Celtics Futures: Boston Stays Put During 2018 Trade Deadline

celtics-aingeThe Boston Celtics already did a lot to improve their team in the offseason, including trading for star point guard Kyrie Irving. Perhaps this is why GM Danny Ainge didn’t feel pressured to make any big moves on Thursday’s trade deadline.

Boston stayed put despite the fact that Eastern Conference rival Cleveland made three trades that involved swapping six players for four new faces. The Celtics, meanwhile, only signed free-agent center Greg Monroe to fill out their last roster spot.

Another reason why Boston is comfortable right now is because they currently hold a 7.5-game lead over the Cavaliers, who bounced them from the conference finals last season. Boston (40-17) is in second place in the East, and they sit just a half game back of the Toronto Raptors (38-16).

Ainge Happy with the Current Roster

The fact that Cleveland made three deals at the Feb. 8 trade deadline wasn’t lost on Ainge. However, he wasn’t exactly dwelling on the moves either.

“We’d gotten a little bit of wind that they were making some big changes but without knowing the details of it,” Ainge told ESPN. “But, listen, we have our own problems to worry about and we’re just taking care of the Boston Celtics.”

kyrie-irving-celticsIn the end, Ainge felt like the Celtics roster is really good, and they don’t need to make any drastic moves right now.

“There was an idea that we didn’t need to do anything. We really liked this group of guys and, obviously, they have been having success,” he explained.

“We have a really good core young group of guys too, along with [All-Star big man] Al [Horford]. We don’t really want to make a mess out of that but, at the same time, you just never know when good players could become available. We had to kick the tires, but we didn’t feel the need to do much.”

Busy Summer Negates the Need for Major Trades

The Celtics felt like they needed some major upgrades after being handled in the conference finals by the Cavs. They returned just four players from last season’s squad in an attempt to change their fortunes in the 2017-18 campaign.

The biggest move involved acquiring Irving from Cleveland in exchange for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick.

gordon-hayward-celticsThey also signed free-agent forward Gordon Hayward to a deal. Unfortunately, Hayward broke his ankle in the first game of the season.

Many wondered how this year’s unit would come together, especially since Boston underwent such a makeover. They also dealt a player in Thomas who earned second-team All-NBA honors.

Thomas, who caused some drama in Cleveland, was dealt to the LA Lakers at the deadline. And he wasn’t exactly happy that Boston dealt him to the Cavs.

In hindsight, Boston’s decision to deal for Irving seems like a great decision now. And they’re considered to be favorites in the East by some.

Monroe should Help Boston’s Late Season Push

The Celtics already have Aron Baynes starting at center. But they acquired another starting-caliber big man in Monroe for relatively cheap. Monroe was able to negotiate a buyout with the Phoenix Suns in early February. Now, he’s going to be on a roster that’s already loaded with talent.

greg-monroe-celtics“Greg brings some experience, low-post play, and he’s a terrific passer from the perimeter,” said Ainge. “[Coach] Brad [Stevens] likes to run his offense through bigs out on the perimeter a lot, so that could be helpful, and he’s been a good rebounder.”

Monroe will compete with Baynes and backup center Daniel Theis for minutes. He’s no doubt set for some kind of role, thanks to his rebounding and low-post abilities.

Celtics will be Active on the Buyout Market

While we didn’t see any major trades from Boston, they do have plans to keep looking for solid veterans on the buyout market.

“We’ll look and see who’s bought out,” Ainge explained. “I don’t think there’s a big hole for us, so we’ll look for a good player who’s better than what we have.”

Most of the team’s deep bench players consist of inexperienced rookies. And Boston could use a little more scoring punch off their bench. This is why some expected them to go after Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans.

marcus-smart-celtics-cavsCertain fans felt like the Celtics should’ve use draft picks to go after Evans more aggressively. But Ainge didn’t feel comfortable giving up picks who could eventually become contributing players.

“I know what we think of them. Teams are appreciating the value of first-round picks,” said Ainge. “It’s easy to justify their value away because if you have a pick in the 20s, it has a 10 percent chance of being a rotation player.

“But people are understanding the value of those players and roster building. Most of the good teams around [the league] have players from the middle of the first and second round that are contributing.”

2018 Celtics Futures After Trade Deadline

Considering that Boston was quiet during the trade deadline, their 2018 futures didn’t improve.

In fact, they’re still behind Cleveland on our GTBets futures market, despite being several games ahead of them in the standings. Here’s a look at the top contending teams in the East right now.

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Champion Futures

Cleveland +125
Boston +200
Toronto +375
Milwaukee +1400
Washington +1800
Miami +4000
Indiana +5000

Much of the current futures are based on what LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have done in past seasons. That said, Boston may have to go through LeBron to win the conference, especially since the Cavs have won the East three straight seasons.

Jaylen Brown: Key to Boston’s 2017 Playoffs Success?

jaylen-brown-celticsThe Boston Celtics are having a very successful 2017 campaign, currently tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East’s top spot. And with +600 odds of winning the Eastern Conference right now, they’re a betting bargain.

