Previewing the Boston Celtics’ Offseasonby John Devereaux September 30, 2020 1 comment
The Boston Celtics exited the extended 2019-2020 season after falling to the Cinderella story Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Losing in six games, the projected contenders struggled in the playoffs. During Boston’s run in the Orlando bubble, the team was exposed by multiple issues that surround the team.
Celtics Need a Bench
The main perpetrator that infiltrated this team was the lack of bench help. The Celtics have a very young team with an average age of just 24.4 years old. Most of the Celtics’ bench is under 24, and most of them are still rookies. Romeo Langford and Grant Williams were the only rookies to get quality minutes through the playoffs.
Langford ended his playoff run due to a wrist injury, which he recently had surgery on, while Williams had inconsistent minutes throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, Tacko Fall and Carsen Edwards only saw a few plays in three rounds. The Celtics’ bench mostly consisted of Brad Wanamaker, Enes Kanter, Robert Williams, and Gordon Hayward. These four players had ups and downs throughout the run.
The Gordon Hayward Contract Situation
What is worrisome for the Celtics is that those bench players could all be free agents. Hayward has a player option for roughly $34 million. The chances of him declining the money are low, but the cap hit to the team will hinder their plans to expand the bench. If Hayward is more team-oriented and felt that this could be his last chance to win a championship with a large role on a team, he could decline the player option.
It would be great to see the 30-year-old restructure his contract over this offseason. Declining his option and taking around $20 million a year would benefit the Celtics. This would open up $15 million in cap space, which could be used to sign a veteran guard that can replace Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker when they are on the bench.
Boston Celtics’ 2020 Free Agents
Another player with an option is Enes Kanter. Kanter had a mediocre year but showed flashes of dominance. Kanter stepped up with the minutes given to him, especially in the playoffs. The player option is worth $5 million for next season. Kanter might opt out if he believes he can gauge more interest from other teams, though he is a valuable big man for the Celtics offensively. It would be beneficial to keep Kanter for one more year.
Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye are also free agents. Wanamaker is a restricted free agent, while Ojeleye has a team option. Neither are taking up a lot of cap space so the Celtics could let them both walk. The upcoming free-agent class is not very talented but has a ton of valuable bench players. With the rising rookies in Tremont Waters and Edwards, it would seem pointless to keep Wanamaker around.
With that said, it would be a better idea to either trade or sign a veteran point guard such as a Jeff Teague, Reggie Jackson, or D.J. Augustin. These guards could come off the bench and have an impact offensively, something Wanamaker was just average at. These players could also provide great veteran leadership to the young Celtics as they have been in the league for so long.
Ojeleye is a great defender but is inconsistent offensively. Head coach Brad Stevens loves having his grit and grind defenders, but replacing him with another scoring wing would help the team. Even if Ojeleye were to not be re-signed by the Celtics, his role can be replaced by Grant Williams. Williams can even exceed what Ojeleye has done.
Rookie Free Agents
Fall and Waters, who were rookies this year, are also restricted free agents. Fall is a fan favorite, and it would be in the best interest of the Celtics to re-sign him to a two-way contract. He had flashes throughout the season. Being 7-foot-5 is a rare physical trait in the NBA. When Fall is in the paint, he is near unguardable and a tremendous rebounder with his height. He is still a raw prospect, but he will be worth the wait.
Waters had some decent games in the NBA and was really impressive in the G-League. He will be a deadly ball handler in the league but defensively will struggle, thus being a problem in the Stevens system. Although the Celtics were high on all their rookies this year, his spot on the team will be in question for next year. Chances are he will only be signed by the Celtics to a two-way contract. Waters could gauge interest from other teams instead.
In all, the Celtics’ offseason will be based on Hayward’s decision. Hayward has mentioned that he wants to stay in Boston, and fans want him to stay. But with the contract he has now, Hayward is holding back the team’s growth. If Hayward opts out and signs on a smaller deal, this Celtics team could restructure their bench for another deep playoff run that could lead to championship No. 18.
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