them as teammates.”
- After upgrading at point guard with the trade for Reggie Jackson, the Pistons now face the challenge of improving at other positions, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. He praised coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy for being willing to part with depth and three-point shooting to acquire Jackson, who is very much in the team’s future plans despite being a free agent this summer. He also noted that the Pistons seem likely to bring back Anthony Tolliver, who has a $3MM contract, with only $400K guaranteed.
- The Pacers‘ Solomon Hill took advantage of the opportunity given to him when Paul George broke his leg, writes Andrew Perna of Real GM. The second-year player was given increased court time and responded by being the only Pacer to appear in all 82 games. He is under Indiana’s control through the 2017/18 season.
Brad Stevens would be a great coaching fit for Kevin Love if the big man chose to opt out of his deal with the Cavs and sign with the Celtics this offseason, Tim Welsh of CSNNE.com opines. “He fits in as a guy that can score, an up-front scorer. They [the Celtics] don’t have that. They’re built on guys, a lot of wing players … they’ve got the two tough guards out front with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart that can really defend,” Welsh said. “And I think the thing with Kevin Love, too — and other free agents will obviously look at — is what Brad Stevens has done. He’s kind of resurrected a lot of different guys here in a short period of time.” Welsh cited Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko as examples of players whose games Stevens has elevated.
Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- The Raptors have a decision to make regarding Jonas Valanciunas, who is eligible to sign an extension this offseason, Eric Koreen of The National Post writes. The reference point for a new contract would be the four-year, $53MM extension that the Magic inked with Nikola Vucevic last offseason, Koreen notes. If the Raptors do indeed sign Valanciunas to a long-term deal, they have to commit to integrating him a bit more in the offense, because Valanciunas does not provide the defensive value that justifies a salary similar to Vucevic’s, Koreen concludes.
- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes that Gigi Datome has a place in the NBA, though he isn’t sure if the team will have a roster spot for the Italian next season, Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald writes. “This is a really hard business,” Ainge said. “There’s 400 players in this league, and 60 more who get drafted each year. You’ve got a former NBA player of the week in Jordan Crawford who can’t get back in the league the next year. Now he’s leading [the Fort Wayne Mad Ants] to the D-League finals. So you don’t know. But in my eyes Gigi has proven that he’s an NBA player.” Datome can become a restricted free agent if Boston tenders him a qualifying offer this summer worth $2,187,500.
- Since James Dolan purchased the Knicks the franchise has continually tried to sell its fanbase on the promise of the future, a trend that continues under team president Phil Jackson, Johnette Howard of ESPNNewYork.com writes.
Thaddeus Young has said in the past that he’d like to return to the Nets next season, and while he didn’t directly address a question about his future from Steven Simineri of NetsDaily, the forward made it clear he was pleased with the midseason trade that brought him to Brooklyn. Young has an early-termination option worth nearly $10.222MM.
“It was the perfect situation for me, especially with me being good friends with [Nets GM] Billy [King], just knowing him and him drafting me in Philly,” Young said. “So it was a good situation, plus they had the right mix of players for me and I felt like I could be a great complementary piece to a lot of guys on this team.”
It’s a virtual must-win for Young and the Nets on Saturday as they trail 2-0 against the Hawks, and as we wait to see what happens, here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:
The Pistons haven’t given up hope that they can re-sign unrestricted free agent Greg Monroe this summer, Terry Foster of The Detroit News writes. In a letter sent to the team’s season ticket holders, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy indicated that Monroe was one of the players whom the franchise hoped to build around, Foster relays. “We have a nice young nucleus forming with Andre Drummond [22 years old], Reggie Jackson [24 years old], Kentavious Caldwell-Pope [22 years old], Greg Monroe [24 years old] and Spencer Dinwiddie [21 years old],” Van Gundy wrote. “We will continue to build around this young group with quality veterans cut from the same mold as Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Joel Anthony and Anthony Tolliver.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Brad Stevens, Rajon Rondo‘s coach while a member of the Celtics, said he was shocked with all the difficulties Rondo has had with the Mavs, Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com writes. “Yeah. I am,” Stevens said when asked if he was surprised by his former point guard’s issues in Dallas. “And I haven’t paid as much attention or read every article or even really watched anything on it. So yeah I was a little bit surprised.”
- Coach Rick Carlisle says he was simply being truthful when he said that he didn’t expect to see Rondo in a Mavericks uniform again during an appearance on “The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley” (hat tip to the Dallas Morning News). “Well it’s highly unlikely, to be honest,” Carlisle said. “I think it’s important to be truthful in these situations. But here’s the other fact: this is a guy that’s going to have a lot of free-agent options in the summer. If we wanted to get him back, we were going to be bidding against multiple other teams with a lot of cap space, and there’s going to be a big market for him So that’s where all that stuff is at, but right now our attention and focus has got to be on Game 3.”
