I covered the players that got traded in my most recent article. The players that left via free agency had some say in their new contracts. A lot of these guys would have loved to stay on the Celtics. The fact of the matter is we couldn’t afford to re-sign everyone from last year’s team. Some of the most difficult decisions Danny Ainge made in the offseason was who fit into the team’s long-term plans, and who he would have to let go. The players that were lost all found great spots for their careers, and should be happy with the outcome.
A lot of these guys got an opportunity as a Celtic that allowed them to sign bigger contracts in free agency elsewhere. This can be attributed to the system that Brad Stevens runs. He maximizes a player’s talents while hiding their flaws. I view it as Ainge helping out players land in the right spots via trades. Brad Stevens helps players earn better contracts and be attractive free agents. It all comes down to the organization doing great work.
If you click on each players name, it will take you to their basketball reference page so you can see what they’re doing this year statistically and compare with what they did in Boston. I did this so I wouldn’t have to bore you with statistics here, but they are linked in case you’re interested.
KO didn’t play less than twenty minutes a game in any of his four seasons as a Celtic. In turn he had some big time contributions. Game Seven against the Wizards last year comes to mind, where he went off in the fourth quarter and helped the C’s advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. He was a hero in Beantown after that. But Ainge couldn’t afford to keep him and stay out of the luxury tax, so he hit free agency and chose the Miami Heat.
In Miami, Olynyk has an expanded role and has been a starter for the last eighteen games. His averages are career-highs across the board. With Olynyk continuing to progress, it’s safe to say the Heat got what they paid for. He signed a four year, $50 million deal. That means he is now making more per year than he made over four years in Boston combined. This is what you want to see out of guys. Stevens was able to set Olynyk up for success when he was with the Celtics, which turned into a big paycheck and bigger opportunity for him.
The Celtics have already played Olynyk and the Heat three times this season. The most recent outing was Olynyk’s return to Boston, and he went off for thirty two points and seven assists. I think it’s safe to say he feels comfortable playing in TD Garden. He also recently posted twenty-five points and thirteen assists, and is making a serious push for even more minutes.
Another player that signed with the Heat in free agency is Mickey. After being drafted thirty-third in 2015 but never gaining traction with the Celtics, he has carved out a bench role for his new team. He has had a few games over twenty minutes when Whiteside was out, and is fighting to try to stay in the rotation. It would be nice to see him stick and have a successful career as a role player. He signed a two-year deal that holds a second year team option, so he will have to prove himself this year to stay in Miami.
Jerebko singed a two-year $8.2 million contract with the Jazz. He is earning less than his $5 million per year in Boston. His decision was more about fit. He wanted to sign somewhere he felt he could make a difference, and has done that in Utah. What stands out from a similar stat line to what he posted in Boston is his three-point shooting. He’s taking more threes than he has in any year in his career, and is shooting a career-best 43% from deep. His role is to shoot and get defensive rebounds. In his return to Boston, he posted seventeen points, a season-best to date, to go along with seven rebounds.
Another interesting fact is Jerebko has started fourteen games already this year, more than his entire 2.5 years in Boston. The Jazz want to put shooters around rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell is great at penetrating and kicking back out, making Jerebko a perfect running mate with the rookie. Quin Snyder likes to play what he calls advantage basketball, which is supposed to allow players that might not be as quick as the competition to get an advantage. The concept is centralized on off-ball movement, and is something that many teams, the Celtics included, practice. Because of this, the move from Boston to Utah has been pretty seamless for Jerebko.
Amir is now in his thirteenth season. As a traditional big with below-average quickness and footwork, his value is quickly declining. Yet, the OG was able to land one of the better deals in free agency, signing a one year contract with the 76ers for $11 million. Just $1 million less annually than he earned in Boston.
Amir was a leader by example in the locker room in Boston. He is now looking to set that same example in Philly for their young core. On the court, he has given Joel Embiid some spot starts here and there. When Embiid plays, Amir gets in sparsely. In his return to TD Garden, he posted a full stat line of 6-6-4-3.
After picking up plenty of DNP-CDs as a Celtic despite his $8 million contract, Zeller had to take a huge pay cut in free agency. It’s a shame, because he really did contribute whenever he got in the game. He has always been a solid player, and I felt there would always be a place for him in the league. Regardless, he found himself more concerned with finding a team that would pay him rather than how much the contract would be worth.
He settled for the Nets on a minimum contract, but it has worked out well for him. After not seeing much time through much of the first month, Zeller broke through with a twenty-one point game. He entered the starting lineup for good a few games later. His playing time has seen a slight decrease since Jahlil Okafor was sent over via trade, but he is still starting. It will be interesting to see how long he can hold off the inevitable of Okafor taking the starting role.
JAMES YOUNG & DEMETRIUS JACKSON
James Young recently signed a two-way deal with the 76ers after averaging over twenty-two points per game in the G-League. He was the least valuable piece that came out of the infamous Brooklyn deal, never able to crack the rotation in Boston after being selected seventeenth overall in 2014.
Demetrius Jackson signed a two-way deal with the Rockets before the season, but it has apparently been terminated. He has since signed a ten-day deal with the Rockets, which started on January 6th. He is averaging sixteen points in the G-League.
BONUS: GERALD GREEN
GG was invited to Bucks camp, but inexplicably cut before the season. It seemed as if he would sit the season out, and perhaps retire. However his hometown team came calling. Green grew up in Houston, and was ecstatic when he got the call that they wanted more shooting. It didn’t make sense that a team that already shot more threes than any other team wanted to add more shooting, but it didn’t matter. Green came in and has made an instant impact. Through seven games, he is averaging twenty-five minutes and over seventeen points, shooting 50% from deep. He has made a big time impact off the bench.
Gerald Green’s contributions during his second stint in Boston can’t be forgotten. In the first round of the playoffs when the Celtics were down 0-2 to the lowly Bulls. Stevens needed to make some changes. He inserted Green into the starting lineup for the third game. Green had logged just over five minutes in the first two games combined. He also hadn’t started the entire regular season. It didn’t matter. Green was ready to go. He scored eighteen points in Game 3, and sixteen in Game 5. The Celtics won four games in a row with Green in the starting unit to win the series 4-2. This is the stuff of legends.
It was only fitting that when the Rockets called Green, they needed him to suit up that night. Oh, and the Rockets were visiting Boston. Conveniently, Green was sitting at his house, in Boston. He still enjoyed the city, and kept his house after last season. He has the role in Houston he has always wanted, as a key piece to an all-out offensive assault. Averaging over eight threes a game, he is right where he needs to be, at home in Houston. Basketball has taken Green around the world and back, so it would be a fitting ending for his career to finish in Houston. Again, this is the stuff of legends.
For the most part, all of these Celtics landed in favorable spots, especially the players that were traded. It has been fun to see some of them come back to Boston and give them the love they fought for while they were here. It hasn’t been as fun to see them all torch the Celtics in their returns, back in a familiar place. Regardless, I wish all these guys the best of success in their careers as they continue to thrive in new roles.