The Celtics have a logjam of mediocre talent in their frontcourt with a smattering of players at different stages of their careers, but none who can be considered above average just yet.
Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani and Kelly Olynyk represent nearly half of an active 13-man NBA roster. All appear good enough to play at this level, but none have completely separated themselves yet to be locks worthy of a starting spot.
Likewise, none of the six have done enough yet to warrant being called an important piece moving forward. Along with Jeff Green, those six players make up the Celtics' current frontcourt. That doesn't include the non-guaranteed Dontè Greene nor the still-unsigned Chris Wilcox, both also big men.
Greene would be the 15th player listed for the Celtics next season, the maximum allowed. The NBA allows 13 players to suit up each night. Since it is doubtful that Boston will send any of its young players down to D-League affiliate Maine, what you see now is what you get come Mischief Night when they ring in the 2013-14 season.
That is, of course, unless Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge isn't done making moves yet. Things have been quiet in Boston for a while. Outside of new head coach Brad Stevens filling out his staff with Walter McCarty and making other ex-Celtics feel warm and fuzzy, along with that little issue concerning WEEI's broadcasting rights, stories have been non-existent.
Some of that can be easily explained away by moratoriums and the like.
Ainge can't move either Humphries or Wallace (or Keith Bogans/MarShon Brooks) until Sept. 12, two months after the blockbuster trade that brought them to Boston. Greene can't be moved until Oct. 15 while Faverani is in Boston until at least Dec. 15.
The team is still likely to simply shed Greene's $1 million contract entirely. That would allow the Celtics to slip even farther below the luxury tax level and perhaps free up enough space to add the veteran Wilcox again. Wilcox's 11 years in the league would warrant a veteran's minimum deal of about $1.4 million.
If there was interest in Faverani, teams could have made a play for him this summer before Boston inked him to $9 million over four years, less than half of that in guaranteed money. Since they are stuck with the Brazilian import until the Christmas season anyway, look for him to settle into a Semih Erden/Shavlik Randolph-type role.
Courtesy of that moratorium, coupled with the fact that he may be the team's only true center, Faverani may have the most job security of any Celtic in the frontcourt right now.
Sept. 12 is right around the corner. That is the day Ainge can finally start exploring some moves for those former Brooklyn Nets on the Boston roster.
Humphries and Wallace don't have great contracts. Humphries' pact expires following 2013-14, but could be a valuable trade asset for a team looking to spend big next summer. He nearly fell off the depth chart in Brooklyn last season, seeing most of his minutes go to Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans. However, in the two years before that, Humphries averaged a double-double nightly.
Wallace has been a productive player for an entire decade, having spent eight straight seasons scoring in double-figures, with a career shooting percentage of 46.8. He hit a wall last year with Brooklyn, as Wallace's shooting percentage dipped below 40 while he didn't get to the foul line as much and averaged only 7.7 points per game.
Both players come with some baggage and have seen better days.
Bass' per 36-minute scoring took a dip last season from 14.2 to 11.3 points per game. While he is far from a bad player, having him on this type of Celtics team is extraneous. Bass is a great piece to have for a contender, but in Boston's case, you don't have to pay over $6 million a year for him.
Bass has helped spread the floor in the past, but if that is something Olynyk can do for around $2 million, Bass becomes expendable. Obviously Bass is a proven commodity while we're judging Olynyk from a few summer league games.
However, one must believe Bass, a second-round pick in 2005, has maxed out his potential. At this stage, Boston should be willing to gamble on their rookie lottery pick out-performing the veteran Bass in the future.
Boston also has reasonable salary control over Olynyk through 2018. The Celtics also have control over Sullinger in an even cheaper deal through 2017. That puts Bass (two years, $13.3 million), Wallace (three years, $30.3 million) and Humphries (one year, $11 million) at sizable disadvantages when it comes to remaining with Boston through next season.
Clearing this logjam doesn't just mean dealing bigs for guards. There is another way the Celtics can even things out.
Though it would do little to thin out their front line at first glance, the Celtics could bring in a legitimate center. By doing so, the roster becomes clearer and easier to read. A real starting center helps define roles from the top down, which makes this massive conglomeration of bigs a little more natural.
Those who may be on the NBA market include Omer Asik, Marcin Gortat and Anderson Varejao, who would all be great additions for Boston. If the Celtics were able to move one of their power forwards in a package to land one of those players, the roster would look a lot more comfortable.
Asik is particularly intriguing. He is just 27 and may not be able to coexist with Dwight Howard. The spacing provided by a mid-range shooting big like Bass may be more suitable for the Houston Rockets.
So, either Bass or Humphries would have to go along with a probable draft pick. The Celtics wouldn't want to sacrifice Avery Bradley, so one of their recently acquired picks would have to be dealt away instead.
Another option for thinning out the herd is attempting to deal a big or two for a legitimate starting shooting guard or a quality backup point guard.
The jury is still out as to whether Bradley can handle the starting role opposite Rajon Rondo permanently. Bradley's offense floundered for much of last season and his height will continue to cause problems. Meanwhile, the jury hasn't even been called into session for Courtney Lee or MarShon Brooks at that position.
If a player like Danny Granger were available, as he was once thought to be, and the Celtics could build a deal around Humphries and one of their numerous recently acquired draft picks, that would take care of two needs in Boston.
The same could be said of oft-injured Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Pelicans. Both are possibly being supplanted by cheaper in-house options (Tyreke Evans/Austin Rivers and Paul George/Lance Stephenson). Both are also risks, but infinitely more talented offensively than anything Boston has available.
Behind Rondo right now is Phil Pressey, a diminutive, undrafted free agent who didn't exactly light the NCAA ablaze at Missouri. As Celtics fans painfully learned last season, their point guard isn't invincible. Nor will he likely be ready for the season opener in October.
Bradley put forth quite an effort to man the position last year, but simply doesn't have the ball-handling skills or court vision as Rondo to run an NBA offense.
If Boston could swing a deal for one of the league's proven veteran backups—e.g., Kirk Hinrich, Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour—they may fill a need while thinning the frontcourt and possibly shedding salary.
The other route is possible in bringing back a young player with more potential than Pressey. However, creating a deal attractive enough to swipe a Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight or, especially, Eric Bledsoe would be tough given the lack of quality assets Boston is willing to offer.
Most of these deals seem far-fetched at this point, as most teams do appear set in their positions. However, you can bet that Sept. 12 is circled on Ainge's calendar.
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