- Greek power forward Dimitrios Agravanis intends to enter the 2015 NBA draft, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweets. The 20-year-old isn’t expected to hear his name called in June’s draft after averaging 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds for Olympiakos this past season.
- Serbian point guards Miroslav Pasajlic (20) and Nikola Radicevic (20) will enter the 2015 NBA draft, Givony reports (Twitter link). Neither player is projected to be drafted come June.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made it clear that he’d like to have soon-to-be restricted free agent Jae Crowder back with the team next year in comments the executive made in his weekly appearance on the Toucher & Rich show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link). Ainge has spoken highly of Crowder in the past, but his latest remark seemingly demonstrates a desire to continue the partnership that began when Boston acquired the former 34th overall pick this past December in the Rajon Rondo trade.
“We really did like Jae Crowder, and we feel like he’s a big part of our team going forward,” Ainge said to the 98.5 hosts, according to Ben Rohrbach of WEEI.com (Twitter link).
The C’s can match any competing offers for the swingman who turns 25 in July as long as they tender a qualifying offer worth just $1,181,348. Crowder has expressed a contentment in Boston, where he’s seen a more significant role than he had during his two and a half seasons with the Mavericks. He’s averaged 9.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 24.2 minutes for the Celtics, making 17 starts in 57 regular season appearances, and those averages are all slightly higher in two postseason games for Boston so far. Crowder has come off the bench in both playoff contests, but he’s fourth on the team in postseason minutes per game.
Little is certain for the Celtics, who have a vast supply of trade exceptions and only about $40MM in guaranteed salary for next season after having made a surprise playoff run this year. The C’s can’t sign Crowder to an extension or trade him before the end of June, so if they want to use one of the exceptions around draft time and open cap space in July, they couldn’t swap Crowder to accommodate such a move. Boston can sign-and-trade Crowder once the July Moratorium is over or let him simply sign with another team, but it appears as though the Celtics and the Glenn Schwartzman client both have motivation to stick together into 2015/16. The C’s have his Bird Rights, and a deal for at least the value of the $3.376MM taxpayer’s midlevel exception sounds as if it’s in order, though that’s just my speculation.
Projected 2015 lottery pick Kristaps Porzingis indicated that he withdrew from last year’s draft because he felt he wasn’t yet ready to compete in the NBA, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype relays. “As soon as I declared for the draft, I knew that I wanted I to stay one more year in Spain to get better,” Porzingis said. “Now looking back I think we made the right decision. I had a bad start of the season – individually and as a team. I could have played much better, but I think I have improved my consistency and I have picked it up since the bad start of the season. This season has been tough, but I want to say thanks to coach [Scott] Roth for the work he did with me in Seville. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I wish him the best.” The seven-footer also indicated that he no longer had doubts regarding entering the NBA, Sierra adds.
Here’s more from around the league:
- According to Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter links), two assistant coaches who will be in play this offseason for available head coaching vacancies are the Pacers‘ Dan Burke, and the Hawks‘ Kenny Atkinson.
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens has his team ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process, which is a testament to his abilities as a leader, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. Stevens stressing unselfishness and creating opportunities for teammates appeals to Boston’s players, Zillgitt adds. “All these guys are in the NBA for a reason, and they’re really, really good at something,” Stevens said. “If you can separate yourself at being one of the best at the things you do well, then you always have a spot where people are going to value you. It just makes sense to a be a superstar in your role.”
- Former NBA GM and current coach of the Turkish club Eskişehir Basket Brad Greenberg has high praise for Wolves‘ draft-and-stash pick Nemanja Bjelica, David Pick of Basketball Insiders writes. While Greenberg believes Bjelica is ready to play in the NBA, he’s not sure if the big man will head to the U.S. to play in the near future, Pick adds. “Can Bjelica be on an NBA team? Sure. Will he? I don’t know,” Greenberg said. “Like all high-level Euroleague players who make a lot of money overseas, it has to be a situation that makes sense financially, and where he gets an opportunity to play. Europeans don’t want to give up something that is comfortable, good and financially rewarding for a ‘what if?’ situation. Bjelica is talented enough to be in an NBA gym and not look out of place. That’s for sure.”
After being booed in Philadelphia and ignored in Indiana, Evan Turner is enjoying his chance in Boston, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com. He signed with Celtics before the start of training camp and has become a starter and leader for the young team. However, life in the NBA hasn’t been easy for the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He was scorned by Sixers fans when his production didn’t match his lofty draft status, and he played sparingly with the Pacers after a midseason trade last year. When Indiana refused to extend an $8.7MM qualifying offer last summer, the Celtics pounced, giving him a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $6.7MM. “I didn’t even feel like we were taking a chance,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “I felt Evan was a good player, especially if he was utilized in a certain way.”
