The Boston Celtics have a very deep roster. It’s even a little crowded as they have 16 players with a guaranteed contract for only 15 roster spots, plus two more players thanks to the new addition of the two-way contract.
Danny Ainge has built a pretty deep team and there are some good, talented player on this roster who won’t hold that much vale to the Celtics in the 2017-18 season because of all the talent ahead of them. Boston will surly be close to the top of the Eastern Conference standings in this upcoming season just looking up and down this roster will tell you all the reasons why.
There are 18 bodies currently signed up to play basketball for the Celtics next season! Here they are, ranked by how valuable each one is to the team.
T-17. Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird
Boston drafted Allen and Bird 53rd and 56th respectively in this past draft and they each received the first ever two-way contracts in franchise history. The two-way contract is a new feature in the NBA this season as the league is trying to make the rebranded G-League more competitive and appealing. These deals allow teams to expand their roster by two spots, but players with a two-way deal are only allowed to spend 45 days at the NBA level while spending the rest in the G-League. Because the Celtics had a full 15-man roster last season, Abdel Nader wasn’t ever allowed to get “called up” to the team even for a practice; the guy also wasn’t allowed to show up at Celtics training camp or play in preseason games. Allen and Bird will be allowed to use their 45-days to come up and workout with the team throughout the season and also let them partake in training camp while also getting regular minutes in the G-League. Something really bad would have to occur on the injury front for them to ever play in a game, but it is a nice player development luxury that no team ever had before.
16. Abdel Nader
Fans and local media who had never watched Jordan Mickey play decided to really hype him up when Danny Ainge “stole” him in the second round just because he had led the nation in blocked shots at LSU and then dominated the summer league. He wound up appearing in just 41 games over two seasons with the Celtics before getting waived, not even totaling 200 minutes on the floor. Nader could be the next coming of Mickey. Boston opted not to sign him last year after taking him 58th overall pick, so he wound up stashing himself in the D-League by signing an unattached contract with the Maine Red Claws. The Egyptian born small forward wound up having a great season in Maine, winning Rookie of the Year and helping the Red Claws advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. He’s now signed a deal with the Celtics as people have begun to hype him up, but with 16 guaranteed contracts for 16 spots he might wind up being the odd man out. Don’t think Ainge is afraid to cut a rookie before even letting him play a regular season game, Boston signed 2016 second round pick Ben Bentil to a guaranteed deal last summer and wound up releasing him at the end of the preseason.
15. Semi Ojeleye
A lot of what was just said about Nader applies to Ojeleye too. There’s a lot of hype surrounding what he can do and he has some great college numbers plus a strong summer league showing to justify the hype. A lot of mock drafts even had him as a late first round pick and Ainge was able to scoop him up early in round two. But like Nader, Ojeleye is a wing player and there are just too many similar guys ahead of him to justify any regular minutes for the Celtics this season. Even if he winds up making the final 15-man roster, only 13 players can dress each night and if everybody is healthy there’s no way he’ll even be active.
14. Daniel Theis
This one is a total wild card. If Gregg Popovich made this move, you’d just assume him picking up a 25-year old from Europe who went undrafted in 2013 after declaring would become a star. However, it’s a little different for the other 29 teams in the NBA. Theis is – at the very least – an interesting player. He’s been a German League All-Star in each of the past four seasons and won a league title with Brose Bamberg in each of the last three. The 6’9″ big man took home 2017 German League Defensive Player of the Year honors and has shot over 40% from three since entering the league. Will it translate? Who knows. But it doesn’t seem like Brad Stevens is really counting on too much from him anyway.
13. Shane Larkin
Handing Larkin a guaranteed contract seemed weird because it put the Celtics at 16 guaranteed contract – one over the league limit – and he also doesn’t seem good enough to crack the rotation. It was actually a bit surprising that Larkin couldn’t find a home in the NBA last season. When we last saw him, he was averaging 7.3 PPG on 42.2% shooting and a 36.1% clip from beyond the arc to go along with 4.4 APG in a bench role with the Brooklyn Nets. Larkin then went over to Europe last season where he was named All-Spanish League Second Team. While nobody is thinking about this move right now, the former 18th overall pick has posted per possession averages at the NBA level are right on par with Terry Rozier’s across the board and he’s only one year older. There just won’t be enough minutes for them to both play point guard behind Thomas and Smart, so the newcomer might wind up being the odd man out.
