Boston Celtics climb into Postseason Race – Even if they didn’t mean to

Danny AingeEarlier this season, the Boston Celtics dealt with all kinds of tanking allegations. Aside from trading star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, Boston President Danny Ainge didn’t exactly made the type of offseason moves that indicated a serious postseason run. But here we are with only a handful of games left and the postseason is exactly where it looks like these young Celtics are headed.

Currently, Boston is 36-42 and sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot. Their record is identical to the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets and one game ahead of the chasing Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (both 35-43). So looking at things now, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Celtics in the postseason. The question remains, though, what does Ainge think of his overachieving Celtics.

So far, he hasn’t exactly offered ringing endorsements over Boston’s run, which severely diminishes their chances of getting a high lottery pick. However, he does support his club as they battle for one of the Eastern Conference’s final two remaining playoff spots. Here’s a look at what Ainge told the Boston Globe:

“Hopefully we can get a little better [over the next few days] because I think that both players and coaches feel like there’s things we can do better, but especially with such a young team we need more practice time together to reach our full potential. That’s why being in the playoffs would be nice from that standpoint, having a couple of weeks of hard games to prepare for and focus. I think that’s even more valuable than what we’re going through right now, which is valuable. I’m excited about the last five games of the season, to see how it turns out. I’m excited we get a couple of days off to catch our breath and we get some practice time.

[con’d later] It’s hard to manage a bunch of different agendas at once and we’re just trying to get our players better. It’s been a very positive year whatever happens in these last five difficult games ahead of us. But I believe there’s been a lot that’s been accomplished. It’s a credit to the players and the coaches. You could be the greatest coach in the world but if you got players that don’t have character to understand where the team is at and what’s happening . . . It could be tough on any coach and I think it’s a credit to Brad [Stevens] and the players that they’re playing and developing a reputation of a team that shows up to play and they’re playing hard and they’re playing to win.”

isaiah-thomas-celticsAs Ainge alluded to, there’s plenty to like about this promising young team. Isaiah Thomas (19.7 PPG) has quite possibly become the NBA’s best bench player since coming over from Phoenix. Avery Bradley (11.4 PPG) has proven to be a very effective young point guard. Jared Sullinger (13.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG) is playing a nice low-post game for the Celtics. And Kelly Olynyk (10.4 PPG) is finally realizing his potential after a highly touted college career at Gonzaga.

In fact, just about everybody on the Celtics has made contributions this season, with nine players averaging at least 9.5 PPG. And this doesn’t even include sixth-overall pick Marcus Smart (7.6 PPG, 3.3 APG), who’s steadily seen his game improve over the year.

So while Ainge’s unannounced plans to tank for another high draft pick may not have worked out this season, there is more than enough to be excited about with this young and emerging team.

Rajon Rondo Rumors: A Trade to Dallas?

rajon-rondo-mavericks-tradeRumors have been surrounding the possibility of the Boston Celtics trading point guard Rajon Rondo for over a year. However, it seems like these trade rumors have been getting more heavy recently, with the Dallas Mavericks emerging as a very interested suitor.

The Mavericks’ current starting point guard is Jameer Nelson, who’s averaging 7.3 PPG, 4.1 APG and 2.7 APG. They’ve also heavily rotated in Devin Harris (9.1 PPG, 4.0 APG) and JJ Barea (7.9 PPG, 3.8 APG) at the position. However, reports indicate that Dallas wants to bolster their backcourt with Rondo, a do-it-all player who’s averaging 8.3 PPG, 10.8 APG and 7.5 RPG. If they were to pair the All-Star with shooting guard Monta Ellis (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG), they’d instantly have one of the league’s best backcourts. Furthermore, it would increase Dallas’ (19-8 record) chances of contending for the title.

