By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics are rolling through their preseason schedule, winning five straight games as players up-and-down the roster play well during the regular season tuneups. That development is great news for Danny Ainge as he continues to evaluate his trade options ahead of the regular season. The Celtics’ president of basketball operations has less than a week to determine the best way to get the roster down to 15 players (or less) before opening night on October 26.
In order the sort through those possibilities, we’ve been counting down the Celtics Trade Value Player Rankings over the past few weeks. You can check out earlier editions (Part 1 and Part 2) that cover players ranked from 16-10. In Part 3 of the rankings, we’ll start to get into the brunt of the team’s rotation, including one member of the starting lineup.
Criteria reminder: 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.
16. James Young
15. R.J. Hunter
14. Demetrius Jackson
13. Jordan Mickey
12. Gerald Green
11. Tyler Zeller
10. Terry Rozier
9. Jonas Jerebko
Remaining contract: One year, $5 million
2015-16 stats: 4.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.8 apg, (78 games)
Overview: Jerebko’s stock has been steadily on the rise since the Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline in 2014 for the expiring contract of Tayshaun Prince. The 6-foot-10 sharpshooter saw only limited minutes for much of last season due to a crowded frontcourt, but the Swede made the most of his opportunity in the 2015 postseason with Kelly Olynyk hobbled and Jared Sullinger sidelined. His pair of double-doubles while logging starter minutes against Atlanta showcased his ability to handle a bigger role and also made his 2016-17 salary look like a bit of a bargain. Jerebko’s age (29) limits his potential, but if he can maintain his above-average 3-point shooting numbers (39 percent in 2015-16), he’ll be more than a throw-in for any deal for Boston.
8. Amir Johnson
Remaining contract: One year, $12 million
2015-16 stats: 7.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, (79 games)
Overview: Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal with Boston in the summer of 2015 looked like a short-term overpay at the time. However, the spike in the NBA salary cap last summer make Johnson a value-contract for the final year of his contract. He’s surprisingly the second-highest paid member of the team behind Al Horford, and that fact could allow him to be an integral part of any blockbuster trade that Ainge could pull the trigger on during the regular season (in order to match salaries). Johnson’s chemistry with Horford has been strong out of the gate however, especially on the defensive end though. He’s got value around the league and is a dependable bet for 24 minutes a game in Boston. In all likelihood, the Celtics won’t be looking to mess with that and break up the projected starting lineup for anything short of a home run deal.
7. Kelly Olynyk
Remaining contract: One year, $3.1 million (restricted free agent in 2017)
2015-16 stats: 10.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, (69 games)
Overview: You could argue that Olynyk is one of the most divisive fourth year players in the league when it comes teams evaluating his potential. He’s eligible for a rookie extension ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, but the seven-footer is unlikely to receive one from Boston as the front office aims to keep its options and salary cap space open next summer for a potential major free agent signing.
Instead, Olynyk will be a restricted free agent in all likelihood next summer and an attractive one at that. He made an impressive leap last season as one of the best big men shooters (40.5 percent from 3-point range) in the league. That percentage makes him a prime candidate for a major raise from his current $3 million deal. The Canadian’s floor spacing ability and unselfish overall play also currently keep him as an integral part of Boston’s second unit. Still, Olynyk struggles to rebound and defend adequately against top talent, evidenced by his minutes remaining consistent (20 per game) throughout his first three seasons.
Any big man that can shoot has some value around the league, but Olynyk’s age, defensive limitations, and durability issues (he may not be ready for start of regular season due to shoulder surgery) will limit Boston’s asking price.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.