Apr 5, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Boston Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) on the bench during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Celtics 115-111. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics - threat to Raptors in Atlantic Division?


Apr 14, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) walks off the court after being injured in the first quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics endured a difficult  2013-2014 season, which was to be expected after luminaries like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded away. Their coach, Doc Rivers, was shipped out to the Clippers in exchange for a first-round draft pick. They have a veteran GM, Danny Ainge, who was a cerebral point guard as a player, loves accumulating assets. He showed his savvy last week, in a trade which flew under the radar while the universe was suffering through All-LeBron, All The Time (or you could switch to the Carmelo Channel). The Celtics acted as a facilitating third-party in a deal whose ultimate mission was to create salary cap space for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston gave up virtually nothing, and received some nice pieces in return (what a crazy sentence – sometimes I hate the NBA). Specifically, Boston gains streaky-shooting swingman Marcus Thornton, young, promising big man Cody Zeller and a future Cleveland first-rounder, in exchange for a box of popcorn and a half-roll of ankle tape  a Traded Player Exception and a second-round pick.

“I got plenty of nothin’/and nothin’s plenty for me” from Porgie and Bess, George and Ira Gershwin & DuBose Hayward, 1935.

I have to wonder whether the Toronto Raptors should have put their oar in the water in this transaction. Why Boston? The Raps have all kinds of intangible assets on their books, like Traded Player Exceptions. I would have enjoyed seeing Masai Ujiri as the facilitator in a deal such as this one, in which we could pile up more assets for future usage. Maybe we weren’t invited to the party, or we couldn’t lower our cap number in the short space of time Cleveland had to work with.

Anyway, the Celtics are further along in their rebuild than is perhaps appreciated. While I’m months away from offering my predictions for the ’14-’15 season, I’ve already mentally nudged Boston ahead of the floundering Knicks. If the Celtics retain hotheaded, brilliant guard Rajon Rondo, and a few of their kids, like Sullinger and Olynyk, step forward, Boston might be a playoff contender. I think they overpaid for smallish guard Avery Bradley, but he can shoot and defend. Jeff Green, who I used to be a big fan of, had a disappointing ’13-’14 season and will need to bounce back. If he doesn’t, Boston now has the depth to shove him to the bench.

Usually a rebuild takes several seasons, as Raps fans know all too well. Danny Ainge may be the rare GM who can take shortcuts in expediting Boston’s return to prominence.




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