Even as they try to properly diagnose the cause of their elimination, the Boston Celtics must decide on the elements that will define the course of treatment.
Will surgery be necessary, or will rest and a few tweaks reduce their roundball inflammation?
It’s a given that Joe Mazzulla will have the benefit of a more complete coaching staff and the time to formulate a cohesive approach to HIS program — rather than writing in the margins on pages prepared by Ime Udoka.
The most pressing decisions involve a possible supermax contract extension for Jaylen Brown and working through Grant Williams‘ restricted free agency. League executives tell Heavy Sports it is fully expected the Celts, not wishing to engage in a game of roster Jenga, will find a way to retain both. Then again, the players will have a major say in this, as well.
“I hear fans up there are debating whether to give Brown the supermax (five years, $290 million), but at some point the numbers don’t really matter,” said one general manager. “First of all, the guy is one of the better players in the league. Start there. I know people are all upset about his last game (19 points, 1-9 on 3-pointers, eight turnovers), and sure he was bad, but that was a team-wide collapse. Just take a step back and look at where he is and what he can do. The guy can play.
“But the main reason why everyone out here knows they have to get something done with him is that you can never afford to lose an asset like that. … Even if you sign him and things don’t work out with your team down the line, you have a player of value. All-Star players can attract free agents who want to play with them, or you can use your player as an asset in a trade.”
‘You Don’t Let Talent Walk’
And Brown, he said, would be worth a lot more under a long-term contract than if he doesn’t sign an extension and chooses to play out the final year of his present deal.
“From everything I’ve heard and I know, Boston wants Brown,” the GM said. “They see him as a big part of their future. But if things get messed up there — major injuries or things like that — you have to have the ability to make trades.
“Bottom line: you don’t let talent walk or get devalued.”
Another league exec said it was reasonable to wonder about the effect on roster flexibility if both Brown and Jayson Tatum, eligible a year after, are on supermax contracts, “but you have to wait to cross that bridge. The rules are going to change to make some moves harder, but as long as those two guys can play at a high level, they’ll always be worth the money as players or assets.”
Other Teams Could Force Celtics to Overpay Grant Williams
The Grant Williams situation will be perhaps more interesting, if less impactful, this summer, because other teams will be able to be involved through an offer sheet. The Celtics would have the ability to match anything he gets, or things could get worked out between the sides before he seriously looks elsewhere.
The matter gained even more uncertainty when Williams was out of the rotation for some postseason games. But that’s clearly not expected to diminish his value on the market.
The Celtics would appear to have enough players who want/need the ball, with complementary types at a premium.
Taking in the bigger picture, one opposing coach told Heavy Sports, “I think when you look around, if you watch AAU, all these kids grow up with the ball in their hands. What happened to the guys who will continue to defend even if you don’t call a play for them or they don’t touch the ball for two or three minutes — the guys who really promote winning?
“Those kind of guys are getting harder to find these days. But guys who figure that out, they can have a really long career. The kid in Boston isn’t bad at it, the other Williams, Grant. They ain’t calling any plays for Grant Williams. He’s ready to knock it down when they swing it to him, and he defends and rebounds. Finding those guys is becoming harder and harder.”
The ball is now in Williams’ hands.
“I’m not the only one waiting to see how he approaches this,” said a league exec. “He may look at those (five) DNPs in the playoffs and wonder about his future in Boston. Does he try to get an offer sheet structured to make it hard for Boston to match? I know there are teams that will be interested in helping that along.
“All I know is that he filled a number of different roles for them, and other teams are seeing the same thing. It’s going to be interesting to see how Boston deals with him, because it might say a lot about what they think they need to do to get past a playoff loss that never should have happened.”