Projecting Boston Celtics' 2014 Free-Agency Big Board
With consistent questions arising as to the legitimacy of this highly-touted 2014 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics must look harder and harder on the free-agent market to avoid a second year of bottoming out.
There are a lot of reasons why it would be unwise for the Celtics to wait out another year of losing before making a big move to improve drastically. Rajon Rondo, for one, will be a free agent after next season and two straight years of meaningless games won't sit well with him when it comes time to explore his other options.
Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley are young, impressionable players who Boston shouldn't want experiencing all this losing. If those guys are to be a part of this franchise's successful future, the Celtics should try to shelter them from answering tanking questions on a nightly basis.
On top of all that, Boston has a fragile fanbase locally right now. They have fallen out of favor among talk radio in Boston, which shapes public opinion more than anything. Also, eyes are fleeing the hardwood for the wildly successful Boston Bruins, Red Sox and New England Patriots.
For all those reasons, the Celtics free-agency big board has become an increasingly important item.
Greg Monroe, Restricted Free Agent
The biggest hole the Boston Celtics have to fill is unfortunately one of the weakest positions in this 2014 draft class. If Joel Embiid is unavailable when they pick in the draft, the options are very slim.
That is where the free-agency avenue can come in to help. Greg Monroe will be a restricted free agent this summer and could be available. With the way this season has gone for the Detroit Pistons, 26-45, they may be looking to make a change in their crowded frontcourt.
This will still take a sizable offer for the Celtics to come away with him. The Pistons will still have the right to match, and they've got the available cash to do it. Some sort of extend-and-trade deal may be more relevant and beneficial to both teams, but Monroe should be a primary target.
He is a quality big man, who will turn just 24 this summer. Last year, the Charlotte Bobcats made a somewhat unpopular move to bring in Al Jefferson for $13.5 million per year. He has been a dominant interior force for them, helping turn the franchise around and make Charlotte a competitive playoff team.
Boston's surrounding pieces are of a higher quality than Charlotte's, so grouping them with a quality big man could yield even better results. Monroe isn't quite Jefferson, but he is five years younger and averaging 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game right now.
Marcin Gortat, Unrestricted Free Agent
A restricted free agent of Monroe's caliber will be tough to sign this summer, so Boston needs another option or two in mind. With that comes unrestricted free agent Marcin Gortat.
However, just because that label reads unrestricted, doesn't mean he'll be an easy sign. The Washington Wizards dealt a first-round pick for him before the season, are headed for the playoffs and have available capital to offer him this summer. Getting into a bidding war with Washington would be tough.
Gortat is definitely still worth targeting though, as the free-agency class of bigs isn't wildly attractive. He is 30 years old, but showing little signs of decline with averages of 12.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game on 53.6 percent shooting. That is all playing with a point guard who is similar to Rajon Rondo in John Wall.
Gortat is a durable hard worker, with a bigger defensive presence than the smaller Kris Humphries or Jared Sullinger can provide. He is a true center with a fair number of quality years left.
He won't be an instant fix for the future like the Celtics would ideally like, but if that player isn't available, Gortat would make an excellent addition in helping this team get back to the postseason.
Chandler Parsons, Team Option/Restricted Free Agent
While keeping in mind that the Boston Celtics have about $19.3 million guaranteed to their small forward position (Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace) next season, stealing Chandler Parsons needs a spot on Danny Ainge's big board.
Parsons is in a bit of a pickle contract-wise, and things could go a lot of different routes. He is outrageously cheap right now, starting for a contending Houston Rockets team while making under $1 million. The Rockets have a team option for him, which if exercised this summer would retain his services for about $964,000 while also making him an unrestricted free agent the following offseason.
However, the Rockets could decline that option, which immediately makes Parsons a restricted free agent. That would open up his market to teams like Boston, who could try to woo him away. Houston would obviously have the chance to match, but with the ballooning Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik salaries and the team at the salary cap with just seven guaranteed contracts, that may be difficult for them.
A lot would have to happen for this possibility to come to fruition. First off, the Celtics would have to clear some space both on the books and in the depth chart. Moving Wallace (nearly impossible) or Green (easier) would free up small forward minutes and the necessary capital to make a big offer Parsons' way.
The Rockets would also have to fear losing him to unrestricted free agency next year, or upsetting him by not paying him big this summer, to decline the team option.
All of these dominoes falling is unlikely, but a definite thing to keep on the big board just in case.
Gordon Hayward, Restricted Free Agent
Possibly the most talked about free-agency target for the Boston Celtics this summer will be Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward.
His rookie contract will expire this summer, with a qualifying offer of $4.67 million proving to be below his market value. Still, prying him from Utah will be tough, as the Jazz have a sea of cap space available to spend however they see fit.
Hayward's relationship with the Celtics' first-year head coach Brad Stevens may be enough to get the player interested, but the financials don't care about collegiate glory days. The Celtics have a lot of money tied into two small forwards on their own roster in Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace, and the Jazz have stacks and stacks of reasons Hayward should stay out West.
Hayward can play some shooting guard as well, which is a reason Boston could get behind a pursuit of him, even with the books clogged at the wing. He is a better offensive option than Avery Bradley, but would also likely be more pricey.
