In a summer already rich with activity, the Boston Celtics still have a lot of work to do.
Think of all that has occurred since their first-round postseason exit against the New York Knicks just two calendar months ago. They named a new head coach. They traded away their captain as well as their defensive anchor. They loaded up on assets like future draft rights and young talent.
They've been busy. After the blockbuster Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade to the Brooklyn Nets, which was finalized on July 12, the team payroll includes 13 guaranteed contracts. Add to that two non-guaranteed contracts (Shavlik Randolph, Kris Joseph), as well as Boston's 2013 second-round draft selection, Colton Iverson, and undrafted hopeful (and probable addition) Phil Pressey, and we're talking 17 players.
This doesn't happen very often. A team guts the meat of its roster to start a total rebuild and somehow still ends up over the salary cap (and roster limit) with 17 players. Even crazier, they still haven't signed one free agent.
You heard that right. The Celtics are just one of seven teams that have yet to sign a free agent from another team.
Perhaps paramount on that list: President of basketball operations Danny Ainge must somehow decide how to pick up the final pieces to the initial stage of the rebuild, while also trimming the roster to the maximum allotment of 15 players.
Here's a rundown of the players still available who Boston must keep their eyes on, before and after that trimming takes place.
Phil Pressey, PG
Above all else, undrafted Missouri point guard Phil Pressey must be Ainge's free-agent priority. The quick, athletic and natural passer dazzled during the Summer League, averaging 9.4 points and 6.6 assists.
Pressey, who earned an honorable mention for the Summer League All-Tournament team, has already been invited to the Celtics' camp. However, various sources including ESPN's Jeff Goodman report that the 22-year-old is close to signing a one-year deal with the team.
It just seems like a no-brainer. He already has a rapport with much of the team, having built relationships during his high school days in Waltham, Mass. (right near the Celtics' practice facility) while his father, Paul, was an assistant coach on Doc Rivers’ staff.
He has great court vision on the offensive end and spectacular hands and footwork on defense. He could be labeled one of those classic “undrafted gems” in little to no time.
Greg Oden, C
While the Celtics' current cap situation still reeks of bloat, potential trades still exist to allow for salary dumps. That's likely the only way they will be able to win a relatively competitive sweepstakes for former Portland Trailblazers No. 1 pick Greg Oden.
Ainge likely wants to rid himself of some, if not all of the $34 million of 2013-14 contracts Boston will owe to the collective lot of Kris Humphries ($12 mil), Gerald Wallace ($10.1 mil), Brandon Bass ($6.45 mil) and Courtney Lee ($5.2 mil). If he can package two or three of those names (with or without Rajon Rondo's name attached to it), Oden could be the greatest consequent return.
Per Bob Finnan of The News-Herald, the 7-footer reportedly looks “unbelievable” despite being three years removed from an NBA floor due to consistently nagging knee issues. He has been running, lifting and “looking right,” says former Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas, who has trained with him since the spring.
If Boston can outbid the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers, they could end up with a real steal. The player many call the “oldest-looking young player in the league” is actually only 25. He stands 7'0”, 285 pounds, he rebounds and blocks well (two weak points for Boston last season), and he can clearly score near the rim.
When he went down in 2009-10, he was averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 0.9 assists in 23.9 minutes per game. Oh, and he was shooting 60.5 percent from the field. A decent mini-to-midlevel exception deal should at least be thrown his way. Otherwise, Miami or Cleveland might make Boston “green with envy” for many years.
Vitor Faverani, C
What happened with Brazilian center Vitor Faverani? According to multiple international reports, the EuroCup big man (currently playing with Valencia in Spain), had been all but a 100-percent lock to sign with the Green.
But reports quickly differed on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweeted that the team would have to negotiate a buyout with Valencia in order to offer Faverani a contract. He said the Celtics were debating the situation.
The 25-year-old, who also worked out with San Antonio recently, offers NBA-ready size at 6'11”, 260 pounds. He has solid backup center talent if you define that as “rugged and physical on the interior with a limited offensive ceiling."
If Ainge can work out a deal to get the man fondly nicknamed “El Hombre Indestructible” (The Indestructible Man), he should pull the trigger. Unless they can lure Oden, the Celtics will feature one true center on their roster as of training camp time: the always-drab Fab Melo.
But, as previously mentioned, the roster isn't even close to finalized, and the deals aren't close to finished. Buckle up, fans. There's still a long road to October.
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