By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — With 10 players currently under contract for the Celtics heading into the 2017-18 season, Danny Ainge knows he has a lot of work ahead of him as he tries to make a strong run at the Cleveland Cavaliers next year.
In order to do that, consolidation is an option that Boston’s front office is going to need to explore. The Celtics have a fresh influx of younger players to bring in the mix from past drafts as well as four picks in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft later this month. If Ainge wants to bring in some fresh faces and still have enough salary cap space to target big-name free agents, some current roster players have to go, ideally via trade.
Ainge’s maneuvering will be largely dependent on how the league views his own personnel against his own evaluations of those same players.
To sort through it all, let’s take a closer look at the team’s roster in our first edition of the 2017 Celtics trade value power rankings. We’ll count down the list in the next few weeks, starting with the players with the least trade value and working up to top assets 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.
The Expendable Parts
Remaining contract: One year, $8 million (non-guaranteed if waived before 7/2/17)
2016-17 stats: 3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.4 bpg, (36 games)
Overview: The Celtics frontcourt did not have as big of a logjam as recent seasons in 2016-17, but that did not prevent Zeller from spending the majority of his year on the Celtics bench. The center posted career-lows in several categories (games, minutes per game) while Brad Stevens trended towards using smaller lineups with frontcourt players (Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko) that could spread the floor off the pine. Ainge elected to overpay Zeller a little bit last summer in order to maintain center depth and keep some future flexibility with his short-term contract. He’ll be a useful trade chip at draft time for Boston if they need a player for salary matching purposes, but otherwise he’s a strong candidate to be cut before his contract is guaranteed on July 2.
Remaining contract: Three years, $4.6 million (Only 2017-18 partially guaranteed, rest non-guaranteed)
2016-17 stats: 2.0 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.8 apg
Overview: The Celtics brass was thrilled to land the Notre Dame guard who slipped to the middle of the second round in last year’s draft after being projected as a top 30 pick. A backlog of guards at the NBA level prevented Jackson from having any measurable impact during his rookie year and he didn’t do much to improve his trade stock during his time with the Maine Red Claws. He showed off a versatile all-around skill-set but lackluster shooting percentages in the D-League, making him an overall borderline NBA prospect as he enters year two. The one thing that makes him tradable is a lengthy contract with plenty of unguaranteed money (final two years fully unguaranteed) but it’s unlikely the Celtics would be able to fetch more than a second-round pick for him at this juncture and they may be lucky to even get that. At this point, he’s going to have to show a lot in summer league to even make Boston’s final roster since he may have to be moved for cap space.
Contract situation: About $3 million remaining over two years (Both years unguaranteed if cut before 7/15/17)
2016-17 stats: 1.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.2 bpg, (25 games)
Overview: The former LSU big man spent most of his time with the big club in year two of his NBA career, but the second-round pick failed to make the most of his rotation opportunities early in the year. Mickey struggled with rebounding and holding his own against players with more size on both ends of the floor and that left him as an afterthought to Brad Stevens in the rotation for the remainder of the year. Some team might take a flier on the big man who still has some developmental potential, but the best-case scenario is still a borderline rotation player. Overall, Mickey has close to no trade value at this point and is much more likely to be cut, unless he’s dealt strictly for salary matching reasons.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.