While we have seen a handful of free agents sign, the majority of the NBA is on standby until LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony make their decisions. Major free agents are waiting to see where those guys end up before making their own decisions, and small to medium impact guys are waiting (or in some cases are forced) to see what the NBA landscape looks like before signing on somewhere.
Once LeBron and Melo make their calls, expect the majority of free agents to sign rather quickly, making sure to snag the available money across the league before it runs out, like a game of musical chairs.
And when that happens, expect the rumors surrounding the Celtics to pick up. As a reminder, the Cs are basically right up against the NBA's $63 million salary cap after the Avery Bradley signing, meaning they have their mid-level exception (around $5.3 million per year), and their biannual exception (around $2.1 million/year) to spend if they so choose. They currently have 15 players under contract, but that number will certainly dip with the contracts of Keith Bogans, Chris Babb, Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey all non-guaranteed for 2014-15. (Note: Pressey will almost certainly be back, Johnson has a good chance, Babb is a longshot, and Bogans has no shot. Therefore, the Celtics have between 1-3 roster spots open at the moment).
Colton Iverson, a second round pick last year, could easily grab one of those spots. It's also possible an undrafted free agent snags a spot, ala Pressey last season. But the Celtics will at least kick the tires on free agents, and that's what this article is about. Ten names I wouldn't be surprised to hear, and just so you know, I'm trying to keep this thing semi-realistic. So if you're expecting to see LeBron or Carmelo -- sorry to disappoint.
Restricted Free Agents
Of the major restricted free agents on the market, there are only two I see as a fit. Gordon Hayward, a name we've heard linked to the Celtics, is not one of them. The Jazz are reportedly willing to match any offer to Hayward, and are uninterested in a sign-and-trade, making any move to the Cs impossible unless they change their mind.
On to Monroe, I think that there is at least a chance that Danny Ainge discusses a possible sign-and-trade with the Pistons. Detroit is currently clogged in the middle, with Monroe and Andre Drummond down low, and Josh Smith on the wing chucking up threes. If the Pistons could grab a wing who can shoot, move Smith to the four and clear up the paint for Drummond, it may make them a better team, despite the fact that they'd be losing a very good young player in Monroe. So the Celtics could entice Detroit with an offer of Jeff Green (that inside/out wing player they need), Keith Bogans and a first round pick. The Pistons get a better roster fit, a first round pick, and save some money. The Celtics get a 15/10 guy who is only 24-years-old. Because it's a sign-and-trade, the Celtics could offer him much more than the mid-level, which is good news because Monroe will likely command a 4-5 year deal at $13-15 million per season.
And here is the other restricted free agent on the list. The Celtics reached out to Thomas minutes after free agency began, obviously showing that Ainge and company believe in the 5'9" spark plug that exploded last season for the Kings, averaging 20 points and 6 assists for Sacramento.
For those shouting: "We have too many guards!!!" -- know this: If the Celtics acquire Thomas, it will be in a sign-and-trade for Rajon Rondo. There is no way the Celtics are looking at bringing in a third point guard, plus they don't have the cap space to bring in Thomas (who will command around $8 million per season) unless it's a S&T.
Obviously any Thomas for Rondo swap will need significantly more coming from the Sacramento side, but don't completely rule it out. Thomas/Marcus Smart/Bradley would be an incredibly balanced guard unit, all of whom would be under contract for 4-5 years for about $20 million per year combined -- about the same amount Rondo is looking for himself next summer. They'd have two great defenders, two players that can play the point, two that can play the two, two who can shoot, and two that can get to the hoop. While Rondo is a better player than Thomas, Thomas may fit Brad Stevens ball movement system better. But again, we'd need to see more coming back from the Kings for this to happen.
