By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — An integral part of Danny Ainge’s offseason will be evaluating his own assets. With big decisions looming on future contracts and potential trade chips, the Celtics must figure out which players they are better off holding onto and who is worth selling high on via trade.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a closer look at the individual campaign of each player on the 2016-17 roster and evaluate what they need to improve upon to help the Celtics reach a contending level in the coming seasons. In our first edition of the three-part, we’ll take a look at the team’s guards:
Notable 2016-17 stats: 28.9 ppg, 5.9 apg, 46.3% FG, 90.9% FT, 37.9% 3PT, 8.5 FTA per game.
Summer assignment: Get healthy.
A hip injury suffered in mid-March ultimately resulted in a premature end to the 28-year-old’s postseason in the Eastern Conference Finals. Playing through the injury during the playoffs was admirable, but the two-time All-Star could be facing a lengthy rehab process if he opts for surgery, and that could last into the upcoming season. Returning in top form must be the priority for Thomas as he enters his contract season, particularly since point guard is one of the deepest positions in the league. A max deal is attainable for the 5-foot-9 guard, but it isn’t a guarantee from the Celtics or any other team if he shows some regression following a career year.
Notable 2016-17 stats: 16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.3% FG, 39.0% 3PT, 1.2 SPG
Summer assignment: Expand his offensive game.
Bradley’s been a one-trick pony throughout much of his career, relying on his jump shot as his primary weapon to score. Bradley’s shooting at the rim (62.2 percent inside three feet) and free throw rate (1.8 FTA per 36 minutes) remained stagnant at age 26. Those weaknesses make him a player the Celtics could be hesitant to invest big money in when he hits free agency next summer. He improved one important element to his game last year (defensive rebounding) and becoming an offensive threat beyond just the perimeter should help him cash in wit a massive payday in 2018.
Notable 2016-17 stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.6 apg, 35.9% FG, 28.3% 3PT, 1.5 SPG
Summer assignment: Improve his finishing at the rim.
The perimeter shot is probably never going to be consistent for Smart, but his shooting inside the arc is just as much of an issue for the 23-year-old. Smart hit just 42 percent of his 2-point field goals (14th overall on Celtics roster), and that number wasn’t much better inside of three feet (48 percent) either. Smart needs to show some growth on this front if he wants to become a legitimate two-way player in this league. With the way offense is exploding in the across the league right now, the Celtics can’t afford to have a point guard that’s easy for defenses to ignore all over the court.
Smart’s defensive intangibles will always give him value, but if he wants to become a bonafide starter he needs to show more competency in the paint.
Notable 2016-17 stats: 5.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 36.7% FG, 31.8% 3PT, 0.6 SPG
Summer assignment: Carry over the momentum from the postseason.
Ainge took a gamble on Rozier in the 2015 NBA Draft by selecting the Louisville guard at No. 16 overall, far earlier than he had been projected. Rozier has failed to live up to those expectations for the first two years of his career, but he showed in the last two months that he’s capable of being a strong bench guard. He shot above-average from the 3-point line (36.8 percent), had a terrific 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and produced one of the best net ratings on the entire roster. With tough decisions looming on the remainder of Boston’s backcourt as they come up for new contracts, Rozier must show the front office he can sustain that kind of production and fill in for whichever guard is priced out of Boston’s future plans.
Earning a combined $5 million over the next two seasons, Rozier will help Ainge chase big fish in free agency and on the trade market while maintaining an affordable competent rotation of bench players to surround them with.
Notable 2016-17 stats (D-League): 14.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 6.0 apg, 42% FG, 27.5% 3PT, 1.3 SPG
Summer assignment: Play himself back onto the 15-man roster.
Jackson’s contract for 2016-17 is only partially guaranteed ($650,000), so he’ll have to earn his spot with a fresh batch of second round picks as well as Abdel Nader gunning for limited slots at the end of the bench. A strong performance in summer league will be essential for Jackson to prove he belongs at the NBA level after overall uneven play at the D-League level. He needs to show he can be a reliable shooter/scorer offensively to balance out the other well-rounded components of his game.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.