Boston Celtics Camp Battles: Bigs
Boston Celtics Camp Battles: Bigs
BOSTON – Free agency came and went for the Boston Celtics with results that weren’t exactly what they were hoping for.
Everybody from ownership to the front office to the players – the ones already with multi-year deals like Isaiah Thomas of course – were doing all they could to lure the best talent available to Boston.
There was a noticeable eye towards bolstering the frontcourt which made sense considering a sizable chunk of this summer’s free agents were of the 6-foot-9 (and up) variety who would have come in and immediately became the team’s best player.
In the end, Boston didn’t land that shiny, off-the-factory-floor superstar who would be the driving force towards Boston bringing home Banner 18.
Like most teams in their shoes, the Celtics shifted their focus to quantity over quality by using their three primary offseason tools for improvement – draft, trade and free agency – to acquire Jordan Mickey (draft), David Lee (trade) and Amir Johnson (free agency).
Those players along with the team’s returners will all be vying for playing time and a spot in the starting lineup. With so much balance within the roster, being a starter is the only way any of these guys can safely secure playing time.
And while the guards and wings will certainly wage some pretty competitive battles for playing time, the war in the trenches will be unlike anything we’ve seen in Boston in quite a while.
You have players, both young (Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller) and not so young (Lee, Johnson, Jonas Jerebko) hoping to play their way into a contract extension this fall or a fat new deal next summer.
With that, here’s a look at the Boston Celtics’ roster among the bigs heading into training camp.
Amir Johnson, 6-9, 240
Last season (with Toronto): 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Summary: Amir Johnson is a 10-year veteran who is known for his high energy, rebounding, defense and for the most part just being a solid, all-around team player. He doesn’t bring the kind of free agent sizzle Celtics fans were hoping for. But Johnson is the kind of player that simply makes the Celtics a better team. Look for him to emerge as one of the front-runners to start the season.
David Lee, 6-9, 245
Last season (with Golden State): 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Summary: No one knows for sure what the Celtics are going to get out of David Lee. Will he return to All-Star form from a couple years ago, or will he become Gerald Wallace 2.0 and play sparingly. Most likely Lee will find himself somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, which is great for the Celtics. Because as much as they would love to count on Lee as a double-double guy every night, he just may not be that player anymore. But he has the ability to score in the post and in half court sets, a skill that very few of his Celtics teammates possess. Look for Lee to be in the starting lineup, but don’t be surprised if we see him in and out with the first unit because of matchups.
Tyler Zeller, 7-0, 253
Last season: 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Summary: Maybe the biggest surprise of last season for the Celtics, Tyler Zeller made the most of his opportunity to get on the floor. He became one of the team’s best finishers on pick-and-roll plays and proved to be an important part of team’s late season surge. But his role heading into this season remains unclear with all the depth Boston as accumulated. He’ll certainly compete for a starting spot once again, but Johnson’s defense and rebounding along with Lee’s offensive touch are likely to keep Zeller off the first unit.
Jared Sullinger, 6-9, 260
Last season: 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game
Summary: There may not be a bigger wildcard in the Celtics’ frontcourt than Jared Sullinger. Much has been made about his weight and conditioning this past season despite his numbers ranking among the team’s leaders in terms of scoring, rebounding and assists per game. Celtics’ brass has pushed him to improve his conditioning because they believe he has the greatest potential among their young players of being an All-Star caliber talent. If Sullinger returns in tip-top shape, he could be an absolute force for the Celtics and become a starter or the big man equivalent of Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench as a high-impact performer.
Kelly Olynyk, 7-0, 238
Last season: 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Summary: Similar to Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk has the potential to be a difference-maker for the Celtics. At 7-feet with long range perimeter skills, Olynyk is ideally suited to be that stretch big man that Boston wants on the floor. But far too often Olynyk doesn’t play with the kind of aggression the Celtics have been begging for him to display with more consistency. Throw that in with the fact that he’s still not as physically strong as they need him to be in order to be effective around the basket, and Olynyk is looking more and more like a spot-duty kind of performer.
Jonas Jerebko, 6-10, 231
Last season: 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.
Summary: Very little was expected from Jonas Jerebko when the Celtics acquired him from Detroit. But the 6-10 forward quickly established himself as a reliable change-of-pace big man who could contribute at both ends of the floor. But playing time won’t be easy to come by for him this season. He’s facing a Celtics frontcourt that has more proven talent. Jerebko made sure he was ready to play whenever his number was called last season. A similar mindset will have to be in place this season with his minutes once again likely to fluctuate.
Jordan Mickey, 6-8, 235
Last season (at LSU): 15.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
Summary: Boston’s second round pick proved he had first-round pick talent with a strong showing during Boston’s summer league stints in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Boston anticipated he would be decent defensively, but his timing – even for summer league action – stood out. And his offensive game was much better than advertised. Because of Boston’s depth in the frontcourt, there’s a good chance that Jordan Mickey will spend a lot of time in the D-League. But his ability to protect the rim and block shots, could land him in the rotation sooner rather than later.