12. Guerschon Yabusele
Yabusele is a man between positions like most of this roster and he’ll struggle to find minutes because there are so many better players just like him. The French forward is essentially a poor man’s Marcus Morris and if you keep reading, I’m literally about to refer to Morris as a poor man’s Al Horford when his time comes. He’s 6’8″ with some floor stretching abilities, but he also doesn’t project to be a great rebounder at the NBA level. Yabusele also broke his foot while training and he hasn’t been able to do much this summer, so a lot of his training camp and preseason will likely be centered around getting into better shape instead of playing basketball with his new teammates. His best value to the Celtics might be getting inserted into games that could or have turned ugly. Yabusele has been picking up the reputation as a “dirty” player in every league he’s played in so far and he spent a good chunk of his teenage years using boxing as a side activity from basketball.
11. Ante Zizic
There was potential for Zizic to be higher on this list, but the signing of Aron Baynes really cut out his window to have a regular role on this team. It’s hard for a team to use over ten guys consistently in a rotation, and the 20-year old rookie center might wind up being the first man out. It’ll also be tough to send Zizic down to the Maine Red Claws because there are also a ton of guys behind him who still wouldn’t be playing even if a few guys got injured during a game. The best case scenario for the Celtics would be him slowly showing enough to overtake the role that Baynes has as the season goes along, allowing them to easily move on when Baynes’ contract expires in the offseason and not have to search for a bargain bin rebounder again.
10. Terry Rozier
Nobody really seemed to know much about Rozier’s actual role on the Celtics last year, outside of the fact that he had a role. He was actually the only player on the team who was active and dressed for all 82 regular season games last year, but there were seven games scattered throughout the year where he just didn’t play and there were also ten other games where he played single digit minutes. This trend continued in the playoffs as he received one DNP – Coach’s Decision but played in the other 17 contests. Rozier saw over 20 minutes of action six times but also played single digit minutes in another five games. You might think that losing Avery Bradley could open up the door for more consistent minutes, but Brad Stevens is making it seem like his army of wing players will consume a ton of playing time at both power forward and shooting guard. This means that Rozier will probably wind up with the same role of playing in most games, but never really knowing when those minutes will come.
9. Jayson Tatum
Summer league gave us a number of reasons to get excited about this kid and he’ll get his fair share of opportunities as a rookie, even though Boston has a very wing heavy roster. Tatum should wind up having a rookie campaign that mirrors what Jaylen Brown did last season. His counting statistics might not look that pretty when stacked up against other rookies, but he’ll also be playing significantly less minutes as a result of getting drafted by a team with established depth around him. Although when Brown was called upon, he answered by averaging 10.0 PPG with a 45.9% mark from the floor and a 40.4% clip from downtown across his 20 regular season starts. The former Duke standout should be able to do the same thing as an energy guy getting just 15 or so minutes off the bench who can really step up his game when the Celtics need him the most.
8. Aron Baynes
It was clear that the Celtics wanted to add a veteran rebounder to the roster but they had very little cap space to do it, which led them to getting Baynes on a one-year deal worth $4.3 million. Expect Baynes to have a regular role in this rotation, but don’t expect it to be that big. He’s averaged at most 16.0 minutes per game – the 2014-15 campaign when he was with the San Antonio Spurs – and the New Zealand native has averaged just 14.1 minutes per game over his five year career. Although his playing time will likely be limited, Baynes will be able to bring in rebounds when on the floor. He reeled in 15.6% of available rebounds when in the game last season, which is a step up from anybody on last year’s Celtic team. Kelly Olynyk was the team leader, bringing in 13.3% of available rebounds.
