Will Danny finally think Euro?
I can take for granted you all remember the summer of 2010. The team was trying hard to recover from the loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Everybody (included some LA fans) that the loss of Kendrick Perkins due to injury left the Celtics wounded and almost dead against a very good frontcourt of Pau Gasol and a healthy Andrew Bynum.
That summer, Danny signed three centers to the team in order to solve our main hole: a center to relieve an ailing Kevin Garnett in the paint. We welcomed the trio of Shaq, Jermaine and Erden to play in that position while Perk recovered from his knee injury. While the team arguably played the best basketball since the 2007-08 season in the first two months of the competition, what happened next made the Celtics go back to their via dolorosa since then: we lost Perkins (trade), Erden (went home), Shaq and JO (injuries) and were left alone with Krstic that year. Certainly not enough against the Miami Heat.
Enter 2013 and we still have the same problem, if only bigger since our duo of veterans is three years older. The good news is that Rondo and Green are better players now than then, but we still lack a center down there.
The quality of the potential big man to be added increases exponentially with KG´s aging legs. Year after year we need a better center and we get a worse one. We had Krstic, then Hollins and then DJ White and Randolph from China. Certainly way below what we would need to advance deeper into the playoffs.
That is, if we follow the logic of basketball. Danny may receive a very good offer or he can just make a LaFrentz for Walker kind of trade as he did in the past. Anything is possible. But if everything happens as it´s expected, Danny will look for ways to build around what he has now, with some changes.
Those changes need to address our most flagrant need: a big man.
We have talked a lot about the possibility of a trade with Utah, and the rumor out there is that Ainge´s priority is to grab either Big Al or Millsap. Getting one of them (in special Jefferson) would be huge for our team but we would also need to sign another big man to make the transition from playoff team to a real championship contender.
There are lots of names out there, but some of the most intriguing possibilities belong to centers who were born at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Let´s explore some scenarios in which the Celtics may decide to add a big man from Europe, some of them are more likely than others:
Gortat has another year remaining in his current contract and he was long rumored to be a target by Danny Ainge. He has repeatedly insisted on his desire to leave the Suns and management will be looking for ways to obtain something for him before his contract expires in 2014. There are rumors out there that McDonough would like to add another pick to their selections in this draft and a trade could be had between both teams. The Celtics would probably be glad to send Courtney Lee, Fab Melo and the #16 pick for Gortat but it is also likely that the Suns would like to obtain Bradley or Sullinger in exchange.
Gortat is a very solid center, very good in defense and with more skills in the offense than people credit him for. He runs the floor really well and his athleticism is underrated. He would be a much better Chris Wilcox in the worst case scenario. The Celtics wouldn´t need to give up much to have him and Danny has a more than good relationship with the Suns management.
Mozgov is a restricted free agent so the Nuggets can match offers for him, but it is not certain that they would like to go very far in their attempt to keeping him in the roster. Mozgov didn´t get much playing time last year and is certainly willing to leave Denver as soon as possible.
As with Gortat, Mozgov is another very decent player, with still room for growing. He doesn´t do anything particularly brilliant but he also does a lot of things on the court and is better than any of the centers we have had in a long time.
Adding Mozgov wouldn´t be enough to become a more serious contender next year, but it would be a perfect first way to solidify our backcourt.
The rumor from Europe is that Nenad may be thinking about leaving Russia to return to the NBA. If he decided to do so the Celtics own his rights, and that is a very valuable fact to consider. If the Celtics got Krstic back on the court, the value of his talent added to our thin frontcourt would be huge. Having Krstic coming from the bench with Sully to back up a potential starting lineup of KG and Big Al would be excellent for us. Nenad is a good player, whose flaw comes from the defensive end but it is not such as big flaw as many made it look like. He plays good team D, and while his feet are not quick enough sometimes he has a quite high basketball IQ to compensate for it.
The most interesting part of a potential return of Krstic would rest in his contract. As you may remember, Nenad is currently filling a cap hold of $8 million in our payroll. The economic advantage to find a deal for him and trade him to another team would net us some would rewards, either on the court (some player in exchange) and off it (financial flexibility).
So keep an eye on the rumors around Krstic and the consequences of his potential return to the league.
Chris Kaman is a free agent this summer and not long ago he was one of the favorite candidates for fans to beef up our frontcourt. The German center may be not very suited for a fast tempo attack with Rondo, but he can certainly play the game. The dropping of his production in the last seasons coupled with his desire to sign with a contender may make him be happy accepting the mini MLE with the Celtics.
Kaman will most likely not continue in Dallas and Danny could be looking at targetting him with the MLE. The Celtics were interested in him in the past, but his salary back then and the circumstances made it unlikely to make him a member of the team.
I know, I know. Bargnani is not a true center and I fully expect you to not like the suggestion of the Italian forward wearing Celtic green. With that said, I am merely exposing the path Danny might follow and certainly Bargnani is on his way out of Toronto. With their new GM just arrived in town, Toronto is dedicating all their time to find a quick exit for Andrea. They may be willing to want very little in return.
Enter Danny Ainge. He may manage to get a deal with the Raptors and acquire the Italian big man for very little in exchange. Bargs has a not very manageable salary, but he has an early termination clause for his second year at $11 million per season. Bargnani is a player that could help our team with some good coaching and in a more concrete role. He would have both here. Danny may roll the dice with him, who knows?
Here I enter the path into my personal masochism. Some may judge me fool for even mentioning his name in here, but I am just exposing the possible way in which Danny may operate in the next weeks. After all, Pau is a big man (a very good one) and his contract only has a remaining year. As you may imagine, getting Gasol would imply most likely to deal Paul Pierce for him.That, my friends, is blasphemy. And despite this fact, Danny has already done that kind of deals in the past.
I insist, this is not about what I want or what will happen. This is about what it might happen if Danny decides so. And from a basketball point of view, adding Gasol and trying to pair him with KG would make a very interesting combo. Pau will take a whole summer of rest after an awful season and his body and his mind (playing for his last contract,most likely) will be ready to be one of the top big men in the league.
If the Celtics are decided to part ways with Paul (and I hope not), they are still fixed in the summer of 2014 and still want to be competitive with KG and the young core then dealing for Pau is not so far fetched. Again, there are too many ifs and too much pride involved.
So here are some European players that the team may be interested in adding to build a serious frontcourt for next season. Danny has rarely relied on European players for his project, but he may finally take that direction next summer. He may even decide to draft Rudy Gobert from France as he has been rumored to do in some mock drafts recently.
Stay tuned for updates.
It seems the Celtics are interested in yet another Euro player: