There haven’t been more than a handful of positive stories associated with the Boston Celtics this season. One startling exception is the re-emergence of Kris Humphries as a shot-blocking, board-crashing, mid-range dominating power forward.
A lack of playing time in November hurts his overall statistics, but Humphries has been fantastic most of the season. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the floor, battling against two or three guys in the paint when a shot goes up (and mostly winning) and blocking about one dunk per possession (or it just seems like that, anyways).
In December the Celtics were 14.5 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent when Humphries played (a generous 205-minute sampling). Coach Brad Stevens responded by boosting his highest-paid player’s minutes and inserting him into the starting lineup when the opponent isn’t tiny (as the Brooklyn Nets were in Paul Pierce’s emotional return).
He’s been beyond solid and comes on a somewhat-no-strings-attached $12 million expiring contract. The word "somewhat" appears because, even though Humphries' contract is indeed expiring, the Celtics aren't going to take back long-term money in any deal for it, killing the financial purpose of most pursuers.
But Humphries has the type of skill that can help a good team be great, and teams around the league know Boston is willing to trade.
Here are five teams (listed in no particular order) that should let Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge know they’re interested, however unlikely an actual transaction may be.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all advanced statistics come from NBA.com/stats.
The Los Angeles Clippers own the NBA's fourth best offense and eighth best defense. Given Blake Griffin's ascension to more effective heights, coach Doc Rivers' battle-tested intellect and Chris Paul's existence, they're very good, and at this stage, the Clippers certainly qualify as title contenders.
They're fifth in net rating since Paul separated his shoulder, his absence registering as nothing more than a hiccup in the regular season. But the Clippers are not perfect.
DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin may be the best rebounding duo in the Western Conference, but the team's rebounding rate is below average. Rivers does not prioritize offensive rebounds, instead choosing to get back in transition to set up a solid half-court defense.
It's an area they could clearly stand to shore up before the postseason, and Kris Humphries is an instant upgrade over everyone else. Behind Jordan and Griffin, the Clippers' best rebounder is Paul.
Striking a deal would be very difficult, though, and in order to financially balance things out, a third team would have to be involved.
In years past, the Miami Heat could always rely on Udonis Haslem to control the paint, spread the floor, set screens made of cement and, generally, do all the necessary things all championship teams need.
Haslem is 33 years old and hasn't played even 350 minutes this season. When he does get to play, he isn't very good. He's shooting 38.6 percent from the floor and has a career-worst PER. Miami's recharged their batteries with new rebounders and solid shooters, but they don't have anyone who can do both and log heavy minutes, if needed.
The Heat are dead last in offensive rebounding rate and face an inevitable showdown with the Indiana Pacers, a humongous, long basketball team that just added another large person, namely Andrew Bynum.
Kris Humphries could fill Haslem's crucial playoff role and help the defending champions complete their quest for three straight titles. Similar to almost every other team on this list, they have very little to offer (that matches Humphries' huge salary), and an actual trade is unlikely.
Forward Paul Millsap is an All-Star, possibly playing on one of the league's most attractive contracts, and the Atlanta Hawks are soaring behind him.
The Hawks are in a position to finish with a third seed in the Eastern Conference and maybe even win a playoff series. They're also undersized, a problem that emerges on the glass. Atlanta has the fifth-worst offensive rebound rate in the league. They're slightly below average on the defensive glass.
Replacing Horford with Kris Humphries is a move Atlanta could stand to make. They wouldn't be tied down to any long-term money and could improve an area of weakness right away. Humphries also would not be a detriment to Atlanta's spacing on offense. He's a reliable mid-range shooter who'd be a fantastic compliment beside Millsap.
Offense is the team's engine, and almost everything on that end revolves around Dirk Nowitzki. But Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair and the inconsistent Samuel Dalembert haven't been able to rebound the ball consistently.
The team is 27th in defensive rebound rate. The Mavericks are in the bottom 10 for offensive rebounding, too.
They will look to get better without hurting their meticulously crafted cap space. Insert: Kris Humphries has an expiring contract. Humphries can play center and power forward, and he would make the Mavericks better on the glass.
It'll be tough to make a deal without involving a third team, but the Mavericks have little to lose adding a player of Humphries' skill on such a short-term deal.
The Houston Rockets are trying to make the jump from partial contender to NBA champion. Even though they have Dwight Howard, the best center in basketball, it's a tricky spot. They're thin in the frontcourt and defensively invisible on the perimeter.
Only five teams are worse at defensive rebounding. They could use some help, and Kris Humphries might be the answer. He's shooting a solid 43.3 percent on jump shots this season, and he is great screening off the ball (which would free up Houston's three-point shooters). He'd complement Howard splendidly.
Terrence Jones is the team's current starter at power forward, and the arrival of Humphries shouldn't change that. However, when Jones is getting bullied in the post by the likes of David Lee, Blake Griffin or Zach Randolph in the playoffs, Humphries could be a fantastic answer off the bench.
Center Omer Asik supposedly is staying put for now, but that doesn't mean he's untouchable. The Celtics have shown previous interest in the big man, and one deal that might make sense is trading Asik for Kris Humphries and a future first-round pick.