7. Jaylen Brown
Brad Stevens has seen lottery picks flourish under him with Brown joining Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart as players who were selected to an All-Rookie team. There were some ups-and-downs for him last year, but he wound up having to start 20 regular season games due to various injuries and the Celtics went a solid 13-7 in those contests. He was reduced to strictly garbage time in Boston’s first round playoff series but he wound up forcing his way into the rotation after hitting a key shot towards the end of game one against the Washington Wizards, a situation he was only playing in because so many players were in foul trouble. He wound up scoring nine points on 60% shooting in the epic game seven clincher of that series and went on to average 9.0 on 58.6% shooting in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Expect him to continue his growth as a player this year with an even bigger day-to-day role in the rotation.
6. Marcus Morris
Morris is a power forward who has the ability to score inside and he’s also a 35.5% shooter from three in his six year career. He can defend a number of different player at a high level but rebounding can be a bit of an issue at times for the veteran power forward. Basically, he’s a poor man’s Al Horford but a player like that will go a long way in making Boston arguably the deepest team in the Eastern Conference. Morris has spent the past two seasons as a starter with a big workload of minutes on a slightly below average Detroit Pistons team – averaging 14.1 PPG over that stretch – but those number might go down as he’ll have to play a smaller role with the Celtics. Don’t let those smaller numbers fool you though, he’ll still bring a lot to the table and probably wind up being a big upgrade over a guy like Amir Johnson.
5. Jae Crowder
This offseason has made Crowder expendable, but as long as he’s on the roster he’ll still do more than Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Both Brown and Tatum should be regarded as more valuable pieces in the long term picture, but Crowder was one of five guys on the team averaging over 30 minutes per game last year and his 39.8% shooting clip from beyond the arc led the team. He might wind up as the Celtics starting power forward, which shouldn’t scare people because he was essentially doing that in the postseason last year once Gerald Green replaced Amir Johnson as a starter.
4. Marcus Smart
Avery Bradley is gone so now Smart is the team’s top dog on the defensive end. He isn’t quite the on-ball defender that Bradley is, but he definitely has the ability to guard more types of players and he should be showcased enough to make a better run at an All-Defense team now that it’s just him in the backcourt. Smart does need to become a better offensive player as he’s not really close to what Bradley was on that side, but he still carries a lot of value to this Celtics team because in a guard dominated league he’ll be the guy covering the opponent’s best guard every night.
3. Gordon Hayward
Hayward coming to Boston is a “rich get richer” situation, which looks even better with playoffs teams such as the the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks all dismantling their rosters and losing their better players to the Western Conference. It doesn’t seem like too many conference foes around the Celtics got that much better this summer, so having Hayward to help shoulder some of the scoring load is really something that can help Boston take even another step forward. His versatile play will allow head coach Brad Stevens to use a number of different lineup combinations.
2. Isaiah Thomas
There are some glaring weak points to Thomas’ game, but he makes up for his minimal impact on the defensive end with the ability to score with ease. Last season was absolutely crazy. He had shot just 41.1% from the field after getting traded to Boston at the 2015 deadline and was only able to bump it up to 42.8% in his first full season with the team, which was the third lowest shooting percentage among the league’s top 15 scorers that year. The scoring numbers were great, but the efficiently wasn’t. That all changed last season as he averaged 28.9 PPG – finishing behind only James Harden and Russell Westbrook – while also shooting a career best 46.3% from the field.
1. Al Horford
A high scoring average gives all the hype to Thomas, but Horford is the glue that keeps this Boston squad together night in and night out. He is the team’s “Mr. Everything” and it starts with his status as one of the elite passing big men in the league. Horford averaged 5.0 APG last season, which was second among all listed power forwards and centers; only Draymond Green finished ahead of him. His scoring, defensive and rebounding abilities might not be elite compared to his peers, but he’s still good in every one of those areas and there are no weak points in his game. The Celtics were the top seed in the Eastern Conference last year and posted a .646 winning percentage in the regular season, but they went 7-7 in games that Horford missed.