When it comes to acknowledgements for Boston’s success, All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas (29.2 PPG), center Al Horford (14.0 PPG), and forward Jae Crowder (13.9 PPG) are often given much praise. Avery Bradley (16.4 PPG), Marcus Smart (10.6 PPG), and Kelly Olynyk (9.0 PPG) have also provided significant contributions.

But when it comes to the 2017 NBA Playoffs, rookie Jaylen Brown could be their secret weapon. Let’s discuss why below along with how Brown has improved greatly as the season has progressed.

Pushing through the Rookie Wall

Much has been made about what the Boston Celtics will do with the treasure trove of draft picks that they possess (via Brooklyn Nets). Last June, they used the No. 3 overall pick on Brown, rather than trading it away.

jaylen-brown-bostonFew expected the then-teenager to provide immediate contributions because he was considered an offensive project and athlete. Furthermore, he only had 34 games at Cal to prep for joining an upper-tier NBA team.

Averaging over 17 minutes per game and appearing in 76 contests, Brown has had his ups and downs this season. But he’s powered through and is now set to play a significant role during the playoffs.

“I’ve hit that rookie wall a few times but it’s all mental,” Brown explained. “I’ve got to be locked in everyday and be prepared to help this team… Scoring the ball, guarding different positions, I’m ready to do whatever is needed of me.”

Considering how versatile of a defender Brown is, he gives the Celtics somebody who can defend multiple positions, and play excellent pick-and-roll defense.

Standout in the 2016 Draft Class

When compared to the 2016 draft class, Brown has justified his lofty selection. After all, No. 1 pick Ben Simmons hasn’t even appeared in a game for the Philadelphia 76ers. The other top-5 players are on teams with a combined .332 winning percentage, including Minnesota (Kris Dunn), Phoenix (Dragan Bender), and Los Angeles (Brandon Ingram).

jaylen-brown-dunkBrown is actually the first top-5 selection to be headed towards the NBA playoffs since 2012.

Phoenix guard Devin Booker acknowledged this after scoring 70 points against the Celtics. “I told [Brown] he’s here in Boston,” said Booker. “You’re winning, so you should be more happy than me.”

Boston has indeed done very well, winning 50 games for the first time since 2011 – back when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen led the team. Interestingly enough, it was the Brooklyn deal for Pierce and Garnett that resulted in the draft pick that brought Brown here.

From Struggling Rookie to Important Contributor

The rookie had a limited role to start the season, which is no surprise with veterans Crowder and Gerald Green manning the small forward position. When he did see minutes, it wasn’t great since the team only averaged 98 points per 100 possessions (would rank last in NBA) with Brown on the floor.

Nobody questioned Brown’s defensive effort, nor his ability to get to the rim. It’s the latter that helped him average 14.6 points at Cal. But the big limitation has remained Brown’s ability to consistently knock down open jumpers. He shot 29.4% from three-point range in college, and only shot slightly better than this at 30.4% during his first four months of the NBA season.

jalen-brown-celticsBut there are signs that Brown has improved rapidly over the last few weeks. He shot 45.5% from beyond the arc in March, and the team’s offensive rating was 111.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor – 13 points better than before the All-Star break. Currently, Brown is shooting 34.6% from outside, which is right around the league average.

“Jaylen keeps growing every game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Where we really want to see growth from him is defensively. He’s a long guy who can do a lot for us, but we want to see him consistently give us quality minutes of the defensive end heading into the playoffs.”

A Turning Point

The point where Brown really started turning things around came in a late February contest with Detroit. The Pistons were trailing 98-96 with 30 seconds remaining, with Boston needing a big basket to hold off the challengers. Horford drove in, drew the defense, then kicked the ball out to Brown for a three-pointer. The rookie not only nailed the shot, but got fouled and made the free throw to put the game away.

“My shooting has always been something people critiqued me on,” Brown stated. “But ever since coming [to Boston] people told me to keep shooting and keep my confidence up. I’ve been shooting it a lot better of late, so I hope to keep that going the rest of the year.”

Moving into the Playoffs

Over the past few years, Boston has been satisfied making the playoffs. But they want more than just a first-round exit this season, given that they signed Horford and drafted Brown in the offseason. And Brown will no doubt play a role in helping the Celtics make a deep playoff run.

“Jaylen’s been able to fill in for us pretty much every night,” said Smart. “He adds another body for us and he’s a unique guy. We can play him anywhere on the floor and expect him to give us good minutes.”

As it stands now, Boston would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. And they’ll hold home-court advantage until at least the Eastern Conference Finals if they keep winning. Of course, with the last two years featuring first-round postseason exits, nothing will be guaranteed for this team, even with home court.

Brown has entered the 8-player rotation that’s expected to propel this Celtics team to its biggest heights since the turn of the decade.

It seems that he’s more up to the task than ever before since he’s averaging 9.4 PPG over the past six contests. Assuming Brown can keep putting up this kind of offensive production, it’ll make him a huge asset when combined with his athleticism and defense.