Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart will look to fulfill Evan Turner’s role on the Celtics next season (Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the biggest questions the Celtics will have to answer the start of the regular season will be; ‘who will emerge as the team’s sixth man?’

 In a two-year span, Turner (now playing with the Trail Blazers) flourished as the Celtics’ first option off the bench — he provided scoring, rebounding and was the team’s secondary ball handler. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season — his production will be surely missed.

For a guy who finished fifth in voting for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award and made game-deciding plays at the end of games, there’s certainly a void left behind. However, the Celtics do have more than a few options off the bench — guys who have the potential to perform on both ends of the floor at a high rate and are very much capable of becoming the team’s newest sixth man next season. 

Here are the best options:

1. Marcus Smart 

Heading into his third NBA season, expectations are at an all-time high for Smart. Last year, he carved out a role for himself as the team’s second-best back court defender (behind Avery Bradley), while also showing flashes of his scoring prowess. Most notably, a 26-point performance against arguably the best point guard in the league — Russell Westbrook — Smart made 9-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc and led the C’s to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City. 

An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:

“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this”

The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop off from what was the best scoring night of his career.

Although Smart’s suffocating defense limited Westbrook to shoot only 25 percent (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role — he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of last season’s April playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — then there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.

Smart, who finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds, five assists and two steals against the Hawks — delivered in the fourth quarter by scoring eight consecutive points (including back-to-back 3’s), pulling down crucial rebounds and made critical defensive stops against the best player on the floor — Paul Millsap — towards the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime. The C’s tied the series, 2-2, and Smart finished with a game-high plus-24 rating.

He also earned himself a few All-NBA Defensive Team votes and it’s only a matter of time before we see Smart on one of the All-Defensive Teams in the near future. As an elite defender with an 8.4 point-career average, he’s a lock in Stevens’ rotation but if can shoot at a higher level, he’ll undoubtedly become the Celtics’ newest sixth man.

The ceiling is still very high for Smart and maybe this upcoming season ought to be the year we see him make humongous strides.

 

2.  Jaylen Brown

At 19, Brown was one of the youngest players selected in the 2016 NBA Draft and is already considered to be one of the most unpopular first round picks in recent Celtics history. With that in mind, Brown entered Summer League with a chip on his shoulder and proved to his naysayers how valuable he can be for the C’s in his rookie season.

Brown — who was projected to be drafted outside of the top-5 by most draft experts, fared well this summer against the two draftees that were selected before him — Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

2016 Summer League Player Stats 


Ben Simmons: 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists

Brandon Ingram: 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists

Jaylen Brown: 16 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists

Brown displayed athleticism, quickness and the ability to initiate contact and get to the free-throw line. He scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games and got to the charity stripe 36 times in three games — easily his most impressive stat of the summer. His ability to attack the hoop is certainly what he does best.

However, if he’s going to become a vital piece for the Celtics next season, it’s going to be his one-on-one defense that’ll get him there. Brown finished with a combined seven steals in his last two games against the Cavaliers and Blazers — he applies his quickness and great footwork on the defensive end by staying in front of his opponent and clogging the passing lanes.

So, what’s his biggest flaw?

Shooting.

Brown is not an effective shooter and is going to have to develop a jump shot throughout his rookie season. As Jae Crowder’s back up, Brown is expected to be a nice spark off the bench and if he happens to develop a jumper to complement his speed and aggressive defense, it could be enough for him to become the sixth man for the C’s.

 

3. Terry Rozier

As he heads towards his second NBA season, Rozier has every reason to feel good about himself. After playing meaningful minutes for Stevens in last April’s playoff series against the Hawks, he followed that up by becoming the Celtics’ best player this summer — averaging a team-high 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Although NBA summer league stats don’t always (almost never) translate the same in the regular season, Rozier’s confidence is definitely one thing he will carry into the 2016-17 season. He’s a secondary facilitator — a role that was very important for Turner and the Celtics last season. Rozier is also an above-average defender — an attribute that will keep him on the floor.

He also proved he can score at the rim and has improved on his outside touch — something the Celtics are always looking for. If Rozier is able to make the leap and put together an over-the-top performance in preseason, he’ll have a shot at becoming Stevens’ first option off the bench.