Obviously acquiring Rondo won’t come cheap, and Boston GM Danny Ainge is looking to get the maximum value out of his team’s greatest on-court asset. Sources believe that Ainge could be taking a long-term approach to rebuilding that includes stockpiling more draft picks. They already have two first-round picks coming from the slumping Brooklyn Nets over the next three years. And Ainge is fielding offers for forward Jeff Green, wanting at least a first-round pick in exchange.

rajon-rondo-mavericks-trade-1Dallas, still in win-now mode, would have no trouble giving up at least one first-round pick. They spent $46 million to sign small forward Chandler Parsons (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG) this offseason and would have a decent chance of re-signing a star player like Rondo. The past point is key because Rondo seems very reluctant to re-sign with Boston this summer and be a part of a long-term rebuilding effort.

At 28 and with eight seasons under his belt, the 6.1″ guard is entering the prime years of his career. Injuries have plagued Rondo over the past three seasons, but this year, he finally seems healthy again and is playing All-Star caliber basketball. That said, the timing of a Rondo trade makes sense now because the Celtics want to trade him while he’s healthy and playing well, while the Mavericks are looking to do anything to close the gap between them and first-place Golden State (21-3 record).

So if you’re into Boston Celtics or Dallas Mavericks betting, keep this potential blockbuster deal in mind. After all, Rondo going to the Mavericks would certainly shake up their lineup and create some different lines surrounding their games.

Evaluating the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets Trade

kevin-garnett-paul-pierceWe’re now over halfway through the 2013-2014 NBA season and there’s been quite a bit of time to analyze the Boston Celtics/Brooklyn Nets summer trade. As you may recall, Brooklyn practically sold their future by giving up three first round picks, and they dumped some veterans with large contracts. In return, the Nets got three players in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, whom they thought would put them among the league’s elite.

So who’s the clear winner in this deal? Before we provide a clear-cut answer to this question, let’s take a more in-depth look at what exactly each team has gotten out of the trade thus far.

Boston Celtics

Rather than try and make another run at a low playoff seed with aging superstars, Danny Ainge chose to start from scratch by getting rid of Pierce and Garnett. In doing so, he virtually guaranteed that Boston would be bad and that’s exactly what has happened, with the Celtics sitting at 15-32 and tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for last in the Atlantic Division.

But being bad this year isn’t such a terrible thing. After all, the 2014 NBA Draft is loaded with talent, and if Boston can grab a top-5 pick, it’d be huge. Speaking of the draft, this team will also be getting three extra first-round picks in the future, which is immensely helpful to the rebuilding effort.

The major downside on Boston’s part is that they had to absorb Gerald Wallace’s contract, which will see the overpaid forward get another $30 million. It’s not all bad, though, because they were able to dump Jason Terry’s $10 million contract on Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets

paul-pierce-1As we discussed in the beginning, the Nets made this trade in order to compete with the East’s top teams like Indiana and Miami. And they paid a heavy price for getting Piece and Garnett by giving up a lot of draft picks. So far, their reward is a 20-23 record, the current seventh seed, and a couple of solid starters. Not exactly what you give up your draft future for…

Piece is averaging 13.3 PPG on just 41.3% shooting. He’s also averaging 3.1 APG, but turning the ball over 2.4 times per game too. Garnett hasn’t exactly been a godsend either, scoring 6.9 PPG on 42% shooting. However, he has done some good work on the boards, averaging 6.9 RPG. Jason Terry has been a virtual non-factor, scoring 4.4 PPG and only hitting 37.4% of his shots from the field.

If this team was built to win a championship, something needs to change quickly. The Nets have already taken a huge hit with Brook Lopez sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. And if the playoffs were to start today, they wouldn’t even have first-found home court advantage.

The Trade Winner?

Neither team has escaped with an A+ from this trade. Of course, it’s still pretty early to tell how both teams will make out from the deal in the long-term. Boston is a very bad team right now, and how all of their draft picks pan out won’t be determined until after 2016. New Jersey is currently the seventh seed and could very well move up in the standings.

But if we have to pick a winner now, it’s definitely Boston. They’re set up well for the future with players like Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. And they’ll likely add more promising young players over the next few years.