JaVale McGee and the Celtics were on the verge of a deal that would have taken the big man not only through this season, but through next season as well. With averages of 8.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG across seven seasons, McGee obviously hasn’t reached his potential, but team president Danny Ainge was confident that the 7-footer can do just that in Boston.
“JaVale is a long, athletic guy and we don’t have the type of player, an above-the-rim offensive and defensive player,” Ainge said in an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg (on Twitter). “He’s been paid a lot of money in our league, had some injuries, hasn’t lived up to his potential yet and we’re hoping that he can under [Brad Stevens‘] tutelage. I think he’s in a good place, emotionally and mentally, and he really wants to get his career on the right path.”
Well, so much for that. The Celtics were offering McGee’s a team option on the 2015/16 season but his camp was pushing for a player option instead, so the marriage has been called off. Whether McGee can eventually blossom into the kind of difference maker that Ainge was hoping for is debatable, but adding a hyper-athletic big like him would have given the C’s a serious push as they fight to make the cut in the Eastern Conference. Now, barring something unforeseen, they’ll forge ahead without him (While McGee won’t be in the big man rotation, Kelly Olynyk is back in the mix to help support Brandon Bass, Tyler Zeller, and newcomer Jonas Jerebko in the frontcourt.)
The C’s missed out on that splashy addition, but Ainge has been hard at work remaking Boston’s roster, including the deadline deal that brought them guard Isaiah Thomas from the Suns. In his seven games with Boston, Thomas has averaged 20.1 PPG and 5.4 APG, numbers that improved from his first half of the year in Phoenix. His PER in this short sample size has picked up as well and his 21.7 rating is higher than any posting he’s had in a full season.
As of today, Boston sits 2.0 games back of the Hornets for the No. 8 seed with the Pacers and Nets standing in between them. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds (at ESPN.com), the numbers aren’t in the C’s favor as they have a 13.5% chance of making the postseason. But, the Celtics have found ways to win challenging games, like Wednesday night’s 85-84 victory over the Jazz sealed by Zeller’s buzzer-beating reverse layup. Guided by the inventive Stevens, do you see the Celtics finding their way into the playoffs this season?