Celtics Lead

Checking in on Boston’s G-League Options

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A new year brings a clean slate for the Boston Celtics, who stumbled their way to a 21-15 record in the 2018 portion of the season. Despite their confusing inconsistencies, the Celtics sit near the top of the league in numerous statistical categories. After beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston now ranks fourth in net rating. They also place in the top 10 for 3PT%, assist ratio, turnovers and steals per game. Basketball Reference lists the C’s expected record at 25-12– a much greater win percentage than actuality.

Injuries have continued to plague the team, however, hurting them in different ways every game. Al Horford returned recently after missing time due to knee pain. Aron Baynes is still out with a hand injury, Robert Williams is now out with a groin injury, and Kyrie Irving missed the Wolves game after being hit in the face in the previous contest. At full strength, this roster is one of the deepest in basketball. Unfortunately, the recent stretch of play has seen anything but full health.

While the Celtics could give up assets on the trade market to address depth, the NBA G League offers a route with less sacrifice involved. After waiving Walt Lemon Jr., Boston has one two-way slot available for use. The team could also waive Jabari Bird, opening up a roster spot. The G-League pool is loaded with talent that could reinforce the end of the Celtics’ rotation.

Option 1: Sign P.J. Dozier

Unlike their parent team, the Maine Red Claws have floundered this season to the tune of a 7-14 record. Dozier, a 6’6″ guard in his sophomore year, has been the lone season-long bright spot, averaging 21.7 PTS, 7.2 AST and 6.7 REB per game. He’s almost the G-League equivalent of DeMar DeRozan. Dozier is often found exploding to the basket, finishing on tough contested layups, and demonstrating a layered arsenal of dribble and footwork moves. But like DeRozan, P.J. Dozier’s long range game is frustratingly inconsistent, as he’s hit just 28.8% of his attempts on the year.

The Celtics could use another slashing wing to collapse defenses. Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward have recently picked up their respective games, but they have still been inconsistent in attacking the rim. Adding an impressive finisher and capable passer in Dozier would allow Boston to give their deep lineup of shooters even more open attempts. Though he’s logged just 11 NBA minutes between the Celtics and Thunder, Dozier looks ready for time in the pros. The Celtics recently called Dozier up, and they’d need to free up a roster spot to sign him– but he’s worth a season-long contract.

Option 2: Add a Two-Way Player

One of the NBA’s recent promotions of its minor league has been through the use of “two-way” contracts. Each team is allowed to sign two players who have had no more than four years of NBA experience to one of these deals. Under the rule, a signed player gets up to 45 days with their NBA team, spending the remaining time in the G-League. For the Celtics, this option means bringing aboard Dozier and another player to temporarily fill a gap caused by injury. Plenty of G-Leaguers deserve a two-way deal, but these two look like the best short-term fits for the Celtics.

Chinanu Onuaku, Greensboro Swarm: A 6’10”, 250lb beast from Louisville, Onuaku was drafted back in 2016 by the Houston Rockets. He is dominating the G-League glass this season, grabbing 13 rebounds per game. The 22-year-old won’t be much more than an interior presence, but after the rash of injuries to Boston’s bigs, he could step in and create second chances.

Kalin Lucas, Stockton Kings: Though 29 years old, Lucas is still eligible for a Two-Way deal, since he’s played only one year (and only one game) in the NBA. The 6’1″ guard currently sports a line of 22.4 points, 6.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. He’s shot extremely well, posting a 42.5 3PT% and an 88% free throw rate. If Kyrie’s injury history rears up, Lucas is a solid depth option behind Rozier, Wanamaker and Marcus Smart.

Option 3: Call-Ups and 10-Days

Jabari Bird has nullified a roster spot while waiting for justice on his sexual assault charge. If the Celtics do release Bird, they free up a roster spot that could be used on a host of G-Leaguers. These three players are not two-way eligible, but definitely worth a glance. Since players sign with the G-League and not a team, Boston can scour the entire league to look for depth.

John Jenkins, Westchester Knicks: Drafted in the first round way back in 2012, Jenkins bounced around the NBA before landing in Westchester. He’s a pure scoring guard at 6’4″, but a great one, as he’s averaging 25.8 PPG on 48.2% shooting (44% 3PT). If the Celtics are cold, Jenkins is the ideal high-energy spark off the bench.

Terrence Jones, Erie Bayhawks: A former high school star and 2012 first round pick, Jones has flirted with the NBA for years. Now he dominates the G-League, averaging a monster 24 points on 54% shooting (40% 3PT) along with nine rebounds and five assists per game. He’s a proven stretch four that can snatch rebounds and be fluid in an offense.

Anthony Bennett, Agua Caliente Clippers: The infamous torch bearer of the dreadful 2013 draft lottery now spends his time in the G-League. Bennett played on the Red Claws last season, but a trade sent him to the Clippers’ affiliate. He now is a deadly sharpshooter with a spectacular 57.7 FG% and 47.0 3PT%. At the beginning of the year, we noted that Bennett may still have a role in today’s league. Though he’s a one-dimensional player, Bennett’s ceiling could entice the Celtics to give him one more try.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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