Williams, etc.

Mark Berry via celtics celtics at igtc.com
Thu Jul 2 15:04:54 UTC 2015

After the draft and free agency, it’s pretty clear we have to adjust the
way we think about this offseason. Ainge couldn’t move up in the draft, so
he stayed put and took what he saw as the best player available at each
spot. I have no problem with that philosophy. Even if it creates roster
duplication, depth is valuable when it comes to trades. And development is
critical – it’s why I’m so curious about James Young heading into the
summer league and next season.

When it became clear none of the top guys were coming to Boston (Kevin Love
was the only one I really had any hope for), I became less concerned with
adding impact players and more concerned with not doing anything stupid.
Maxing out Greg Monroe was one of those things that might have ended up
looking stupid.

So, what about Amir Johnson? I feel like he has killed the Celtics in the
past, which put him in the “why can’t we get guys like that?” file for me.
I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say his overall impact is comparable
to Monroe’s. He’s clearly a better defender, and much more versatile on
that end of the floor. He can guard 4/5 effectively and is strong as a pick
and roll defender. Rebounding is a wash, although Johnson is a better
offensive rebounder and everything I’ve read says he’s one of the league’s
better players at securing contested rebounds.

Monroe is the more polished offensive player with the ball in his hands – a
strong post player and excellent passer for a big man. But Johnson
consistently has a positive impact on his team’s offensive performance.
He’s a great screener, good roll man, and scores efficiently without plays
being run for him. That’s a valuable thing. Now – the Celtics clearly need
more players who they want to run plays for, but I’m not convinced Monroe
is that guy.

Monroe is going to get a four-year max deal for something around $80
million, most likely. Even with the cap rising, that’s a big investment –
in money, but more importantly in the length of the deal – for a pretty
one-dimensional player. Johnson’s two-year commitment, with the
non-guaranteed second year, preserves a lot of flexibility and is an
attractive trade piece either at the deadline or at next year’s draft. Did
Ainge pay a bit of a premium in annual value for that flexibility?
Probably, but that’s a good trade. I’ll take the flexibility over maybe an
extra $2 million in cap space this summer.

Finally, Williams is adored by teammates and stat gurus alike. He’s a guy
who does things to make teams better. He plays hard and is tough and
unselfish. He’s the anti-Bass in terms of on-court impact. Bass
consistently fared poorly in every advanced metric that measures on/off
court performance. Williams excels. This is a major upgrade. I expect him
to play a lot of center in lineups with Olynyk, Jerebko or Crowder
stretching the floor at the PF spot. He excelled in those types of lineups
in Toronto. My guess is Williams/Olynyk is the starting frontcourt, but
we'll see.

I’m sure there will be trades this summer, but this is going to be a long
process. Ainge is trying to be in position to outbid everyone when an
impact player hits the market. That player could be Kevin Love (he wasn’t
happy there last season and it’s still an imbalanced roster in Cleveland).
It could be DeMarcus Cousins (at some point, the Kings are going to realize
it just isn’t working, and after last night’s bizarre trade, they’re going
to need draft picks – we have draft picks). And don’t rule out things going
south in OKC. It’s impossible to know for sure.

It’s not fun to play the vulture, waiting to pick from another team’s
carcass, but that’s where we are. This team isn’t built to tank for draft
picks and it isn’t established enough to be a destination for free agents
looking for a championship contender. I wish there were short cuts, but
they just don’t exist. So, I’m going to enjoy the ride.

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