 

4. Gerald Green

The Celtics’ 2005 first round pick returns to Boston — where his NBA journey began at 18 years old. The former dunk champion will look to rekindle his production of two years ago when he was able to put together the best season of his nine-year career.

As a journeyman, Green has played for six teams since the last time he played for Boston — including stops with the Rockets, Mavericks, Pacers, Suns and the Heat.

As an NBA Sixth Man of the year candidate, Green shot a career-high 45 percent from the floor in 2014, including a 40 percent clip from deep. He eventually became a starter the following year before playing for the Heat last season — where he only averaged eight points in 22.6 minutes a night. By the the start of the postseason, he was behind Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson in the depth chart and his playing time dipped to 9.2 minutes a night.

After finishing the 2015-16 season as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league, the Celtics hope Green can recapture the outside touch he had in Phoenix. He’s a 36.1 percent career shooter from behind the arc but is going to have his work cut out for himself in trying to jump in front of Smart, Rozier and Brown — three candidates who are eager to become the team’s newest sixth man throughout the 2016-17 season.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

It appears it’s time to put all of the Abdel Nader question marks to rest, for now at least.

According to Nader’s agent Cervando Tejada, the Celtics’ 58th pick in this year’s draft will sign with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ D-League affiliate.

According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Nader did receive a “lucrative offer” from an unnamed European club.

 

Nader is an interesting situation for Boston. The former Iowa State forward was expected to head straight overseas, but that changed after a stellar summer league performance that saw him average 10 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from behind the arc and 49 percent from the field.

The problem is if he went to Celtics training camp and did not make the roster — the most likely outcome — the Celtics would lose his draft rights. This signing will circumvent that process, allowing the Celtics to retain his rights regardless of what happens at camp.

Though not officially invited to camp, Nader would serve as the 20th and final member of the training camp roster should the team extend the invitation. In any case, the C’s would have to cut the roster to a maximum of 15 by the beginning of the season.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

The Celtics added another body to their backcourt, signing former Georgia Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, per multiple reports.

The 22-year-old went undrafted in June but played four summer league games with the Nets, averaging 2.8 points and one board in 13.2 minutes of work.

As a senior, the All-ACC player averaged 16.9 points, 2.4 boards, 3.3 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He was a four-year starter for the Yellow Jackets.

Though the signing is small, the ripple is much larger, as it brings the Celtics training camp roster to 19 of 20 available spots. (For more on the Celtics roster and how training camp rosters work, click here). All things considered, Georges-Hunt is not a likely candidate to crack the opening day roster and will be on a fast-track to the D-League.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder does not bring anything to the table that does not already exist, and as for the gaping hole that still remains with the Celtics — 3-point shooting — Georges-Hunt shot a mere 32.9 percent from beyond the arc in his college career, including 34.2 percent as a senior.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Isaiah Thomas finally took some time for himself during his action-packed summer, marrying his longtime girlfriend Kayla Wallace in Seattle. The C’s All-Star point guard noted via Instagram it was “by far the best day of my life.”

 

My beautiful wife and kids #ThomasFamily

A photo posted by Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) on Aug 21, 2016 at 4:04pm PDT

 

 

My life is complete now! #Blessed

A photo posted by Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) on Aug 21, 2016 at 3:53pm PDT

However, it was a later post on the photo-sharing website that caught the eye of Celtics fans.

 

I ride for my squad Ima champion… Appreciate my guys coming out! #CsUP #SullyStillACelticAtHeart lol

A photo posted by Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) on Aug 21, 2016 at 7:59pm PDT

Right to left, there’s Jordan Mickey, R.J. Hunter, Amir Johnson, Thomas, Terry Rozier, Jae Crowder and Jared Sullinger. The Sullinger appearance was complete with a hashtag of SullyStillACelticAtHeart.

Sullinger, set to begin his first season as a member of the Raptors, did not exactly burn bridges when he departed Boston, but there was not much love loss when the oft-criticized big man moved on to Canada.

Also in attendance was new Bucks guard Jason Terry — who has never been teammates with Thomas in the NBA but is a Seattle native — as well as Jamal Crawford and controversial boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Jan 27, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics during the first half at TD Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Allen, 41, has reached out to the Bucks and Celtics about making a comeback (Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)

Although it would be a sweet storybook ending to see the NBA’s greatest 3-point shooter donning a green and white uniform one final time, I’m afraid there’s no room for a Ray Allen comeback in Boston.

