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Forsberg's Focus: The future in Boston is uncertain for Ojeleye, Wanamaker

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* Each weekday for the rest of the month, we’ll put a member of the 2019-20 Celtics, and one of their most notable statistics, under the microscope while assessing their seasons and what lies ahead: 

$1.8 million

That’s about what it will cost the Celtics to bring back either Semi Ojeleye or Brad Wanamaker next season. Ojeleye has a $1.75 million team option while the Celtics can offer Wanamaker a $1.82 million qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent. That’s not exactly breaking the NBA bank -- but for a team thin on roster spots and heavy on recent draftees, it could put a squeeze on both players.

What went right for Ojeleye/Wanamaker in 2020

In his third NBA season, Ojeleye was more consistent with his 3-point shot, connecting on 37.8 percent of his triples during the regular season. Celtics coach Brad Stevens could confidently call on Ojeleye to hold up against bigger players and it says something that his two most common matchups this season were Giannis Antetokounmpo (9:43 of matchup time) and Ben Simmons (7:57).

Forsberg's Focus: Assessing what's ahead for the C's roster

Wanamaker saved his best basketball for the postseason and was practically a 50/40/90 guy while shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 44.4 percent beyond the arc, and 87.5 percent at the free-throw line. The 31-year-old certainly isn’t the sexiest bench option and he’s a point guard only in the sense that he’s a capable dribbler but, with Boston thin on dependable reserves, Wanamaker provided steady minutes that the team desperately needed.

 

What went wrong for Ojeleye/Wanamaker in 2020

Ojeleye’s shooting touch abandoned him in the postseason and his minutes dried up because of it. He shot just 25 percent overall and 21.7 percent on 3-pointers. With Grant Williams making shots and playing steady defense, it limited the need for Ojeleye and might have sealed his future fate. As much of a luxury as Ojeleye’s defense tends to be, the Celtics simply haven’t been able to ramp up his time considering Boston’s offensive rating was just 98.1 in his 122 minutes of playoff time.

Gordon Hayward’s return in Game 3 of the Miami series caused Wanamaker’s minutes to dip. With Hayward and Marcus Smart on the court, it limited the need for another ball-handling guard. Wanamaker shot the ball well in limited opportunities and he was a monster in transition but a healthy roster makes it tougher to find time.  

Celtics Talk Podcast: Pondering Gordon Hayward’s future and a curious C's offseason | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Early outlook for Ojeleye/Wanamaker for 2021

As tempting as it might be to keep Ojeleye around, the Celtics probably need to move on in order to ensure that younger bigs like Grant Williams and Robert Williams get more of a chance to develop. He’s been a good soldier and was a luxury to trot out against the likes of Antetokounmpo, but he hasn’t made enough progress as an offensive player.

Wanamaker has Stevens’ confidence but Boston must balance whether it can get similar production with more long-term upside from a younger player. Maybe that’s elevating Tremont Waters for deep guard depth and sacrificing shot-making for playmaking. 

The draft could dictate exactly how Boston proceeds, but both players' futures in Boston feel tenuous at best.