Nets’ Offseason Plan: Time to Poach the Celtics?

It is time for leg three of this series.  As the Nets scour the league for talent, who is a realistic add? From that group, who helps? 

For today’s leg of the series, it is on to Beantown, a place that has pillaged the Nets present and future. 

The Celtics figure to be at a crossroads of sorts this season. In all likelihood, they will be fresh off a second round or conference finals exit, with the Nets’ top 3 pick in tow. The question: how do the Celtics take the next step, from very good to great?

In al likelihood, the number one pick does not elevate the Celtics past the Cavs next year; top picks typically are not that impactful initially. And with the Celtics asset trove, and financial flexibility — they have over $40 million in cap space without factoring in their Nets pick or options to spare parts — Boston can do real damage this summer. And with multiple stars on the market potentially, the Celtics will look to add big name talent to surround their core of Thomas, Horford, Smart, Crowder, and Bradley.

At the same time, Thomas Bradley and Smart are free agents next summer (2018), with Crowder hitting the 2019 market — and each is in line for a significant raise. The Celtics should keep this group together and use their assets to launch from 53-65 wins, rather than go backward, and they will likely try to carry out that intent.

What does that mean? That means the non core Celtics pieces are prone to being snatched, given the bigge priorities. The above doesn’t even factor in money earmarked for Ante Zizic and Gerschon Yabusele, first rounders they stashed last year. 

So with all of those financial and big name considerations, can other parts of the roster be poached?

Let’s start with Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk is a restricted free agent, but with all the money earmarked for Thomas, Bradley, Crowder, Smart, and big name trade or free agent acquisitions, he may become too rich for Boston’s blood. Olynyk has been a consistent 35% three point shooter in Boston, his 15 and 8 averages per 36 averages are solid, and he is a competent athlete who plays good positional defense. He has not improved much since year 2, and the Nets would be paying for his age 26-30 seasons, but if Lopez is traded for future assets, he can play an expansive offensive big role for Brooklyn.

With all restricted free agents, the likelihood is the incumbent team will match. And surely, with many big money decisions not up until 2018, the Celtics may match any Olynyk offers and look to move him if need be down the road. However, with the financial flux they will soon be in, and his role as a non core piece, he is worth an offer. Olynyk is not solving any problems in Brooklyn, and there is worry that he will not improve, will be pushing 30, and that his numbers are inflated by Stevens’ system. Still, why not offer $50-60 million over four years and see if it sticks?

Next is Tyler Zeller, who the Celtics have a team option on for next year. They have to decide by July 2, and may decline the option to open up better alternatives. Zeller has regressed and has seen his playing time take a dip. There are real questions as to his place on the roster, and I don’t see Boston retaining him. The Nets may be well served offering him a small, make good offer to see if they can salvage his career; he would certainly earn more playing time. 

From there, James Young, Demetrius Jackson, and Jordan Mickey sit at the end of the roster; the Celtics have small options on the latter two. I do not expect them to let Jackson go but if they do, he is a young point guard who, while he has done next to nothing, has strong per 36 stats. You can never have enough ball handlers in Atkinson’s offense. Mickey has struggled, but Young has finally shown flashes this year and may be worth a longer look.

The Celtics’ desire to spend in other places also may lead to financial decisions in the second round of the draft. The Celtics have three second round picks this year, from Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Cleveland. Those picks would currently fall at 39, 52, and 56 in the draft. With so many financial decisions ahead, the Celtics may decide to trade out of some of that stock, and the Nets should see if there is an opportunity there for another shot at the dartboard. 

Lastly, the Celtics are likely not a big trade option for Brooklyn. With their goal of adding stars, it makes little sense for the Celtics to take the Nets veteran money on. They want George or Butler for the Nets pick, so drop your Lopez for the pick ideas — would you make that deal as Boston? 

The Celtics cut the Nets with a knife in 2013. But maybe the Nets can start using their parts to start picking the pieces up this summer.  

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