For a young up-and-coming team that continues to steadily climb towards the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are a team that’s better off without Allen.  

Allen, 41, told the Hartford Courant he’s reached out to the Celtics and the Bucks about a comeback – a report that left me torn as I asked myself ‘is seeing Ray Allen back in Boston best for the Celtics or best for Ray Allen?’

Only five players have played in the NBA at the age of 41 – Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Dikembe Mutombo.  

Cousy’s – the only guard on the list – final season was cut short when he attempted to make a comeback as a player/coach. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 10 points in 22.9 minutes in his final season (1988-89), Mutumbo’s 1.2 blocks per game average for two seasons (2007-09) helped extend his career to the age of 42 and Parish scored 4.8 points in 16.7 minutes a night for the Hornets at age 41. Willis averaged 3.4 points in 7.8 minutes and eventually became the oldest player in NBA history when he retired at age 44 with the Bulls (2006-07).

If there’s anyone who could become the sixth 41 year-old and first guard to play valuable minutes for a club, it’d be Allen.

However, at this stage, this young team led by coach Brad Stevens is still predicated on developing young talent into impact players. The same place where Isaiah Thomas blossomed into an All-star, where Avery Bradley became an NBA All-Defensive First Team guard, where Evan Turner was a sixth man of the year candidate and where Jae Crowder arrived as a bench warmer from the Mavericks and transformed into one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference.

This isn’t the place for Allen to turn back the clock for one final hurrah.

The Celtics have a lot of work to do this season and it starts with strengthening their young backcourt. With Turner out of the mix (now playing with the Trail Blazers), guys like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and R.J. Hunter have plenty of growing to do this season. All three will be fighting for more minutes, bringing back Allen at this point in his career is a move that will stunt their growth and it’s not a move that would significantly improve the team, so why make it?

He hasn’t played since the 2013-14 season – when he averaged a career-low 9.6 points in 26.5 minutes a game. Don’t expect him to do the same in 2016 in an decreased role. Also, don’t let Allen fool you when he said he wants to “help where they have good young talent.” That’s not his sole motive.

As valuable as he was for the Celtics (2007-2012) – and he was extremely valuable – it was Allen’s ego that led to his decision to sign with the Heat. After losing his starting job to Bradley, watching Rajon Rondo emerge as a top-3 option on offense and seeing the Celtics sign Jason Terry – another 3-point specialist, Allen was fed up and went to a team where he knew he had a better shot at winning another title.

After five seasons as a member of the Celtics’ new ‘Big 3’ alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Allen played his last game as a Celtic in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. He turned down a two-year contract to stay in Boston and signed with the rival Heat for less money.

Garnett told the media “I don’t have Ray’s number anymore” and said he didn’t want to communicate with him. Pierce was “hurt” by his decision and as of 2015, he says he still hasn’t spoken to Allen since he bolted for Miami. And when the time comes for all three players to have their numbers retired in Boston — Pierce will be the first, Garnett will follow but the jury is still out on Allen, due to the manner in which he left.

A Boston comeback will increase his chances of seeing the league’s most-storied franchise hoist his number above the parquet – a thought that was definitely riding in the back of his mind when he contacted team officials this summer.

Allen is a quiet, classy professional but like all great players — he has an ego. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but right now, for a team with young players on the verge of possibly reaching their full potential — Boston just isn’t the place for him.  

Just last season, Steph Curry — who also set the single-season record for most 3-pointers made (402) — became the first NBA player to lead the league in 3-pointers for four consecutive seasons, and in some circles has already been crowned the best 3-point shooter of all-time — a narrative that must have been driving Allen insane. It’s helped fuel his motivation to make a comeback, and in his mind if he can return as a Celtic — even better. 

He wants to play, pat his stats as the 3-point shooting king and revoke any doubt that his No. 20 won’t be hanging above the parquet when he eventually rides off into the sunset for good. But the Celtics are not in a position to dish out valuable minutes to a veteran who’s looking to add to his 2,973 3-pointers — a record that would most likely reach the 3,000-mark if he’s able to make a comeback at the start of the regular season.

