Who'll stay and who'll go?
Regardless of what the Celtics do in the offseason, there will always be position battles in training camp.
But when the players arrive in a few weeks, a handful will have more at stake than just a roster spot.
Boston currently has 18 players with full or partially guaranteed contracts, a number that has to be pared down to 15 or less by the time the regular season begins.
The math is pretty cut and dry. Barring a trade, at least three players have to be let go.
But who will they be?
That’s for Brad Stevens and the rest of the Celtics brass to figure out.
In the meantime, here’s a look at five Celtics who, barring a trade, are likely to be among the pool of players Boston will be picking from for what should be the last couple of roster spots.
5. John Holland, SF/SG
He signed a two-year, $883,000 non-guaranteed contract last spring while appearing in one game for Boston. Obviously, the former Boston University standout hasn't had much of an opportunity to showcase his game and it’s unclear how much action he’ll see in training camp. At 6-foot-5 with a rugged build, Holland is versatile enough to play at least two positions (shooting guard and small forward) and, depending on the lineup, could potentially play some at power forward as well. However, look for Holland to be among the first players to be cut. As I mentioned earlier, he has a non-guaranteed contract, which makes it a lot easier fiscally to part ways with him. And remember, Boston drafted 6-foot-7 Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in last month’s NBA draft and signed free agent and former Celtic guard/forward Gerald Green. Those two will get a decent amount of minutes off Boston’s bench this season.
4. James Young, SG/SF
The Celtics have been incredibly patient with Young, often citing his youth as a reason for waiting for his game to develop. But he’s heading into his third NBA season and no longer are the questions centered around what role will he play going forward. There are concerns that the 20-year-old’s days as an NBA player may be over soon. He came into the league with an injury following a car accident shortly before the draft, and has had other bumps and bruises afterwards that limited his opportunities to play. And while he has shown growth from where he was when the Celtics drafted him with the 17th overall pick in 2014, it hasn’t been nearly enough to make the C’s feel he’s ready to contribute in a significant or meaningful way. That’s why part of their offseason plans involved finding a reliable shooting guard/small forward to come off the bench, a job they would have loved to have been won by Young this summer. Instead it’ll go to former Celtic Gerald Green, who re-signed with the club that drafted him out of high school.
3. R.J. Hunter, SG
When Boston selected Hunter with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he was considered a steal. Boston needed shooters. Hunter is a shooter. Match made in heaven, right? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t quite worked out the way either side planned. Hunter appeared in 36 games, averaging 2.7 points in 8.8 minutes per game. One of the reasons he didn’t play more? He didn’t make shots: He connected on just 36.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent of his 3s. But even when he wasn’t making shots, Hunter showed promise as an effective passer out of pick-and-roll sets. And while his lithe frame doesn’t help him defensively, he showed signs of being able to compensate for that with great length to contest shots. A strong showing in camp is an absolute must for Hunter. As one of the few guys on this roster known for his shooting above any other potential strength, Hunter needs to be an aggressive scorer, whether that’s taking more shots, attacking close-outs better, or finding teammates for easy baskets. Even that might not be enough for him to land one of the last roster slots, but he will definitely be among the last players whose fate (waived? traded?) in Boston will be sorted out.
2. Ben Bentil, PF
Selected by Boston with the 51st pick in last month’s draft, Bentil signed a three-year, $2.5 million contract but reportedly only $250,000 is guaranteed. The Celtics love his size (6-foot-8) and versatility to play both power forward and some center. But one of the more unexpected bonuses they discovered was his strength around the rim and his love for being physical. By no means will Bentil develop into an enforcer or anything like that. But his power game, coupled with his ability to score inside the paint as well as from the perimeter, makes him a player the Celts definitely wants to learn more about and develop as much as they can. His potential growth as a player seems to be more than enough for Boston to keep him on the roster. Don’t be surprised if the final roster spot comes down to Bentil and R.J. Hunter.
1. Demetrius Jackson, PG
The Celtics signed Jackson to a four-year, $5.474 million contract with the first year -- worth $1.45 million -- being fully guaranteed. Jackson doesn’t look like an ideal fit because of Boston’s already-deep stable of guards. But the 6-foot-1 rookie from Notre Dame was just too talented a prospect to pass on when Boston eventually tabbed him with the 45th overall selection in the second round. He’s definitely rough around the edges and makes the kind of miscues that most NBA rookie playmakers make. But he plays with a level of toughness that meshes well with his new teammates. Combine that with his shot-making, lateral quickness and ability to pick up ball-handlers full court defensively, and it’s understandable why the Celtics were so eager to scoop him up, even if a chance to play soon isn’t readily apparent. Fully guaranteeing his first year while inking him for another three (each subsequent season has a deadline attached to it that, if it passes and he’s on the roster still, will then make his contract guaranteed) gives Jackson the security he would want in his first season, while providing Boston with a high-reward, low-risk scenario for a player who may very well find himself in the mix in the very near future.