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What Do The Celtics Do With Terry Rozier?

At some point, Danny Ainge will have to decide on what to do with Terry Rozier. What is Boston’s best option? Shane Rhodes looks at potential scenarios.

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Terry Rozier’s future is an interesting one.

The 6-foot-2 guard out of Louisville wasn’t exactly a household name before Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving went down with a (eventual) season-ending knee injury. But, when he took the reins, Rozier broke out in a big way for Brad Stevens and his squad.

In the first 16 regular season starts of his career, Rozier averaged 15.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists – quality numbers in their own right. He then stepped up even further in the postseason, where he averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. In fact, Rozier led the team in field goal percentage in the clutch during the postseason, knocking down seven of 12 shots within the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime and the score within five points.

With the return of Irving, however, Rozier will be relegated back to the bench this season. But, going into the last year of his rookie deal, he presents quite the predicament to Danny Ainge and company. Jokes have been made about the Ainge-Rozier relationship in the past but, at some point, Ainge will have to decide on what to do with Rozier.

So what could he decide to do, exactly?

Let Rozier Walk

This isn’t the prototypical Ainge move. If his track record is anything to suggest, Ainge has refused to miss out on potential value and would seemingly do so in this instance as well.

But what asset could the Celtics acquire that would provide them with a better chance of taking home a title than Rozier does right now? Boston’s roster is the best version of itself with Rozier on it and, if the ultimate goal is to win, he should stick around at least for this season.

If the Celtics do manage to dethrone the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, Rozier will undoubtedly play a big part in it. And, even if he is lost to free agency at the end of it all, that alone is what makes this risk a viable, if unlikely, option.

Trade Rozier Before The 2018 Trade Deadline

It was reported that the Phoenix Suns had looked into adding Rozier, among other guards, during the offseason. That interest, as well as interest from other teams, will almost certainly continue into the regular season.

This season’s NBA Trade Deadline falls on Feb. 7 and, as teams try to improve their respective squads for a postseason push, it figures to be active. As he has done in the past, Ainge could look to cash in and move Rozier to another potential contender looking for an upgrade at the point guard position, or any other team that may see Rozier as a long-term fit.

With the chance to acquire him before he is a free agent and extend him for the long-haul, Ainge could almost certainly get a king’s ransom in return for Rozier, whether he looks for a player that can contribute right away, draft picks, or some combination of the two.

But holding off could backfire as well. A potential injury or regression in play could deflate Rozier’s value and make it difficult for Ainge to get anything for him. There are other negative implications in moving a steady contributor like Rozier off an already championship-caliber roster that may not be so positive either – what will the other players think?

Ainge’s mantra has always been to build the team for the now and the future, but this move may not sit well with a squad that thinks they can already win it all.

Match And Retain Rozier

Rozier is a restricted free agent, meaning the Celtics could match any and all offers that come his way following the season.

The Celtics, however, are already over the salary cap and slightly over the luxury tax threshold, and the contract Rozier figures to get would push them over even further. While he may be Boston’s best option in a vacuum, a new deal for Rozier may not be the best option given the cap situation. Aside from gutting the remainder of the bench, there isn’t really a feasible way around this; the team would almost certainly get stuck above the luxury threshold, which would result in a large payout to the NBA, one that would increase year-after-year and one that would burn a hole in the pocket of ownership.

Still, there are multiple benefits to this path. Rozier is a talented guard that can help the team win a championship. Barring some fallout, Rozier staying around would be good for the locker room and team culture as well.

But, perhaps most importantly, Rozier is Boston’s Irving insurance plan. In the event that Irving was to walk after this season (something that seems unlikely at this point) or suffer another serious injury during, Rozier is the ultimate safety net. He has proven that he is starting-caliber and, if asked to step up again, Rozier is more than capable of answering the call.

Match And Trade Rozier

Again, Rozier is the Celtics’ high-quality insurance policy. However, if they are able to retain Irving and he is indeed at full health, the team could instead look to move Rozier for more assets.

The Celtics own the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-round pick (if it isn’t No. 1) via last year’s draft swap with the Philadelphia 76ers. If they retain Irving and move Rozier, the Celtics could fill the hole he leaves on the bench with another high-profile – and more importantly, inexpensive – rookie in addition to whatever they may acquire in a potential Rozier deal.

This move falls in line the most with what Ainge has done in the past. Not only would he be protecting the team in the event of an Irving-related disaster, but this also fits Ainge’s modus operandi; he has always and will continue to capitalize on the depth and talent that he has built up over the years in order to keep the Celtics’ championship window open for as long as possible.

So while he may not seem like the prototypical big-ticket player, Terry Rozier is still a fascinating talent and could present one of the more interesting stories to follow this coming season. There are plenty of options that Boston could pursue here and, while it may not shift the landscape of the NBA, what Ainge ultimately does with Rozier’s could play a major role in the Celtics’ success, both this season and in the future.

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