Curry, who’s ranked 19th all-time in 3-pointers made (1,593), still has a ways to go before reaching Allen’s 2,973 and depending on how his career pans out health-wise, he may never catch the 3-point shooting king. Either way, Allen believes he’s in great shape and is ready to add one final chapter to his legacy.

Hopefully he’ll get that chance. 3,000 3-pointers in one NBA career would be a remarkable feat, however, there just isn’t enough space for him in Boston. But where ever he ends up, it’ll be fun to see him knocking down 3-pointers again and if one day we see his number retired in Boston, well, that’ll be great to see too. 

 

 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Don’t grab those old Paul Pierce Celtics jerseys out of the cellar. It doesn’t look like a Boston return is going to happen.

Though never really rumored that a Pierce return was imminent — or even a likely, for that matter — there was some hope among C’s supporters that maybe, just maybe, the Truth would return for one final ride in green.

Don’t grab those old Paul Pierce Celtics jerseys out of the cellar. It doesn’t look like a Boston return is going to happen.

Though never really rumored that a Pierce return was imminent — or even a likely, for that matter — there was some hope among C’s supporters that maybe, just maybe, the Truth would return for one final ride in green.

That does not look likely, per a tweet Tuesday night from Los Angeles Times basketball writer Brad Turner.

The 38-year-old certainly is not the same player who helped bring the Celtics Banner 17 in 2008. In his first season with the Clippers in 2015-16, Pierce averaged just 6.1 points in 18.1 minutes, shooting a horrid 36.3 percent from the field compared to a 44.7 marker his previous 17 seasons.

A return to the Clippers would mark the first time Pierce has stayed with a team for consecutive season since he played for the Celtics. After getting dealt to the Nets in the monumental trade that led to the Celtics drafting Jaylen Brown, Pierce played one year in Brooklyn then one year with the Wizards before landing with the Clippers.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Some experts say the Celtics have the easiest schedule in the NBA. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Some experts say the Celtics have the easiest schedule in the NBA. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

With the release of the 2016-17 NBA schedule, the start of what has on paper begun to shape up as one of the most interesting season’s in recent Celtics memory is inching closer and closer.

So what challenges stand in front of the Celtics?

According to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg and a group of other insiders, the Celtics actually have the easiest schedule in the league. Let’s take a look:

Five notable games

Nov. 3 at Cavaliers

What a way to really get the season going. The Celtics’ fifth game of the year will be against the team that is one of the top contenders to stand in their way in the East. Though you’re hard-pressed to say a game at the beginning of November will have a long-term impact of the makeup of the season, this game will be a good jumping off point for the Celtics to see how they stack up against a top team when (most likely) both sides are healthy. What’s more, it will be the second game of a back-to-back, with the C’s squaring off against the Bulls the night before.

Nov. 18 vs. Warriors

A game that needs no explanation, the Celtics’ home matchup against the most highly-touted side going into this season comes a few weeks in. At that point, team identities will have been formed and an indication as to where teams are headed in their seasons should start becoming clear. Oh, and Kevin Durant too. That will be an interesting reception for the prized free agent who snubbed Boston this offseason.

Nov. 25 vs. Spurs

Another measuring stick to how the Celtics compare to top talent, it will also be the first time they see the Spurs without the incessant reminder that they didn’t get Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft.

Jan. 13 at Hawks

The Celtics don’t see the team that bounced them in the first round of the 2016 postseason until mid-January, and it will be on the road as well. For redemption sake, it will be a good matchup to see how they stack up against the new-look Hawks eight months later, but it will also be compelling to see how Al Horford squares off against his former team.

April 5 vs. Cavaliers

The Celtics in a sense bookend their season with the Cavs, and if the season goes in the direction everyone imagines it will, this will be a gargantuan game in terms of postseason preparation. It will be at home with just four more games following and will likely have postseason seeding implications as well.

Toughest stretch

Feb. 24 to March 10

The nine-game stretch immediately following the All-Star break in the above time frame is going to be a pivotal one largely because of travel demands and the class of opponents. First, there is a West Coast roadtrip in the back end of this time frame, which will see the Celtics take on the less-formidable Lakers and Suns, followed by matchups against the Clippers and Warriors, and then finishing up with the Nuggets.

