Monday, June 27, 2016

Celtics Free Agent Options to Watch

With the 2016 NBA Draft now over, the Celtics start an interesting summer of speculation. Boston has been rumored with numerous trades and free agents but has come up rather short in the past when it comes to the bidding block. C's fans will have their collective hearts set on the arrival of former NBA MVP Kevin Durant, but here are a few additional options Danny Ainge and the Celtics may want to consider during their summer shopping

The “Max” Guys:

This group of players include the “dream” scenarios for the Celtics this summer. Adding one or two of these players would immediately have them in contention for the East and challenging the Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy.

Kevin Durant F, Thunder: Durant is the darling of the 2016 free agent class. The former MVP and scoring champ is among the games most dominant offensive players and would  elevate Boston’s title hopes to the highest levels since 2010. Durant has claimed to like Boston and will reportedly meet with Danny Ainge and the Celtics brass [see here] to discuss the possibility of his arrival but anything more than that is speculative. The Celtics do have some advantages in the race for KD’s signature such as the cap space to add any additional “max” level player he desires to play with and the trade capital to bring in a third max deal of his choosing. Combine that with Brad Stevens growing reputation among NBA players and a young, hard working core and Boston is as appealing as any landing spot that isn’t Oakland, San Antonio, or even Oklahoma City.

Andre Drummond C, Pistons: With or without the signature of Durant, Drummond might be worth adding to the Celtics young core. Drummond was an All-Star and a double-double machine in 2015-16 and looks to be a player that will only improve over the next several seasons. With his great athleticism and power, Drummond is a throwback center who can protect the rim and rebound on both ends of the floor as well as any player in the league. Drummond is a restricted free agent but offering a max deal couldn’t hurt and could land Boston one of the games top young players.

Hassan Whiteside C, Heat: Whiteside is already being heavily courted by the LA Lakers to be their center of the future but he’ll have no shortage of teams bidding for his services this summer. The Celtics will be one of those teams who has the money to entice Whiteside and a position on a young “up and coming” squad that he could carve a star role with. As an all defensive team level defender, Whiteside can also knock down the occasional jumper and cleans up on the glass. He does have a minor stigma when it comes to his personality but his skill set is hard to find and doesn’t come along very often.

Al Horford C, Hawks: As one of the games most productive big’s since he entered the NBA, Horford is a locker room presence as well as a top level contributor on both ends of the floor. Horford is a double-double most nights and is widely considered to be a locker room leader that other players gravitate to (see stories about Kevin Durant). Horford is on the verge of his 30th birthday and likely only has a handful of years of his prime remaining but his addition would instantly have Boston penciled in as a top 4 team in the Eastern Conference for 2016-17. Horford has been rumored to “like” Boston as a landing spot and may be the most realistic chance the Celtics have at signing an all star level player this summer.

Starter Quality Additions:

These players represent options that aren’t quite front line stars but should be available to sign for the Celtics and immediately challenge for starting spots this season.

Chandler Parsons F, Mavericks: With the ability to exercise his player option to remain in Dallas, Parsons isn’t on the market quite yet but his pending availability does create some intrigue for the Celtics. Parsons is a top class shooter who can stretch the floor and shoot over most any defender while also adding a great passer with the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. Parsons might come at a high price but his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers would be worth every penny for a Celtics team that lacked quality shooters from range in 2015-16. Expect Parsons to be in play if the money is right and Durant is off the board.

Nicolas Batum F, Hornets: Batum and Parsons are very similar players and may be the “Plans B and C” for Boston if they don’t sign Kevin Durant. Batum brings a good three point shot and a strong offensive game to the table as well as good defensive length. If Boston were to add Batum or Parsons, they would have great depth at the wing and add some perimeter scoring that is badly needed.

Rajon Rondo G, Kings: Just when you think you’ve heard the last of the enigmatic former Celtic captain, he pops back up. Rondo might not be the player he was prior to an ACL tear in 2013 but his ability to defend at a high level and create for others on the floor could be exactly what this version of the Celtics needs. His asking price is likely to be significantly lower than when he was shipped off to Dallas in 2014, after drifting through the NBA abyss for the last season and a half as well as having even more wear on his body. Rondo would also likely return to Boston with a renewed sense of respect for the franchise and its new leader Brad Stevens after seeing how brutal the NBA landscape can be.

The Other Guys:

This group breaks down some “unsexy” options the Celtics may have to add for cheap, short term fixes. These players are all either coming off tough seasons, overshadowed on their former teams, or battled injuries recently but could help or even start for the Celtics in 2016-17.

Joakim Noah C, Bulls: The former Bull is coming off his worst season as a pro and is trending downwards fast. His size would still be a great addition for a nonexistent Celtics front court but his days of being an NBA all star are almost certainly over. Even without playing in the mid season circus, Noah could still provide some much needed rim protection and should be able to chip in some scoring with a lack of options up front for Boston. If you can get him on a short, reasonable deal (alas Amir Johnson last year) Noah could be a great addition to these young Celtics.

Ian Mahinmi C, Pacers: This journeyman center has split time as a back up and starter for the Pacers over the last several seasons and has quietly been effective. Mahinmi won’t “wow” anyone with his stats or skill set but for a reasonable price he can be a good addition that doesn’t need to start to be productive. If all else fails, adding Mahinmi on a cheap, short term deal would be a great variation to what Boston has in Kelly Olynyk.

David West F, Spurs: After opting to chase a ring in San Antonio last season, West may be looking for one more decent pay day if he doesn’t rejoin the aging Spurs in 2016-17. West is still a solid two way player who would instantly be the Celtics best post scoring option and would be able to start next to Kelly Olynyk to form a difficult defensive match up for most teams in the East. West is likely still looking to chase a Finals appearance but if he elects to leave the Spurs, Boston makes a ton of sense.

Marreese Speights F, Warriors: Speights is coming off a tough year with Golden State that saw many of his numbers regress below his 2014-15 totals. Expect him to be looking for someone who is willing to overpay for his services (not going to be a huge market) or take a one year “show and prove” type deal. With Boston in a dire need for quality bigs, expect them to kick the tires on a cheap, versatile option like Speights.

Mirza Teletovic F, Suns: Possibly my favorite “non” Kevin Durant option to sign for Ainge and the Celtics this summer is Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic is a sweet shooting forward who can provide the perimeter scoring Boston needs from a position they need players at. His defense is questionable but his addition would cause match up nightmares with his ability to knock down the three ball. Teletovic had a good 2015-16 season but should be affordable and willing to sign in Boston because of the plethora of playing time available in the front court.

While fans may scoff at some of the names listed, Ainge and the Celtics have proven they value flexibility with its roster if the right players aren’t available or willing to sign. Expect Boston to shoot for the stars (KD, Horford, Drummond) but if those players don’t sign they’ll slowly work their way down the list and look for value signings to add to the current group. Keep in mind, Boston has only three active roster spot and six spots in total for next season if all team options are not picked up (Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson), with only two bigs under contract for next season (Olynyk and Mickey).

Needless to say, this summer should be one full of fireworks…but haven’t we been saying that for years now?

Zach Peloquin
@ZapSports508 on Twitter

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