NBA Future Power Rankings: 4. Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics: The Celtics are perhaps the best example in NBA history of accumulating assets for a rebuild while remaining competitive. This combination helped the C’s look attractive enough for Kevin Durant to highly consider joining and for Al Horford to eventual sign a 4-year $113 Million contract (player option on the final season). The 30-year-old All-Star center’s signing marks perhaps the biggest free agent pickup in the Celtics storied franchise history. Horford is not a flashy star, but he will fit in nicely with the Celtics current roster and immediately become their best player. Horford can really do it all and makes things so much easier for any coach. Horford can play power forward or center alongside any other big man, and plays at an elite level on both ends of the floor. Aside from signing Horford, the Celtics offseason has been a big swing and a miss. The Celtics went all in on Durant who eventually decided to sign elsewhere, made what many consider a questionable pick by selecting Jaylen Brown 3rd overall, and failed to package some of their many assets for the young star that they have coveted. Perhaps the Celtics can change their fortunes by making a deal before February’s trade deadline for one of their many targeted All-Stars, a list of players that includes DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, and Jimmy Butler. While Horford is a big upgrade on the departed Jared Sullinger, Brown should be a downgrade during his rookie season from the more established Evan Turner. Danny Ainge has proven to be one of, if not the best GM in the NBA, and I’m sure he did his homework on Brown. Brown may very well turn into a good player, but I doubt he will be as good as the departed Evan Turner was last season. Ainge is smart to prioritize the long-term wellbeing of the franchise rather than go all in to win now, but losing a key piece to last years squad like Turner is a significant blow to a team with high aspirations for the upcoming season. The Celtics have so many young pieces that they don’t even know what to do with them. After all a team can only have 15 players on its roster. The Celtics entered the 2016 NBA draft with a staggering 8 draft picks! Ainge wisely dealt two of these picks (the 31st and 35th picks) for the Grizzlies top-8 protected 2019 1st round pick. In addition to this pick, the Celtics still have the right to swap 2017 1st round picks with the Nets, the Nets unprotected 2018 1st round pick, and the Clippers lottery protected 2019 1st round pick. With their remaining six picks the Celtics selected Brown, Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall), Ante Zizic (23rd overall), Demetrius Jackson (45th overall), Ben Bentil (51st overall), and Abdel Nader (58th overall). Yabusele and Zizic have already announced that they will spend next season improving their games overseas, allowing the Celtics to preserve much needed roster spots. All three of the C’s 2nd round selections have played well in the summer league, but there isn’t room for all of them on this year’s roster. Perhaps Boston can convince them to also develop overseas while retaining their draft rights like some of their other former 2nd round picks Marcus Thornton and Colton Iverson. In addition to all of these rookies, the Celtics have three promising second year players returning in Terry Rozier (16th overall in 2015), RJ Hunter (28th overall in 2015) and Jordan Mickey (33rd overall in 2015). Of all of these young players, Rozier, along with Jaylen Brown, have the best chance of playing major minutes next season. Rozier has impressed in the summer league and could take some of Turner’s minutes. The Celtics picked up team options on both Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko for next season, while also re-signing Tyler Zeller to a 2-year $16 Million contract. Alongside Horford and Kelly Olynyk, they will form an imposing and versatile frontcourt rotation. Many consider Brad Stevens the top up-and-coming coach in basketball, and he now has many lineups and players to experiment with. In addition to the aforementioned young players, the Celtics will have the excellent foursome of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder on the perimeter. Bradley and Smart could be the top defensive guards in the NBA, and Crowder gives them another excellent defender to matchup with bigger wings. The “other” Isaiah Thomas will no longer be questioned for his small stature after making his first All-Star appearance and becoming a bona fide 20-point scorer. Barring a big trade, I don’t believe this team is good enough to beat Cleveland in a playoff series this season, but they are a threat nonetheless and have plenty of help coming soon.