6 Things Boston Celtics Must Address Before 2014 NBA Offseason
Time is running short for the Boston Celtics this season. The offseason is fast approaching, and the team has a lot of decisions to make concerning its future.
A great chunk of those questions will hopefully be addressed over the summer with the 2014 NBA draft and free-agency period. However, what happens before then may actually decide how Boston proceeds down those two avenues.
In what remains of the 2013-14 NBA season, the Celtics need to figure some things out. What they learn about their own players, impending free agents and their general standing around the league will help make those decisions this summer.
Boston may be falling out of the running for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but there is still plenty of intrigue in these final weeks. Pay close attention and you could learn a lot.
Is Jeff Green Worth Sticking It Out?
The Boston Celtics' 20-41 record is proof of a few things. One of them has to be that Jeff Green isn't capable of leading a successful team.
There were high hopes that he would have a breakout year and enter the conversation for accolades like the Most Improved Player Award or a possible All-Star selection.
Unfortunately, 16.8 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting for a team that is 21 games under .500 isn't going to cut it for recognition at that level.
The Celtics have Green under contract at $9.2 million next year, and he has an identical player option for 2015-16. Using these final weeks as a gauge of him playing with a legitimate All-Star point guard, Boston will decide if it wants to move forward with him at that price for two more years.
If the Celtics choose to address him as a part of the problem instead of part of the solution, Green will be shopped more vigorously this offseason. He is already going to be the subject of plenty of rumors as the Celtics' best tangible asset—if you consider Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger secure, that is.
Playing with Rondo for much of February certainly didn't help Green's efficiency. Though he averaged 20.3 points per game during the month—seemingly his best month of the season—he shot just 38.9 percent overall and 31.9 from beyond the arc.
Those numbers don't warrant a promise of future employment from the Boston Celtics, but we'll see how March goes.
Can Avery Bradley Return and Prove Himself Again?
In terms of the Boston Celtics' current season, there is no need to rush Avery Bradley back from injury.
Obviously, the less games Boston wins moving forward, the better chances it has of landing a top pick. Having Bradley in the lineup as a competent shooting guard and All-NBA defender would adversely affect that.
However, holding him out for the sake of any fictional or real tanking is the wrong thing to do for Boston's future. Yes, not having him helps the C's lose games, but it saps their knowledge of how to approach his restricted free agency this summer.
Danny Ainge told The Boston Herald's Mark Murphy that the prognosis is good. However, Bradley is still out for another two weeks, most likely.
"Avery had a good workout today," said Ainge. "The MRI showed that things are way better, and he can increase his workload. He's doing good. It's just a bone bruise with inflammation in his ankle."
The faster he can get back, the more chances Boston has to analyze he and Rajon Rondo once more. That will give the team a better idea if he is worth the money it will take to make him its long-term starting shooting guard.
Bradley proved himself very well during the first half of this 2013-14 season. However, that was without Rondo, and now his injury concerns have flared up once again.
Does Rajon Rondo Have Any Additional Incidents?
I think we can safely put the birthday party incident behind us and move forward with our rarely objective analysis of Rajon Rondo.
Though he is not a free agent this summer, there will be massive decisions to make regarding his future with the franchise. He will draw a fair amount of interest in trade talks, as he always does, and has the additional factor of playing with an expiring contract in 2014-15.
Prior to the offseason, it will be interesting to see how Rondo handles himself. Since his return, Rondo has perhaps been able to disillusion himself with the possibility that Boston was still in the playoff race. The C's are now seven games out with just 21 to go. Those chances are fading fast.
If you find out what kind of leader a man is when things are at their worst, we should know shortly if Rondo is deserving of the C on his chest.
We'll find out if the good stories outweigh the bad ones down the stretch here. If there are no more incidents, silly or vitriolic, Boston will be able to approach the summer with a clearer picture of its future.
Where Does Kelly Olynyk Fit in the Pecking Order?
With the Boston Celtics unable or unwilling to deal Brandon Bass or Kris Humphries prior to the trade deadline, there is still a jumble of players sucking up playing time in the frontcourt.
That makes it difficult to address what Kelly Olynyk will be to this franchise moving forward. He has been getting minutes, and performing with them, but moving forward, where does he stand in the pecking order of this organization's future plans?
In February, Olynyk averaged 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. He shot a decent 43.7 percent from the field during the month.
How Brad Stevens uses Olynyk down the stretch, and how the rookie performs as a result, will give Boston a better idea on how to handle both Bass' trade options and Humphries as an unrestricted free agent.
Jared Sullinger has wrapped up the starting power forward spot as of now, but there is plenty of minutes behind him. The Celtics must address if they are going to give those to a young lottery pick in Olynyk or an experienced veteran like Bass or Humphries.
With a fair number of the top picks in the 2014 NBA draft being frontcourt players, Olynyk must also play for his job against those options, should the Celtics be in position to draft one.
Do the Celtics Need Point Guard Insurance?
As the Celtics creep toward the offseason, their needs are becoming slightly clearer every game.
Phil Pressey has an non-guaranteed contract next season for about $816,000. While not a mammoth concern in the pecking order of things Boston must address for the future, Pressey definitely warrants some attention as the season wraps up.
He is seeing a pretty regular 10-15 minutes a night and earning some starts when Rondo rests on back-to-backs, but he hasn't shot the ball well all season. Pressey is obviously an undersized NBA player, even at point guard, and his inability to get clean looks regularly won't help his cause for that contract getting picked up.
What Pressey can do is prove he has developed a relationship on the court with some of his important teammates. If the Celtics see that Pressey has good chemistry as a distributor for Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk, the small burden of a roster spot at less than $1 million becomes more attractive.
He'll get a few more major opportunities this season to prove himself worthy of future attention, but if he doesn't shoot better than 40 percent, it will be tough for any team to keep him on an NBA roster.
Is Kris Humphries Worth Bringing Back?
Going along with the Kelly Olynyk discussion is a similar one with Kris Humphries.
The major difference is that Olynyk is under contract for next season, while Humphries is an unrestricted free agent.
Getting his $12 million off the books will be a fantastic relief for the Celtics, and it would free up plenty of money to re-sign Avery Bradley and deliver to their two first-round picks. However, the possibility of bringing him back on a cheaper contract still exists.
Humphries has been solidly productive for Boston and been, by all accounts, a quality locker room veteran. The hits his reputation took following his pop-culture wedding debacle and last year's brawling, scratching incident with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics appear to either have been blown out of proportion or simply put behind him.
Humphries has put up good numbers when he's received minutes this year. He has posted double figures in scoring in five of his last 11 games and went for 18 points and 10 boards against the Indiana Pacers last week. Olynyk did sit out that game with a toe injury, granting Humphries 37 minutes.
These final 20 or so games are very important for Humphries, who will try to convince both the Celtics and all other NBA teams that he is a viable big man worthy of a new contract.
Boston will have to weigh its favorite choices in the draft, Brandon Bass' trade opportunities and Olynyk's development with how Humphries looks alongside Jared Sullinger and whoever else the team deems has a future with this franchise.