Of all the times we've heard Danny Ainge go on T&R to talk about the state of his basketball team, I can't say I was ever more interested to hear what he had to say than I was this morning. Coming off another pathetic loss, the season spiraling out of control, the reality of the play in tournament, I really wanted to hear his perspective. After all, this is the team that he built. You can blame the players, you can scream on Twitter for Brad to be fired for some reason, but at the end of the day if you are going to talk about the current state of the 2020-21 Boston Celtics, it starts and ends with Ainge.
Remember, he usually shoots it pretty straight in these appearances. Sometimes you have to read in between the lines of what he's saying, but he's also on record publicly declaring that his roster was pretty much dogshit and not true contenders. If you'd like, you can hear the whole interview here
but for the sake of this blog I'll focus on some areas that I found not only relevant, but pretty interesting
Well….duh. The roster we're watching right now can't even beat the fucking Cavs. With the four starters out, it was a great chance to look at how the "others" looked. The answer? Danny Ainge just told you. The fact that he said this is not surprising in the slightest, the surprising thing would have been if he didn't say that.
Here's the reality of this team's roster contract situations of the guys you would think are most likely to be moved/replaced in my opinion
Semi - Unrestricted free agent
Tristan Thompson: 1 fully guaranteed year in 2021-22 for $9.7M
Grant Williams: 1 fully guaranteed year in 2021-22, a club option for 2022-23
Carsen Edwards: 1 fully guaranteed year in 2021-22, a club option for 2022-23
Luke Kornet: Unrestricted free agent
Romeo Langford: 1 fully guaranteed year in 2021-22, a club option for 2022-23
Tremont Waters: Restricted free agent
Tacko Fall: Restricted free agent
Jabari Parker: 1 non-guaranteed year in 2021-22
So, looking at this list you have two guaranteed open roster spots in Semi/Kornet, and then you probably can count Jabari's spot as well. That's 3. I think it's fair to say that unloading guys like Grant/Carsen etc in terms of the guaranteed deals, probably isn't bringing back all that much. Maybe some 2nd round picks or something? They don't make a lot of money, so I consider them throw in pieces as salary filler. I also think it's more likely we see Carsen moved than Grant.
In terms of money to spend, the Celts have some options. They'll have the non tax paying mid level at like $9.5M, the Bi-Annual Exception at $3.7M, the remaining $11M from the Hayward TPE, a $5M Theis TPE, a $4.7M Kanter TPE and a small $1.6M Jeff Teague TPE. Remember though, they also need to hopefully re-sign Evan Fournier. It all comes down to what type of tax bill Wyc will step up and pay. This is why they traded Theis in the first place, to get under the repeater tax line. If you feel like you need to replace your roster with actual NBA talent, you're going to have to pay for it.
I do wonder if we've seen the last of Romeo. Between him and Nesmith, I think we know which way the team is leaning. Even at a time like this, where they desperately need wing/perimeter defense help, Romeo is barely touching the floor.
What often confuses me is when you have the same people that scream about how this roster sucks, but then in the same breath scream that Brad has to get fired. Seems a little reactionary to me. I'll never really understand how one rushed covid season where Brad never got to actually play his top 7 in a game for even 1 minute suddenly outweighs his entire body of work. This comment from Ainge shouldn't be a surprise, he's said it before time and time again. Wyc has said the same thing publicly.
This isn't to say things shouldn't be evaluated at any point when it comes to Brad. If they improve the roster this offseason and in a more normal season next year we get the same result, that's a different argument.
I'm also working on a theory of why they are so committed to Brad. I think of it as insurance. In the event we live in a world where one of the Jays wants out, this team is going to have to enter another rebuild. That's a situation we know Brad can handle and produce in. I wonder if that plays a role in everything and why he got an extension so early. The last thing you want to do is fire Brad, then one of the Jays does want out and you're left with nothing. That would be a disaster.
There's a reason I listed the players I did at the top of the blog, and it's this comment right now. If you are someone who is screaming and demanding Ainge trade Marcus Smart, I feel like you're barking up the wrong tree. This does not mean he's untouchable, but it'll probably have to take the right deal for Ainge to even consider moving someone like Smart.
The reality of the situation though is the team has a tough decision to make. Smart enters the last year of his guaranteed deal next season and is an UFA next summer. His value is only going to go down the longer you hold onto him in the event that you don't think he's part of the future or if you think he's going to get an offer that's more than you want to pay. Remember, he can leave for nothing. Even less money if he wants if he feels it's a better opportunity.
I think it's more likely that we see Ainge replace around the edges and go into the season with the same core. If we get to the deadline and it's another year like this year, that's when I could see someone like Smart be moved.
I also think it's a big time stretch to expect Danny Ainge to go on the radio and admit to the world that he's going to trade Marcus Smart or any of their key guys. Especially right before the playoffs.
Now this is what I found most interesting. I would love to know what these are in the eyes of Ainge/Brad. We know what the perceived issues are. That the players have tuned out Brad, Perk saying the team is tired of Marcus Smart, Tatum/Brown can't lead and are selfish players, they don't play with consistent effort, the list goes on and on. I want to know what they feel are the real issues. Is it really just their depth? Is it the fact that some of the free agent signings they thought would make an impact have been mostly swings and misses?
They tried to get Ainge to say it by straight up asking what those real issues are, and Ainge replied "nice try". I suppose we'll get the answer this offseason, but I'd give anything to know what Ainge feels like they are right now.
We also got some shit that you could expect like points about the injuries and covid and all that stuff which is obviously more than fair. People often times get confused and say if you talk about that stuff you're making an excuse. No. That is not an excuse for their pathetic play. But it is part of their story and helps provide context to this entire season. There's a difference. Nobody is saying they are only bad because of injuries/covid. They've had enough talent available to beat the worst teams in the league. But it's also true that their inconsistent lineups and guys available has played a role in the overall product we've watched this year.
What was more telling was when Ainge straight up said the team was not as good as they thought they were. Welcome to the club Danny. That's basically my life. Now we just have to wait and see what he does about it, because again, it all starts and ends with him.