Unrestricted Free Agents
We wrote about the Celtics potential interest in Hump yesterday, and at the right price, he'd be a nice fit. He's a great rebounder, brings energy, and is fantastic in transition, both on offense and defense. But as I wrote yesterday, he's likely to get mid-level offers from contenders, possibly from the Heat or Wizards, and it's tough to imagine him taking the same amount to return to the Celtics. He's also not a true fit for the Celts current roster with Sullinger and Olynyk both in need of playing time. But the Celtics are reportedly considering bringing him back, so he's on the list.
You may notice something about most of the names here -- they are tall, and long. Davis is no exception. The 6'10" big man has a 7'1" wingspan and can play both power forward and center. He was a solid part of the Grizzlies' rotation last year, averaging 5.7 PPG and 4.1 RPG. For his career Davis has averaged 11.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per-36 minutes, showing off the talent that got him selected 13th overall in 2010.
Davis is the exact type of guy -- young, talented and somewhat cheap -- the Celtics should be focused on this summer. He will likely command a portion of the mid-level, and would be a nice fit, skill wise, next to the more offensively talented Sullinger and Olynyk.
Like Davis, Udoh was a 2010 first round pick that just hasn't quite panned out. But he also has a 7'5" wingspan and a career average of 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes, making him a nice fit for Boston's current center opening. Don't expect much on offense from Udoh, who has shot only 43% during his four year career, but if a cheap paint protector is what you seek, he may be your man.
I'd imagine he could be had for a portion of the mid-level exception, something like $2-3 million per season.
Adrien quietly had a strong second half for Milwaukee last year, averaging 10.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 0.8 BPG for the tanking Bucks after a mid-season trade from Charlotte.
He's only 6'7 but has a 7'2" wingspan, and is a really good rebounder, grabbing 24.8% of all available defensive rebounds last season. While he can't play center full time, he'd be a nice guy to snag for the league minimum if the Celtics decide against using their full mid-level.
Hill had a very good season for the Lakers in 2013-14, averaging career highs in points (9.7), rebounds (7.4), blocks (0.9) and minutes (20.8). He's not your prototypical paint protector, but he can play the center position better than Sully and Olynyk, and he brings a lot more to the table offensively than the three names above do. But because of his success last year, expect there to be a host of teams interested, and I wouldn't be surprised if his price tag ends up exceeding what the Celtics can offer.
However, if they could land him and play him 30 minutes a night, it would be fun to see what he could do, as his career per-36 averages of 14.7 points, 11.6 boards and 1.5 blocks seem to paint the picture that he has been underused in his career.
The last of the big men, and the clear winner of "one of these things is not like the other" for this article. Unlike the above players, all in their 20s, Okafor is about to turn 32, and he didn't play at all last season due to a back injury. But the Celtics need for a center and Okafor's need to prove he's healthy may make this a fit. Boston could offer a couple of million dollars and a starting spot for one year, allowing Okafor to show the league he still has something to give. If a contender comes calling, Okafor may choose that option instead, but the Celtics may be able to give him more playing time, which could set the former UConn Huskie up for a bigger payday next summer.
Aminu isn't a center, but would fill a nice role on this Celtics' roster. He's a small forward with the complete opposite skill-set as Green, providing toughness, defense and rebounding to the position. He's also strong enough to play some power forward in small-ball lineups, giving Stevens some versatility.
Truth be told, he's somewhat redundant to Gerald Wallace, but sometimes I like to forget that Wallace exists, so forgive me. Aminu doesn't turn 24 until September and will likely be looking for a multi-year deal at around $5 million per. He averaged 7.2 points and 6.2 boards per game for the Pelicans last year.
I mean, it's not realistic, but the list of names at this point was pretty depressing, so why not put him here? There's a snowball's chance in hell that the Cs land Kevin Love and go the "contend right now" path -- and if so, they'll need to bring in veterans to play off the bench. In the 1-in-50 chance this happens, why not let Pierce finish his career where it started? At least it's fun to day dream about.
Other names to kick around: Jimmer Fredette, Greg Stiemsma, Kent Bazemore, Greg Oden, Aaron Gray
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 7/07/2014 03:17:00 PM Tweet