NBA Rumors: Boston Celtics Will Sign Jason Collins

Chris LawrenceFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28:  Jason Collins #34 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After Boston Celtics free-agent center Greg Stiemsma agreed to sign an offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, the Celtics moved swiftly to find his replacement, former Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collins.

According to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston, Collins' deal will be for one year at the veteran's minimum of $1.35 million.

Because the league pays a portion of all one-year veteran's minimum contracts, Collins' cap hit is only $854,389. That means general manager Danny Ainge will keep the Celtics below the $74.3 million luxury tax apron.

The Celtics need to stay below the luxury tax apron because they used the full $5 million midlevel exception to sign former Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry. Any team with a payroll above $74.3 million can only utilize the taxpayer's midlevel exception, which is $3 million annually.

Collins, 33, is an 11-year NBA veteran who has played for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks. He has career averages of 3.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

At 7'0", 255 pounds, Collins has the kind of body the Celtics need to clog up the middle. While he doesn't offer much in the way of offense, his defense and rebounding make him an ideal option for a third-string center.

Collins also has 95 career playoffs games to his credit and has been to the NBA Finals twice with the Nets in 2002 and 2003. He was a key contributor to New Jersey's rotation and often bothered the Celtics on the glass and on defense while the two teams were embroiled in an intense Atlantic Division rivalry.

As long can he spell Kevin Garnett, who is most likely to return to his role as the team's starting center next season, and Chris Wilcox for 5-10 minutes every now and then, Collins will fit in just fine.

At this point in his career, Collins is not an everyday player, which is why the Celtics chose him from a limited talent pool, which most notably included Darko Milicic and Andray Blatche. Both players cleared waivers after being amnestied by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards, respectively.

Milicic, who has been linked to the Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers, is in search of a role that will give him ample playing time. Blatche is a talented, yet troubled young frontcourt player who will be looking to redeem himself by contributing to a contender such as the Miami Heat.

The Celtics would not have been able to promise either of them more than a limited role as fringe players in their rotation and most likely would have needed to use the bi-annual exception to sign either of the two, something the Celtics would rather use to bring back Keyon Dooling or to sign a bought-out player during the season.

So they kicked the tires on Jason Collins, who was probably just looking for a spot on an NBA roster.

While this isn't exactly a groundbreaking acquisition, the Celtics were able to shore up their frontcourt by using nothing more than a minimum contract. After all, seven-footers don't grow on trees.

Danny Ainge has had a terrific offseason, and though Collins' name doesn't possess the same gravitas as Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass or Kevin Garnett, one thing is clear: As this Celtics roster takes shape, Ainge's work is just about complete.