Prior to embarking on the West Coast trip, the Celtics will have to face the Raptors and Pistons on the road, then the Hawks and Cavs at home.

In a crucial point in the season, the turnout of those nine games will likely have a big impact on testing the team’s resilience and ability to beat good teams during exhausting stretches from a travel standpoint.

Lightest Stretch

Nov. 6 to Nov. 16

Though peppered with flights that include a trip down south, the Celtics have a forgiving five games in 10 days stretch that will see them take on the underwhelming Nuggets, Wizards and Knicks to start things off, with the Nuggets and Knicks games being at home.

They’ll then jet over to Indianapolis to take on a veteran, though stunning Pacers team before wrapping things up in New Orleans against the Pelicans.

This stretch is arguably the lightest they’ll have this season, which is potentially good, because the next game back after the Pelicans is the Warriors matchup in Boston.

Schedule Quirks

— As unforgiving as an NBA schedule can be with back-to-backs — many of which involve traveling between the two games — the Celtics got a bit of a surprise: getting two six-game homestands this season. Last season, they never had a homestand stretch more than five games.

— The Celtics will play each Eastern Conference team four times, with the exception of Hawks, Pacers, Bucks and Magic

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Apr 26, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier has made his case for why he deserves an increased role for the Celtics next season (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

When Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to Terry Rozier in his team’s playoff series against the Hawks last April, the 6-foot-2 rookie did not disappoint.

After averaging only 8 minutes in 39 regular season games, Rozier made his presence felt in his first NBA playoff series – averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19.8 minutes.

He knocked down shots, did a stellar job on defense and most importantly, became the facilitator who Stevens could rely on for valuable minutes.

However, past performances doesn’t necessarily cement Rozier into the Celtics’ 2016-17 rotation. His opportunity in the playoffs was due in large part to Avery Bradley (right hamstring) having to sit out the entire series after the Celtics’ Game 1 loss in Atlanta. But Rozier’s skillset as a pure point guard will certainly increase his chances in becoming one of Stevens’ go to guys off the bench next season.

In a sixth man role, Evan Turner emerged as the team’s secondary facilitator for two years in Boston. As the secondary ball handler, Turner helped keep opposing teams at bay while the starters rested.

Now with Turner gone (now playing for the Trail Blazers), many expect Rozier to take on an increased role and he used the Celtics’ Summer League platform to prove why he’s ready to step up to the challenge. Rozier was the team’s MVP this summer – averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

As the floor general – Rozier set up his teammates, led the team in scoring and forced turnovers on the opposite end. He also proved he can score at the rim and has an outside touch – something the Celtics are always looking for off their bench.

As he heads into his sophomore season, Rozier believes he was always ready for the kind of opportunity he received in the playoffs and has used this summer to work on becoming a smarter point guard.

“One of the things I said before training camp is that I’m smarter [now],” Rozier told Boston.com. “I felt like I could always play, but I just feel that my opportunity came late obviously in the playoffs [last season]. I got to see that as a rookie early and it made me smarter to just see things. Then, this summer I went over a lot of things and touched on things I could do as a point guard. I think I just became smarter more than anything.”

As Turner leaves behind an important role for this young team, look for Rozier to continue to make a strong case for himself in training camp and in the preseason as a guard who’s ready to become Isaiah Thomas’ backup point guard. He has shown that he can read opposing defenses, get the ball to his teammates and his underrated quickness allows him to score at the rim.

Much like Bradley and Marcus Smart, Rozier is a defensive-minded guard.  He has a knack for suffocating his opponents in the backcourt and has the potential to blossom into a consistent scorer. 

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has noticed Rozier’s vast improvement and believes he’ll have no problem earning minutes from coach Stevens next season.

“I think that Terry Rozier has made a great case for himself for next year,” Ainge told Boston.com. “He’s been our best player from the first day of training camp, just didn’t get a lot of opportunities because of our depth at guard. I think he’s winning a spot [in the rotation].” 

 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

The Celtics now know their path to a third straight postseason appearance under Brad Stevens. 

The NBA released its full schedule on Thursday and some of the highlights for the Celtics include early match-ups against Eastern Conference rivals, holiday season showdowns, and the first home games on consecutive nights in over 15 years.