Extreme player turnover and an uncertain future have defined the Boston Celtics 2014-15 season.
Danny Ainge gutted the roster this winter, trading away expensive veterans to stockpile draft picks and dive deeper into the rebuilding process. Eighteen different players have seen the floor for the Celtics this year. As of now, only Avery Bradley is officially on the books after next season (h/t HoopsHype.com).
And, thanks to their recent moves, the Celtics could conceivably own 14 draft picks over the next two years (h/t Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston.com).
With the trade deadline looming (Thursday, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. ET), Boston may shake up its roster even more.
No one knows what this team will look like tomorrow, let alone next season.
Three-thousand miles away from Boston, in the Spanish city of Vitoria, Colton Iverson hopes to play his way into the Celtics’ murky future.
Iverson, 25, is a bruising 7-foot American center. This season, he is playing for Laboral Kutxa Baskonia, a club with a strong tradition in both the Spanish ACB and the Euroleague.
The Celtics bought a 2nd-round pick in 2013 to draft Iverson, and he played with the team’s Summer League squad each of the last two seasons. However, a crowded Celtics frontcourt led him to sign his first professional contracts overseas — first Turkey, now Spain — while Boston retains his NBA rights.
After a critical Euroleague win over Unicaja Málaga last Friday, Iverson told LosCrossovers he plans to join the Celtics for Summer League again this offseason. He and his agent have stayed in contact with Celtics’ representatives throughout the year, and Iverson said he’s encouraged by the team’s commitment.
“I know they’ve been following me all year, all last year too, and it’s just good to know that they’re still investing in me by watching me and keeping track of me,” Iverson said. “It’s good to know they’re still in it.”
Given Iverson’s recent play, it’s not surprising the Celtics remain interested.
He was named the ACB Player of the Week in January after posting 14 points and 15 rebounds against Obradoiro, and on Sunday, he grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds versus Manresa.
He has been a crucial part of Baskonia’s recent success, helping them go 4-2 in their last six ACB games. Their two losses during that stretch came by a combined three points on the road against 1st-place Málaga and 2nd-place Real Madrid.
Iverson isn’t a prolific shot-blocker or outside shooter, and big men lacking those skills can be a tricky fit in today’s NBA. But he still does many things that are essential for good teams.
He plays solid defense, he attacks rebounds, he sets wide — sometimes devastating — screens, and he’s incredibly strong.
In Baskonia’s recent loss to Real Madrid, Iverson rolled hard to the rim, took one dribble and sent Ioannis Bourousis (7’0″, 270 pounds) sprawling backward before gathering himself and finishing the play.
Prior to this season, the Celtics wanted Iverson to work on defending without fouling.
After picking up quick fouls earlier this year, he has mostly kicked the habit.
“I think I’ve been progressing very well,” Iverson said. “Sometimes it doesn’t show, just (because of) mental lapses in my game. But I think for the most part I’ve really been working on not fouling to keep me in the game, and that’s been huge.”
Later in the matchup against Real Madrid, Iverson played perfect help defense against Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez — two of the best guards in Europe. Then he snatched the rebound, threw an outlet pass, and ran straight to the rim to finish the play.
Later, he played strong one-on-one defense against Bourousis on the left block.
And in the second half, he again showed his ability to hedge the pick-and-roll, force a pass, recover, and stop the subsequent drive.
Iverson is diversifying his offensive game as well. Most of his looks are created by dump-offs from his point guards, but he can bust out some clever post moves when necessary.
He is also becoming a not-so-terrible free-throw shooter (65.5 percent in the ACB) and he looks comfortable shooting elbow-jumpers in pre-game warmups.
“I’ve just been trying to work on my all-around game, so if the time comes to use it, I’ll be ready,” Iverson said.
While he may never develop into a great shooter or a starting NBA center, he excels in enough areas to make him a quality backup.
The Celtics’ future roster is uncertain, but the ultimate goal is clear: to win championships. And every title contender needs big men who can come off the bench to clog up space on defense, grab rebounds, deliver hard fouls, set screens, and maybe slam home a few dunks.
There’s no doubt Iverson can do that.