He has had a solid all-around season as a psuedo-focal point on a bad Utah team. While his shooting numbers are no better than Green's, Hayward does things like rebound and pass, which make him a more valuable player.
Boston would have to jump through quite a few hoops and offer Hayward a lot of money for Utah not to match. If he is their primary target, getting him through a trade will be the most likely course of action.
Lance Stephenson, Unrestricted Free Agent
Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson has earned himself the opportunity for a nice payday this summer. However, where that payday comes from is still a mystery.
Stephenson will be an unrestricted free agent whenever the Pacers' playoff run comes to a close. However, it is important to remember how integral he is to the team right now, and how far Larry Bird will go to keep him in Indiana. According to Pacers.com beat reporter Scott Agness, Bird is willing to go pretty far:
It’s hard to compete with teams. But we’re going to do whatever we can to keep the young man. He’s worked as hard as anybody has ever worked here and you’ll see it on the court because he’s had a great summer. Our goal right now is to keep everybody we have. We think we have got a strong team. When the time comes when we have to do something, we’ll do it.
However, the Pacers already have about $60 million guaranteed to eight players for next season. Inking Stephenson to an extension will put them dangerously close to that luxury tax they consistently hope to avoid.
Like Parsons, this is a former second-round afterthought who, through hard work and coaching, has molded himself into a valuable NBA starter. Now, he has earned the right to expect to be paid like one.
If the options for Danny Ainge this summer come down to keeping Avery Bradley for $6-8 million or stealing Stephenson for $8-10 million, he will have some serious thinking to do.
Avery Bradley, Restricted Free Agent
The debate over whether Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo are the winning backcourt of the Boston Celtics' future rages on, with the two spending relatively few minutes on the floor together for another season.
This was a crucial year for the two, as well. Bradley will become a restricted free agent this summer and already turned down a reported contract offer earlier in the year. Bradley was opting to prove himself this season, which he has done in many ways.
He may not have increased his value to the point of an $8 million-per-year offer, but he has definitely given the Celtics pause before just letting him walk this offseason.
Bradley has been scorching hot from the field of late, including a 12-of-24 stretch from beyond the arc over his last three games. All three of those games were played with Rondo, and the point guard racked up 42 assists.
It is still unclear if this is an avenue the Celtics want to experience long-term, and for what cost. Their offer earlier in the year may have just been too low for Bradley, meaning there is a reasonable chance another team can come in and steal him away if Danny Ainge has eyes for another shooting guard.
However, if Bradley finishes out the season healthy and on this current tear, it will be hard for Boston to deny Rondo and he the opportunity to grow in their first fully healthy year—knock on wood—together as starters.
Kris Humphries, Unrestricted Free Agent
The Boston Celtics' highest paid player will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Yet, still, it seems somewhat surprising that he would earn a spot on their big board.
Kris Humphries was pretty close to an afterthought when Boston completed their blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets last summer. Three first-round picks were the real prize, MarShon Brooks just needed an opportunity and Gerald Wallace was a starter on Brooklyn's playoff team.
However, as the 2013-14 season draws near its curtain call, it is Humphries who has made the biggest impression. He has worked his way from a DNP regular to a key piece of Brad Stevens' somewhat competitive puzzle and even become a spot-starter.
He is averaging 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. Those are very good and useful numbers considering his playing time and usage rates. The big thing hampering his spotlight is the $12 million next to his name in Boston's ledger. Luckily, that gets wiped clean this summer.
It is still important to remember that Humphries isn't a legitimate center, and Boston still needs one of those. Also, the Celtics have a very crowded unit at power forward, with Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and likely Joel Anthony under guaranteed contracts for next season.
The scenario that could work and be beneficial to Boston would be to move Bass and perhaps another player for some value, then bring Humphries back for hopefully considerably less than Bass' owed $6.9 million.
Should the Boston Celtics retain Avery Bradley or go and get a Lance Stephenson, there remains a hole behind them. The third guard is a key piece on a contender and has to have somewhat of a combo-guard skill set. Right now, Rondo is the only guard under guaranteed contract for next season.
The Celtics' current option at this position will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Bayless' year as a whole hasn't been great, but since joining Boston in a trade his game has improved a bit. He is averaging 9.4 points and 3.3 assists per game with the Celtics. He has been a decent addition to the locker room and stated his wishes to remain with the franchise. After a down season at $3.1 million this year, Boston may be able to get him back at a discounted rate next year.
A free agent with the New Orleans Pelicans, Morrow has put together a solid season for an injury-riddled team. However, when fully healthy, it is unclear where the 28-year-old's spot is in the depth chart of guards. Morrow has averaged 7.2 points in 16.9 minutes per game while shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc this season. Morrow's player option is for one year and $1.14 million, so there is a good chance Boston could steal him away with a multi-year offer.
While it is unlikely Williams would chose to leave his current situation with the Portland Trail Blazers, Boston should keep him in mind. Williams has a player option for $2.77 million next season, but at 31 years old, a multi-year deal to play behind Rondo and Bradley may sound appetizing. Williams is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 assists per game this season.