Smith is on the top of every fan's wish list.
The Boston Celtics are set to embark on their most important free-agency period in quite some time.
Will the team push to be a dark-horse playoff contender? Or will the Celtics come to grips with what’s looking like a lengthy rebuilding process?
The next two months will provide a window into that decision-making process.
Free-agency negotiations officially began on July 1. However, there have already been several transactions that have shaken up the league.
While Boston isn’t expected to be a team that clogs up much of the summer’s headlines, that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have some key decisions in the near future.
Whatever the Celtics decide, the choices they make will impact the team for years to come.
It's the beginning of a new era in Boston.
The Doc is Out
The move came as a surprise to many, as Rivers still had three years remaining on his contract. However, for agreeing to release the 51-year-old out of his contract, the Celtics were compensated a 2015 unprotected first-round pick by the Clippers.
The End of an Era
Only two days later, ESPN reported that Boston had agreed to send Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and three future first-round picks (2014, ’16 and ’18). Due to Pierce’s contract, the deal can only be finalized after the lifting of the moratorium on July 10.
While seeing Pierce and Garnett leaving the Celtics after helping the team capture its 17th title in franchise history is tough, shedding their contracts—approximately $28 million—was necessary to Boston’s rebuilding process.
During the June 27 NBA draft, the team welcomed aboard two new players.
First, per The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, the Celtics traded the 16th pick in the draft along with two future second-round selections to the Dallas Mavericks for the 13th pick. The team used the selection to choose Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk.
Brand New Hope
The Celtics capped off their early moves by finding a new face to lead the team.
ESPN reported that Boston announced the hiring of Brad Stevens to a six-year, $22 million deal. The 36-year-old was formerly the head coach of Butler.
Stevens knows what it takes to win, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and ’11.
The departure of Pierce (left) and Garnett (right) left the C's with many roster holes.
The Celtics can’t make any free-agency moves without knowing exactly where they need the most help.
As of now, there are two areas the team needs to address.
Help on the Glass
The departure of Kevin Garnett will affect Boston immensely.
Even at 36, Garnett was an intimidating force in the paint last season. In 68 contests, he averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game. Garnett took his rebounding to another level in the Celtics’ first-round series against the New York Knicks, averaging 13.7 per game over the six postseason games.
The also-departing Paul Pierce finished second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.3 boards a night.
That leaves Boston with just Jared Sullinger (5.9 RPG), Brandon Bass (5.2 RPG) and the newly acquired Kris Humphries (5.6 RPG) to clean up the glass. That’s not likely going to get it done.
The Celtics will need to find some help on the market if they hope to improve on their woeful league rankings—29th in total rebounding (39.3 RPG) and 30th in offensive rebounding (8.1 RPG).
In previous years, Boston could rely on players such as Eddie House and Nate Robinson to provide a boost off the bench.
Last season? Not so much.
Jason Terry was supposed to be that guy. Coming off seven-straight seasons averaging 15-plus points per game, Terry was expected to thrive with the Celtics. Instead, in 79 contests he struggled, averaging just 10.1 points—his lowest mark since his rookie season.
If Boston can find a player who can knock down the three, as well as distribute the ball, it would be a huge step in the right direction for a team entering the rebuilding process.
Is Boston better off with or without Rondo?
But before the Celtics can make any pickups, they need to first address their own roster.
To Re-Sign or Not to Re-Sign?
Entering the offseason, the team’s only unrestricted free agent was Chris Wilcox. Four other players—Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White, Kris Joseph and Terrence Williams—had non-guaranteed contracts.
Thus far, per ESPN, Boston has made a decision on only one, waiving Williams on June 30.
Due to the draft and the impending trade with the Brooklyn Nets, the team already has 14 guaranteed roster spots. That leaves the Celtics just one shy of the 15 player max.
Re-signing Randolph—4.2 points and 4.4 rebounds over 12.4 minutes per game—would be the smart move for a team that could use all the big men it can get.
Decision on Rondo
Believe it or not, there has been some talk about Boston possibly seeking to trade All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
The argument is that if the team is trying to rebuild, it might as well completely bottom out. Besides, Rondo’s attitude has led many to wonder if he is even coachable, let alone whether he’s capable of leading a team.
According to Dallasbasketball.com’s Mike Fisher, the Dallas Mavericks and Celtics had engaged in preliminary talks regarding Rondo last week. However, USA Today reports that Boston general manager Danny Ainge has no desire to part ways with the 27-year-old.
It’s a smart move on Ainge’s part.
Under a new head coach—and now being relied on as the sole leader of the team—Rondo deserves one last shot to prove he can live up to expectations.
Oden is a possible target for the C's.
A couple names have been heavy on the radar for the Celtics so far.
Every season it seems that Smith and Boston are linked.
One could reason could be due to his and Rajon Rondo’s friendship. Another reason is that he offers the kind of versatility at forward that the Celtics love.
In 76 contests last season, Smith averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 blocks over 35.3 minutes per game. He also shot 46.5 percent from the field.
Before the trade with the Brooklyn Nets was agreed upon, The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney reported that the Celtics apparently had a sign-and-trade offer ready for Smith.
Now, with just a trade exception of $7.3 million, a deal seems nearly impossible.
However, the Atlanta Hawks’ failure to sign Dwight Howard changes thing. Now, the team might be open to the idea of taking back Kris Humphries’ $12-million expiring contract to clear out space for next summer’s free agency.
Back in 2007, Boston had dreams of selecting Oden on draft night. We all know what unfolded next.
Now, the team is once again hoping to win over the services of the former No. 1 overall pick.
What makes Boston stand out from that list is the fact that the team could offer Oden a starting spot right out of the gate.
With the 25-year-old having last played during the 2009-10 season, the move would certainly be a gamble. However, his averages of 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds over 23.9 minutes per game make Oden a gamble worth taking.
The Celtics could really use his size and athleticism in the paint.
Return of the Mack.
While Boston will likely pursue Josh Smith and Greg Oden, the team could be better off chasing a couple other players.
Going after Mack makes sense for several reasons.
The Atlanta Hawks likely have no use for Mack. During the draft, the team selected point guards Dennis Schroeder and Raulzinho Neto, players who will backup incumbent PG Jeff Teague. That leaves the Hawks’ point guard depth a little crowded.
Moreover, with the Celtics, Mack would have some familiarity.
For starters, during parts of last season, the 23-year-old was featured for Boston’s D-League affiliate. Not to mention, the team just hired Mack’s college coach in Brad Stevens.
During his final season at Butler during the 2010-11 season, Mack averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists over 32.1 minutes per game. He also shot 40.8 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc while leading the Bulldogs to their second-straight NCAA title game.
If anyone knows how to get the most out of Mack, it’s Stevens.
The Celtics need help in the frontcourt. Blair can offer that.
Although the 24-year-old is low on the San Antonio Spurs' depth chart, he's made the most of his opportunities. Blair has averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 14 minutes per game. He's also shooting 52.4 percent from the field.
At 6'7", he doesn't have the height you'd want in a center. However, his 270-pound body more than makes up for it. He can be a bruiser down low.
Blair is still young and would fit in perfectly with Boston and its rebuilding process.