Ranking the top 15 remaining free agents, and who the Celtics have a shot at
NBA free agency is one week old, and quite a few big names have already agreed to deals across the league. Al Jefferson is heading to Charlotte, Paul Millsap to Atlanta, J.J. Hickson to Denver, Josh Smith to Detroit, and oh yea, Dwight Howard to Houston.
Taking a look at the remaining free agents, the amount of talent on the market is beginning to dip, and the Celtics haven't done anything yet. Of course the C's have somewhat of a built in excuse, as their mega-deal with the Nets is still three days away from going through. The Celtics have no cap space, and until the deal goes through, no expiring deals to make a sign-and-trade happen. They also have a muddled salary situation until the league finalizes the trade, not knowing if they're right below or above the luxury tax line, clouding how big of a mid-level exception they can offer. And oh yea, thanks to the Keith Bogans sign-and-trade they're working with a hard cap of approximately $75 million next season, complicating deals further.
But still, once the deal is official the shackles will be lifted on Danny Ainge and the Celtics, and they will at least be able to investigate potential deals. Will they actually sign anyone major? Well that's anyones guess. They have a crowded roster and may not want to sign any "placeholders" as the team begins a rebuild, but let's take a look at the top 15 remaining free agents, and whether or not the Celtics will have any interest.
15. Gary Neal, Spurs - Neal is coming off a breakout performance in the NBA Finals, and has drawn interest from a number of teams, including the Pistons. He's a natural shooting guard but a little undersized at 6'4", and can play point if necessary. However as long as the Celtics employ Courtney Lee, Neal would be pretty redundant. He also fits better as a role player on a contender, something he's used to and will probably seek again. Don't see it as a fit.
14. D.J. Augustin, Pacers - I really like Augustin as a backup point guard for Rondo, but with the current gluttony of guards, he may not be interested in Boston. However, if Augustin, 26, could be convinced he had a role with the Celtics, he would be an awesome buy low candidate. He's coming off an awful season in Indiana, but averaged 11 points and 6.4 assists as recently as 2011-12. The Celtics have been looking for a backup to Rondo for years, and considering #9's minutes may be limited coming off his knee injury, Augustin would be a perfect fit. He will probably command a portion of the mid-level exception, a price the Celtics can afford.
12. Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers - The fact that there are two Pacers bench players on this list speaks volumes to the talent remaining on the open market, but Hansbrough is definitely going to draw interest from a host of teams. The Pacers are interested in retaining Hansbrough, but after giving $36 million to David West last week, may not be able to afford Crazy T. Hansbrough, now 27, is coming off the worst season of his four year career, averaging career lows in both minutes played and points. However, he's the prototypical backup power forward, providing above average scoring and rebounding while routinely flipping momentum with his energy. Of course the Celtics are currently flush with PF's, meaning that they'll most likely pass on Hansbrough barring a roster space clearing deal.
11. Marreese Speights, Cavs - Only 25 years old, Speights is currently on the market and ready to sign with his 4th NBA team. But don't let that fool you. He played the best basketball of his career following a trade to Cleveland last season, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in just 18.5 minutes, and is a per-36 minute All-Star, averaging 17.0 points and 9.6 boards per-36 in his career. Speights should be one of the first players the Celtics target with their mid-level once the dust settles on their deal with Brooklyn. At 6'10" he can play some center, and he's one of the few players on the market who won't break the bank but has the potential to be an All-Star caliber player.
10. Chris Kaman, Mavs - Kaman is a perfect fit for the Celtics. Of 2012. The unfrozen caveman center is still a viable starting big man in the NBA, but a much better fit for a team planning on being in contention next season. (Note: Kaman signed with the Lakers after I had already finished 85% of this article, so I guess it's a top 14 list now).