There’s more from Boston on a playoff Sunday:
- The Celtics became a playoff-quality team when they acquired Isaiah Thomas from the Suns, MacMullan writes in a separate story. The 5’9″ guard brought creativity and scrappiness and raised the team’s level of play, she contends. “It’s a lot of fun playing with him,” said teammate Marcus Smart. “His ability to get into the paint and doing some of the things he does out there … it’s fun to watch. He makes the game so much easier for the rest of us.” Thomas is signed through the 2017/18 season.
- Gigi Datome, who has become a fan favorite in Boston since coming over in a trade from the Pistons, discussed his upcoming free agency with Brian Robb of CBS Boston. “I hope during my free agency, hopefully the Celtics, hopefully other teams make a call or offer, because it means that this month, I did something good,” Datome said. “It’s really early now and the focus is on the playoffs.”
- Managing partner and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck is happy to be headed to the playoffs, but he told Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald that he plans to keep tinkering with the team this summer. “Every summer we’re looking to do something,” he said. “The summer of ’07 was the biggest I’ve ever seen. Last summer we tried, just like we will next summer.”
Knicks point guard Jose Calderon had a difficult first season in New York, but he insists that he’ll turn things around if he’s still a member of the organization in 2015/16, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “One hundred percent, we didn’t see the Jose Calderon I was all these years,’’ Calderon told Berman. “Personally, [I was] just disappointed how it was individually because I can do a much better job. And I didn’t get it right. The only good thing about it, I know I’m going to be much better next season. I know what they want, I know what they want from me and how it’s going to work. Hopefully I’ll get better with [avoiding] injuries.’’
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- There is still a chance that the Knicks could waive Calderon using the stretch provision, but the veteran says his first choice is to return to New York, Berman adds. “I’m pretty confident I’m going to be here,’’ Calderon said. “I want to be here. That’s the feeling I got from the coaching staff. That’s what I feel about next year. But you’re only one phone call away for something to happen. I always got to be prepared. It’s how the NBA works. I don’t want to get out now because the good part is coming. You don’t want to leave now.’’
- The Sixers have many needs that need to be addressed this offseason, but coach Brett Brown says the team needs to prioritize improving its defense, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes. “In my heart of hearts, I know we have to build on our defense,” Brown said. “That’s just who we are.” Philadelphia ranked 20th in opponents points allowed this past season.
- The Celtics made the playoffs this season not by bringing in more talented players, but by acquiring players who better fit their philosophy, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com opines. “It’s very unusual,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Boston’s rebuilding efforts while still making the playoffs. “They’ve done it with overhaul, and at the same time losing an All-Star point guard [Rajon Rondo). We kind of did the same thing last year [with Rudy Gay]. We lost an All-Star wing guy, kind of rebuild. Sometimes it’s good, addition by subtraction. And Boston is a good example of that.”
Nets forward Mirza Teletovic has been cleared to resume basketball activities and he could return during Brooklyn’s first-round playoff series against Atlanta, Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com relays. The 29-year-old has been out of action since January, and has been receiving treatment for multiple blood clots in his lungs. “The doctors … they know what’s best for me,” Teletovic said. “And the coaches are there, they know what’s best for them and for the team, and they’re going to decide. It’s not up to me. They’re going to look at it and see. And then probably decide if I’ll play or not play, but for now I’m just happy to be back.”
Teletovic is in the final year of his contract, making slightly more than $3.368MM, and he said in the fall that he planned to listen to offers from the Nets as well as others after the season. Brooklyn can make him a restricted free agent if they extend a qualifying offer worth $4,210,125.
Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Sixers coach Brett Brown hasn’t been enamored with injured rookie Joel Embiid‘s work ethic this season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “There were times that I wasn’t happy,” Brown said. “And you know it’s been well-documented. I tell my guys, you want me to coach you. You want to show up on time. You want to do the right thing. You want to act the right way.”
- Ricky Ledo is hoping that he can remain in the NBA next season, and that he can change the perception around the league that he is a troubled player, Tim Casey of USA Today writes. The Knicks had inked Ledo to a deal that covered the remainder of this season after his second 10-day contract with the team ended. In 12 appearances for the Knicks Ledo averaged 7.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game.
- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge when discussing what he termed the league’s “transcendent players” mentioned Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James, Ben Rohrbach of WEEI 93.7 FM notes (Twitter links). Omitted from Ainge’s list was his former player Rajon Rondo. When asked, Ainge said he never thought Rondo would reach that level of excellence, Rohrbach adds. Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and some around the league have doubts that the veteran is worth a max contract, which Rondo is likely to be seeking this summer.