BOSTON (CBS) — With 18 players currently under contract for the Celtics heading into the 2016-17 season, including 16 players signed to guaranteed deals, Danny Ainge will have to do some maneuvering to cut down the squad to 15 before opening night in October.
Ainge has a lot of options at his disposal to get to his final 15, but the excess personnel will increase the odds of a trade in the coming months. Whether it’s a minor deal to clear up some necessary roster space or a major move to help Boston land another star to pair with Al Horford and/or Isaiah Thomas, don’t expect the rumors to go away anytime soon.
Whatever route Ainge decides to take will be largely dependent on how the league views his own personnel against his own evaluations of his players.
To sort through it all, let’s take a closer look at the team’s roster in our first edition of the 2016 Celtics trade value power rankings. We’ll count down the list in the next few weeks, starting with the players with the least value (No. 16) and working up to most value (No. 1) on the roster.
Criteria: This isn’t simply ranking the best-to-worst players on the roster. There is significantly more that goes into a player’s trade value around the league than just talent (although that’s important). A player’s age, contract situation and injury history are all vital factors considered in these rankings.
It’s an imperfect list, simply because there is so much overlapping talent levels for various parts of the Celtics’ roster. Valid cases can and will be made that certain names should be higher and/or lower. Debate is welcomed here.
With that said, let’s get to the list, which only includes players with guaranteed contracts:
16. James Young
Remaining contract: Two years, $4.6 million (team option for second year)
2015-16 stats: 1.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.3 apg, (29 games)
Overview: It’s hard to find a player whose stock has fallen more than Young in the past two seasons. He had plenty of promise coming out of college when he led Kentucky to the national championship game as an 18-year-old but that ability has failed to translate at the NBA level. He’s been unable to play his way onto the floor for consistent minutes for two years now, largely due to his season and unreliable outside shooting. There’s still plenty of time for growth but on a 48-win team like the Celtics, Brad Stevens doesn’t have the flexibility to let him play through his growing pains. Until he shows more flashes of potential on offense, he’s a borderline roster piece in the NBA and the Celtics would be lucky to fetch a second round pick for him via trade.
15. R.J. Hunter
Remaining contract: Three years, $6.9 million (team option for final two seasons)
2015-16 stats: 2.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, (36 games)
Overview: Like Young, Hunter is fighting for a roster spot this October but he was ahead of his fellow shooting guard in the team’ depth chart for most of last season. He didn’t earn regular playing time due to Boston’s deep backcourt and a unreliable 3-point shooting stroke but he’s shown a solid feel for the game overall. He’ll need to add some strength to be able to guard opposing wings effectively in the coming years, but for now he remains a fringe roster player. He’ll need to outplay Young in training camp to stick around, but even then he’s a throw-in at best in any trade Boston makes.
14. Demetrius Jackson
Remaining contract: Four years, $5.5 million (Only 2016-17 guaranteed)
2015-16 stats: N/A (rookie)
Overview: The fact that the Notre Dame point guard slid into the middle of the second round was one of the big surprises of draft night. He clearly does not have a lot of trade value if nearly 29 other teams passed on him, some of them twice. With that said, the Celtics clearly value him as a potential future rotation member of the roster by signing him to serious second round money, more than Jordan Mickey got last season. Jackson showed flashes in summer league but did nothing to stand out from the pack. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot in October as well, but he gets the slight edge over Young and Hunter at this point due to the additional unguaranteed years on his contract.
13. Jordan Mickey
Contract situation: About $3.7 million remaining over three years (Only 2016-17 salary guaranteed)
2015-16 stats: 1.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.7 bpg, (16 games)
Overview: The second-year big man out of LSU proved himself in the D-League last season, but now it’s time for him to show he can contribute at the NBA level. After an impressive summer league performance in 2015 that helped earn him a big contract for a second round pick, a shoulder injury left him looking quite ordinary in Las Vegas this summer. With Jared Sullinger out of the picture and Kelly Olynyk out of action with a shoulder injury during training camp, Mickey could work his way into the rotation. Until he proves that showing, his overall stock is similar to other unproven youngsters on the roster here. There’s talent here but it won’t fetch much in a trade at this point.
More rankings to follow in the coming weeks!
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.