The Celtics could acquire that rim protector in several ways: they could sign a free agent in the offseason like Hassan Whiteside or restricted free agents like Festus Ezeli, they could draft one with the 400 picks they own in the upcoming draft or they can trade for one now.
Going after free agents like Whiteside would certainly improve that part of Boston's game, but he's very likely going to get a max contract this summer and does not look like a franchise-type player. He's another DeAndre Jordan, as in he's great at rebounds, dunks and blocks but not much else. Concerns have also been raised about his dedication to the game and if he would continue to play as hard as he is now after he gets paid. Boston should have enough cap space for close to two max contracts this summer. Using one of them on Whiteside would be disappointing.
Lesser free agents or restricted ones like Ezeli could be an option, but older vets (like Amir Johnson who is already on the roster) would only be a stop-gap as the team continues to develop and teams can match any offer for restricted free agents which makes it harder to pry them away.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge can certainly go after a shot blocker with one of his later first rounders or any of his second rounders. The problem is there simply aren't enough roster spots or minutes to go around as it stands now in order to develop that shot blocker (see: Mickey, Jordan).
That brings us to trades and it just so happens that there is a pretty good rim protector out there who is young, cost controlled and doesn't appear to have much value to his current team. That player is John Henson.
For whatever reason, Henson seems to always be an afterthought in his four years in Milwaukee even though his stats look very good. He's currently stuck behind Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker on the depth chart and gets two more minutes per game (16.7) than Johnny O'Bryant (14.7).
Henson, who just turned 25 late last month, measures in at 6'11" with a reported 7'4" wingspan while weighing in at 229 lbs. His best season was his second in the league where he averaged 11.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 1.7 bpg in 26.5 mpg. This season his scoring and rebounding numbers are down at 6.9 and 3.9 respectively but even while playing 10 fewer minutes than in his sophomore year, he's still averaging nearly two blocks per contest.
Looking at his per 36 numbers, it's hard to see why the Bucks don't give him more run. This year Henson's averaging 14.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 4.2 bpg per 36 minutes. That's nearly the same production as Whiteside minus about six rebounds. And if Boston acquired Henson, it would be at a fraction of what Whiteside will get this summer. Strangely, the Bucks locked Henson up to a 4-year $44 million contract extension last October. One would think that if they extended him then they would use him more. It is concerning that the Bucks don't see him as a core piece, but that could have more to do with how head coach Jason Kidd wants to play rather than Henson's talent.
It's also a little troublesome to add essentially $11 million to the books for the next four years given how important cap space is to the rebuild, but given how much the salary cap will increase, Henson's deal in a couple years could look like Avery Bradley's deal today.
So here's the trade:
Boston sends David Lee and a second round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Boston sends Jared Sullinger and a couple second round picks or a late first to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee sends Henson to Boston.
Portland sends Pat Connaughton to Boston.
This has to be a three-team deal because Henson's extension doesn't kick in until next year making the financials nearly impossible to work with for a straight trade between Boston and Milwaukee this season. Why Portland? Well /u/dangercart over on Reddit beautifully articulated why sending Lee to Portland is a win-win. Basically Portland is below the salary floor by over $13 million and needs to get up to the floor or pay the difference to its players. Trading for Lee at the deadline means Portland only has to pay the remainder of Lee's salary, not the full $15.5 million he's making this year and gets them above the floor. The pick sweetens the deal and Boston has far more picks (eight) in the upcoming draft than roster spots anyway.
Connaughton is a throw in as he isn't playing in Portland and opens up a spot for Lee, though Portland can buy Lee out, and Connaughton can be waived by Boston.
The crux of this deal is really Sully and a pick or two for Henson. That may be a tough pill to swallow for fans as some nights Sullinger has looked like the best player on the roster. But he's entering restricted free agency this summer so who knows what his next contract will look like and we're still talking about his conditioning issues four years into his career. At the end of the day, you have to give up something to get something. Henson is a much better athlete than Sully, is a much more efficient scorer without having to worry about missed three pointers and can rebound nearly as well as Sullinger. Oh, and he can block shots like a mad man.
If this deal where to happen, Henson could become Boston's starting center. If not, he'd be a great defensive presence off the bench as well as a source of easy buckets. Whether or not Milwaukee would be open to this is anyone's guess. They certainly aren't a good team right now so acquiring a pick or two and a young guy who can score and rebound wouldn't hurt.
Does this deal move the needle towards title contention? Not really, but it would absolutely rectify one of Boston's major issues allowing Ainge to focus on other things that need to be addressed like snagging a star or two and getting some go-to scorers.
Stats via Basketball-Reference
@ericblaisdell13 Eric Blaisdell 1/26/2016 09:05:00 PM Tweet Edit