Green Target: Rebounding

Getting a board for the Boston Celtics has been a problem.

Getting a guy to get the board has been a bigger one. For all you folks saying we should have just kept Jared Sullinger on the roster, well, let’s just say we’d have had the same problem, as he’s yet to suit up for the Toronto Raptors this season. Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford, Amir Johnson, and Tyler Zeller are all doing a little bit better than they were for the first quarter of the season or so - and being healthy is a big part of that, to be sure - but it’s not anywhere near enough. No matter how you look at it, the Celtics are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.

While it’s certainly possible one of the team’s big men finds new ways to snatch boards, and the team develops from within, that seems very unlikely as we approach the midpoint of the season this week, so let’s take a look at what’s out there for the options on players currently not on the team:

Andrew Bogut: We’ve heard his name connected to the Celtics, and that’s not a mistake. When he was traded away from the Golden State Warriors, he requested - and was granted his wish - to go to a team he thought might have a shot at contending, even if an outside one. This put him with the Dallas Mavericks, and, well, things have not exactly gone as planned. His one-year deal fits with the team’s longer-term plans much like his 9.1 boards per game would. His tendency to make what many view as thinly-veiled racist comments about his fellow NBA players, perhaps not so much.

Tyson Chandler: Unlike Bogut, Chandler carries no such off-the-court-baggage, and has been wrecking shop when it comes to getting rebounds. He’s currently seventh in the league, pulling them down at a clip of twelve per game for a team going nowhere but to the basement of the standings this season. He’s also 34, with multiple years left on a deal that would remove the Celts from landing a free agent without major salary dumps, and realistically only puts Boston on par with the Raptors, with a chance at stealing a pair of games from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Serge Ibaka: Something like Bogut in that he’s a great rebounder - though he’s exactly two per game behind Bogut’s 9.1 - and on an expiring deal, but the front office just dealt away their best player to get him. He’ll cost a lot as a result, and while his rim protection and ability to score from the perimeter might make him shiny, his likely cost and the general uncertainty surrounding his value moving forward make him unlikely to move.

Blake Griffin: The repeated recurrence of leg injuries is worrisome. The 8.8 boards would be nice. He might be available with serious star power left in the tank. He might also be on the precipice of a steep decline given how much of his game depends on athleticism. He might be able to extend that with a shooting game he’s been developing. He WILL cost a ransom to trade for, no matter what.

Zach Randolph: Also on an expiring deal, and logging 7.8 boards per game. Unfortunately for the Celts, the Memphis Grizzlies are the Black Knight of Monty Python fame, and just won’t stay dead, even after their star point guard literally breaks his back to cap off several other significant injuries to rotation players. Quite possibly the best possible combination of fit, situation, and cost, he’ll still command far too much in a trade given his age and the very real possibility he does not stay with the team past his current deal.

Marcin Gortat: He’s another great rebounder - 11.8 per game! - on a team going nowhere that could use to get younger by moving a player like Gortat. The problem is that he’s going to be 33 by the end of the season, (stop me if you’ve heard something like this before), and has several more years on his deal, doesn’t make the team a contender, and would remove Boston from summer free agency consideration for top-tier targets.

Kenneth Faried: Younger (only 27), and a solid rebounder (8 per game), but that contract situation (two more seasons after this one), while a relative bargain, would also kill free agency plans, and though he’s still young, has a game that’s reliant on athleticism that might decline enough by the end of the last year that the deal might not look like so much of a value by then.

Hassan Whiteside: reportedly isn’t available. This might not be true for the second-worst team in the league with an albatross of a contract (get well, Chris Bosh!) looking to dampen their short-term plans with a 27-year-old center who will never have better trade value than right now that also fell in their lap. Intriguing, but any package that would have a real shot would absolutely gut the Celtics, too (See also: Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and possibly also Andre Drummond. Do NOT see DeMarcus Cousins, or, so we are told, Paul Millsap).

One young player whose reported availability we have previously covered is Jusuf Nurkic. He’s still got a year left on his rookie deal after this season, and while a notch down in rebounding ability (6.6 per game), he’s also playing with Faried (8 per), Nikola Jokic (who is not being traded and logging 7.8 per game), Wilson Chandler (6.9 per game), Danilo Galinari (4.9 per game) and Will Barton (4.7 per game). It’s a pretty save bet Nurkic would be closer to the elite players in boards per game on a team like Boston, and wouldn’t foul up future plans, not likely cost more than a decent back court player like Terry Rozier and a quality first, like the Memphis 2019 pick.

It’s also possible Danny Ainge takes a more patient route, waiting until summer to address rebounding woes. Several of the above players are, as mentioned, on expiring deals, and could be had “for free” (in quotes given they WILL still be getting paid, just not requiring further assets to sign). Also, players like Harry Giles and Lauri Markennen could conceivably also be drafted with rebounding in mind should the Brooklyn pick fall outside the top five. And Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele might prove ready after some promising early results, though we should take that success with a grain of salt given the levels of competition each face is much lower than in the NBA.

Congratulations if you’ve read this far! There’s a lot to think about when it comes to solving the Celtics’ rebounding issues, and it’s a lot to digest. What we do know about the front office is that there’s a great deal of value placed on flexibility, and a greater value still on the only real goal this squad has - winning Banner 18. Whatever moves Danny makes, it will be with these two primary guideposts in mind. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the ride - it’s going to be a good one, regardless of how the boards get got.

What do you think should be done about the dearth of boards? A trade? Waiting for free agency or the draft? Bringing Ante up, or Yabu over? Let us know in the comments!

For more articles about rebounding on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.

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