9. Corey Brewer, Nuggets - I'll be perfectly honest, I have had a man crush on Brewer since he was drafted 7th overall in the 2007 draft. It took him awhile to get over a 2008 ACL injury, but Brewer blossomed with the Nuggets last season, averaging 12.1 points and 1.4 steals in a reserve role. Brewer is looking to cash in, but will struggle to find more than $5 million per season, a price the Celtics can possibly pay depending on where their final salary number ends up following the KG deal. He would be a perfect backup to Jeff Green and someone who would see crunch time minutes alongside him.
8. Mo Williams, Jazz - Williams is reportedly looking for a starting gig, something the Celtics would only be able to offer if Rondo is traded. This makes a deal with Boston unlikely, but Williams earns his spot on this list with consistent production (8 straight years above 12 PPG, 5 seasons of 5+ APG), and elite shooting from deep (career 39% from three). He's been injured over the past four seasons (missing an average of 22 games per year), but if healthy he should be able to find a starting gig somewhere.
7. Greg Oden, FA - It speaks volumes of Oden's talent level that he ranks number seven on this list despite the fact that he hasn't played this decade. But when you think about his price tag (short tern deal with limited guaranteed cash), potential, and position (how many dominant centers are there in the NBA?), Oden should be someone the Celtics are extremely interested in. Sure there's a chance his knees fall apart yet again, but if so, what do you lose? Maybe $5 million over 1-2 years. There is no one on this list with more of a "low-risk/high-reward" pay-off, something a rebuilding team like the Celtics should be all over. Offer him more playing time, a chance to play with an elite point guard and the opportunity to re-establish himself as a premium center and see if that's enough to get him in green.
6. Andrei Kirilenko, Timberwolves - Kirilenko returned to the NBA last season and had a typical "Kirilenko" type season for Minnesota, filling up the stat sheet to the tune of 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. After opting out of the final one season and $10 million on his contract, Kirilenko is likely to seek anywhere from $8-10 million per year over 2-3 seasons, a price tag too rich for the Celtics. Considering he's 32 and has been prone to injuries over his career, that's not a bad thing. Let another team overpay while the Celtics target less expensive players.
5. Jeff Teague, Hawks - Teague's name has been thrown around in numerous sign-and-trade possibilities, including one for the Bucks Brandon Jennings. With that said, don't expect the Celtics to get involved. Teague is only 25 years old and coming off a season where he averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game, and will be paid accordingly. Considering the Celtics starting back court is currently set, look for Teague to go elsewhere.
Andrew Bynum, Sixers - Oh..Bynum. His knees are falling apart and he's a notorious asshat who's commitment to the game has been doubted. Despite that, Cleveland is ready to offer him a one year deal with a significant financial commitment. If the Celtics had the cap space Bynum would be in the Oden camp of big men worth a flyer, but he figures to make about double what Oden will, putting him out of the Celtics price range. Considering his injury history he's not an ideal sign-and-trade candidate either, as the Celtics would likely want more of a sure thing if they're going to be giving up assets. Let him be someone else's problem.
3. Monta Ellis, Bucks - The market for Ellis is crashing, as his demands have reportedly fallen from max money ($16 million) to under $10 million per season. Despite the fall, it's unlikely the Celtics would be able to reach him number, especially as the Nuggets and Hawks have already expressed interest. If Boston is going to go all in on a sign-and-trade, look for them to target a big man, not a guard. Speaking of..
2. Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves - It's completely possible that Pekovic could sign with the Wolves before the Celtics could pull off a deal for him later this week, as Minnesota has a four year offer to him on the table. However, for the sake of this article let's pretend he lasts until Thursday night. Pekovic is the best big man remaining on the market, coming off of a season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 boards per game during his age 27 season. However, the Wolves are well aware of Pek's break out season and appear ready to give him $12 million per season. It seems hard to imagine the Wolves choosing the Celtics possible package of Humphries expiring deal and two first round picks over Pekovic if their reportedly willing to pay him as much as they are. But until he signs on that dotted line, you never know.
Who do you want to see the Celtics go after? Or should they pass on everyone and let the young kids play? Let us know in the comment section.
Green target: Nikola Pekovic
Green Target: Greg Oden
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