Highlighting Boston Celtics' Top Free-Agent Target at Every Position
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The NBA free agency will provide the Boston Celtics with options at every position.
From point guard to center, this team is chock-full of holes. If one thing is perfectly clear, it’s that the Celtics must be aggressive this summer.
Otherwise, any hopes of becoming a contender next year can be thrown out the window.
After stumbling to a 41-40 regular-season record, Boston made a quick exit from the playoffs in the first round. It was the team’s worst performance since Kevin Garnett arrived in 2007.
Plagued by key injuries and offensive struggles, the Celtics got off to a slow start. It made making a move at the trade deadline almost imperative if the team wanted to turn it around. However, the team essentially remained stagnant during the window.
Although Boston got off to a quick start following the passing of the deadline, the team eventually imploded down the stretch. It revealed the lack of depth and the need for additions to the roster.
This summer, general manager Danny Ainge will have a second chance to make the necessary adjustments.
Luckily for him, the market will feature top talent at every position.
Point Guard: Jarrett Jack
Jack has done it all for the Warriors this season.
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Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics literally crumbled.
Why? Because the team lacked a true backup point guard.
Jack would give Boston that and more.
In 79 games this season, the 29-year-old averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds over 29.7 minutes per night. He also shot 45.2 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three-point range.
When the Golden State Warriors needed a spark off the bench, Jack was ready for the call. He’s proved that he can score, distribute and rebound the ball. That kind of versatility is rare in the league.
During the playoffs, Jack also displayed that he can be a game-changer.
Through 10 contests, the seven-year veteran is averaging 17.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds over 36.3 minutes per game. He’s also shooting at an impressive 50 percent clip from the floor.
Late in games, the Warriors have trusted Jack with the ball. That includes Sunday’s 97-87 overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs. Jack finished with a sensational stat line (24 PTS, 9-of-16 shooting, 4 AST, 7 REB), while also contributing eight points in the final 4:35 of regulation.
With Jack alongside Rondo, the Celtics would have arguably the best point guard depth in the league.
Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver
Korver's outside shooting has been one of the best in the league this year.
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By bringing in Courtney Lee and Jason Terry last offseason, Boston thought it had addressed the shooting guard position. However, disappointing campaigns from both players proved otherwise.
The Celtics hope the second time around will bring about more success.
As it stands, Kyle Korver seems to be the most likely option.
In 74 games for the Atlanta Hawks this year, the 32-year-old averaged 10.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 30.5 minutes per game. He also shot 46.1 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from beyond the arc—the second-best mark in the league.
That kind of rage would be beneficial for Boston. Especially since the team’s top outside shooter only averaged 38.5 percent this season (Jeff Green).
Not to mention, Korver has also proved that he can affect a team’s offense as a whole.
During the 2,259 minutes he was on the court, the Hawks averaged 100.3 points per game, while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 39.4 percent from three-point range. They also posted an offensive rating of 105.7.
On the other hand, during the 1,712 minutes Korver was off the court, Atlanta averaged just 92.9 points per game, while shooting only 44.2 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from downtown. The team also posted an offensive rating of 98.8.
That kind of boost off the bench is exactly what the Celtics need.
Small Forward: Matt Barnes
Barnes' (left) defensive intensity is unmatched in the league.
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Matt Barnes has flown under the radar, putting together quite a solid season for the Los Angeles Clippers.
In 80 games, the 33-year-old averaged 10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists over 25.7 minutes per night. He also shot 46.2 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range.
During the Clippers’ first-round exit, Barnes was one of the few players on the roster who gave it his all. He averaged 11.8 points and 5.1 rebounds over 27 minutes per game. That includes a Game 6 performance where Barnes poured in 30 points (11-of-14 shooting) and brought down 10 boards in 37 minutes.
It comes as no surprise that when he got going, so did Los Angeles.
According to Hoopsstats.com, the Clippers were 27-3 when Barnes shot over 50 percent from the floor. They were also 25-7 when he made five or more field goals and 11-1 when he connected on three or more three-point shots.
However, Barnes’ best characteristic this past season has to be his defensive impact on the team.
Over 2,058 minutes when he was on the court, Los Angeles held opponents to just 93 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting from the floor. The team also posted a defensive rating of 99.
On the other hand, over 1,888 minutes with Barnes on the bench, the Clippers have allowed opponents 95.9 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. They also posted a defensive rating of 103.1.
If Boston loses Paul Pierce over the summer, Barnes would do a good job in making up for some of that loss.
Power Forward: Paul Millsap
Millsap would be a great addition for the C's.
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Brandon Bass just wasn’t getting it done at power forward for the Celtics this season. He averaged just 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Luckily, Paul Millsap offers the team a possible solution.
In 78 games for the Utah Jazz, the 28-year-old averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals over 30.4 minutes per night. He also shot 49 percent from the field.
The lack of an interior presence was arguably Boston’s biggest weakness last year. Millsap offers the team both an inside scorer and a big man who’s active on the offensive glass—he recorded five or more offensive rebounds eight times this season. Not to mention, the big man has had success in keeping shots out of the paint (1.1 blocks per game).
While teammate Al Jefferson may have gotten all the attention, it was in fact Millsap’s performance that tied in directly with the Jazz’s overall performance.
According to Hoopsstats.com, Utah was 17-7 when the six-year veteran recorded nine or more rebounds. The team was also 6-2 when Millsap netted 22 points or more.
The only downside is that it might cost the Celtics a good load to bring him to Boston. It’s most likely that the team would have to part with either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett this summer to make room.
But hey, the best assets don’t come cheap.
Center: Nikola Pekovic
Pekovic did his best to keep the Wolves afloat in 2013.
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Kevin Garnett won’t be around forever in Boston. In fact, he might not even be around next season.
That makes finding another center one of the team’s top priorities over the summer.
A good bet to fill that void comes in the form of Nikola Pekovic.
In 62 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 27-year-old averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds over 31.6 minutes a night. He also shot 52 percent from the field.
Pekovic was easily one of the Timberwolves' lone bright spots in a rather disappointing season.
According to Hoopsstats.com, Minnesota was 9-1 when the big man scored 22 points or more. The team was also 6-1 when he converted on 10 or more field-goal attempts.
Inside the paint, Pekovic’s big frame makes him difficult to stop. Not to mention, at 6’11” and 290 points, he’s an intimidating player for opponents to go up against. Other than Garnett, the Celtics lacked such a presence.
Sure, Pekovic will probably come at a high cost. But he will certainly be worth every penny.
Unless otherwise stated, all stats used in this article are courtesy of NBA.com's Media Central (subscription required).