Celtics Season Review & Off-Season Preview
What an ugly end to a fun ride. But even though the last image the Celtics gave us during the 2016-2017 season was an ass-whooping at the hands of LeBron James and company, that will not be how neither I nor this fan base will remember this current team. I would have to go back to 2011 to find a Celtics team that I enjoyed watching as much as this one and that team had 3 HOFers on it. I saw IT elevate to truly elite status and make his mark on the 2nd Team All-NBA list, Jaylen Brown prove that he was worthy of our #3 selection a year ago, and Al Horford impact our team as much as someone who only scored 15 ppg can possibly impact a team. Not only did this team earn the #1 seed for the first time since KG donned the green, but they reached the ceiling of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance which was a goal set before the season began. We had high expectations for this season and we achieved those; I'm willing to bet there isn't a disappointed Celtics fan in the country. But now that our playoff run has come to an end, the real season starts now. The summer of 2017 figures to be both eventful and telling for the league's most storied franchise. Here are just a few orders of business:
June 22nd's NBA Draft - Boston has the #1 pick in what is widely considered the best and deepest draft since 2003. This pick is the best asset they've had at their disposal since pulling the trigger on the 2013 trade with Brooklyn. So whether they use this pick or trade it for an established star, they have to make sure not to let this one go to waste. I've been a Markelle Fultz fan since last summer when he won the MVP on USA's U18 team. If I'm Danny Ainge, I don't let the opportunity to add a transcendent talent like Fultz pass me by. The C's can both contend now and build their next big 3 of the future consisting of Jaylen Brown, Fultz, and Brooklyn's 2018 Unprotected pick that might be just as high. The draft will start a domino effect of potential moves.
Free Agency on July 1st - Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just don't watch ESPN, you're probably aware that the Celtics are going to target the Utah Jazz's All Star swingman Gordon Hayward when Free Agency opens. It makes sense for both parties; Gordon played for Stevens in college, the Eastern Conference has an easier path to contention, Boston needs another scorer, and Hayward wants a better roster. The Celtics are going to go hard after him, but they need to be prepared if he opts to stay with Utah (which would make sense financially). Not only that, but they'll have to do some maneuvering to open up the cap space to sign Hayward. This would mean letting Unrestricted FAs Amir Johnson, Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, and James Young walk, as well as renouncing the rights to Kelly Olynyk. Other potential targets could be Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, and JaMychal Green.
Trade Market - Trader Danny is also going to be combing the market for potential blockbuster trades. The Celtics are stacked with potential trade chips in the forms of young and talented players, team friendly deals, expiring contracts, and draft picks. I'd surely expect the rumors of a trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George to ramp up this summer and they don't need to use Brooklyn's pick this year to acquire either of them. Especially in the case of Paul George; he could be had at a reduced rate given his contract situation and the fact that he didn't make an All-NBA team. Larry Bird's departure all but signaled that the Pacers are prepared to move on from their face-of-the-franchise superstar, and they better get something for him now before he walks for nothing. The possibility of rolling out a starting 5 next year of IT, Fultz/Bradley, Hayward, George, and Horford sounds very intriguing.
Whatever Ainge decides to do this summer will likely determine whatever direction this franchise is going to go for the foreseeable future. It's an exciting time to be a Celtics fan; our season starts on June 22nd.