NBA Free-Agency Wish List for Boston Celtics This Summer
Currently, the Boston Celtics are under the cap for this summer. But their wiggle room should be all but nonexistent by July 1.
If Joel Anthony opts into his $3.8 million player option, Avery Bradley is retained on a reasonable extension and the team uses both its first-round draft picks, that'll leave almost no cap space to spend on free agents.
All that is perfectly fine. While the Celtics would love to sign an impact player—who wouldn't, besides the Philadelphia 76ers—their eyes are more focused on rebuilding through the draft and trade market. But that doesn't mean they won't be looking for value.
Here are five players Boston would love to have on its team next season. Some might be harder to acquire than others, but all would be fantastic fits. They're ranked by how snug those fits would be.
5. Anthony Morrow
Every team in the league needs three-point shooting. In addition to titillating a home crowd, it opens up the floor for cuts, drives and passing lanes that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
The Celtics are one team in particular that hasn’t had a lot of quality marksmen over the past few years, which is strange since surrounding Rajon Rondo with players who can spread the defense is an ideal strategy.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow may be the best pure shooter available this summer. He has a $1.1 million player option, but it’s highly likely he'll opt out.
Nearly 40 percent of all Morrow’s shots have been threes this season, and he’s making 45.8 percent of them. Only Kyle Korver and Pablo Prigioni are more accurate.
He’s generally one-dimensional, sure, but over the past few weeks, Morrow has played exceptionally well. Look at these recent outings! The Celtics probably aren’t going all in on free agency this summer, but buying low on a useful piece for the future would be a solid alternative.
4. Paul Pierce
How fun would this be? Paul Pierce will be 37 years old next season, but he can clearly still play basketball at a high level.
However, after stripping away the emotional significance of bringing back an all-time great, does Boston have any actual on-court need for him? Yes, of course it does. Pierce remains effective on both ends and is already comfortable playing beside the likes of Rondo, Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
He isn’t a 30-year-old version of himself, able to cradle his way to the rim whenever he wants. However, Pierce’s transformation from superstar to role player is perhaps the most crucial aspect of Brooklyn’s insane in-season turnaround, and he’s only gotten better as the year’s gone on.
Since the All-Star break, he’s shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and sinking 41.8 percent of his threes, a rate that’d stand as his career high (42.2 percent of all his field-goal attempts are behind the three-point line).
But would he want to join? He would!
"Yeah, why not?" Pierce said back in March. "Maybe as a player, maybe as a coach. Who knows what the future holds?"
Money is obviously a huge factor, and Pierce may have played himself out of Boston’s price range after cobbling together a fantastic 2013-14 regular season. But if both sides can come to a financially viable agreement, there’s no reason why Pierce shouldn’t return to the city that fostered his maturation process.
3. Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor will be 32 years old by next season’s opening night. He’s played zero minutes this year and is coming off serious neck surgery.
Why would the Celtics be interested? For one, he’s huge, and the Celtics need huge people. For the right price (a one- or two-year non-guaranteed deal), Boston could grab a short-term stopgap at center, giving itself rim protection and significant improvement of its most obvious weakness.
The virtuous Okafor would be a wonderful addition to Boston’s young, inexperienced locker room, and adding him would permit Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk to spend more time at power forward, their natural NBA positions.
Okafor can finish around the basket but can also step outside and hoist a respectable jumper 10 feet from the rim. True centers who are worthy of starter’s minutes don’t grow on trees, but if other teams are scared off by his health issues, the Celtics should pounce.
2. Gordon Hayward
The best player on this list by a long, long way is also the only restricted free agent. Even if Boston offers the highest amount currently allowed by the CBA, the Utah Jazz still have a right to match.
Hayward isn’t worth a max deal, though. And Boston wouldn’t offer that much. But this is a wish list, and Hayward would be a perfect Swiss Army sidekick for Rondo. He’d operate as a secondary ball-handler, able to attack off the dribble and create offense for others when needed.
The 24-year-old guard would also have an easier time boosting his disappointing shooting numbers. On this Jazz team, he’s asked to do too much—it’s a lot tougher to score when you’re the only perimeter weapon that defenses worry about.
Here he is talking with Grantland’s Zach Lowe about difficult pull-up shots other teams are forcing on him:
Very tough. And those are shots I honestly don’t like taking. I’d much rather get other people involved, and when teams do that, they kind of force the guy coming off the pick-and-roll to make a decision and shoot. It’s just a two-on-two game, which is difficult on me. I’m just not used to shooting that shot as much.
Utah’s decision to tank robbed Hayward of organic development in his third season. It’s difficult to imagine Hayward ending up in Boston next year, but a move there would be in everybody’s best interests.
1. Greg Oden
The Celtics have flirted with Greg Oden in the past, only to see him make a totally rational decision by signing with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Regardless of how Miami’s season ends, Oden will have suitors if he can walk. The former No. 1 overall pick has understandably looked unspectacular so far, but potential for the spectacular still lingers.
He’s flashed really solid moments rebounding the ball and protecting Miami’s rim. Oden hasn’t even played 200 minutes this season, so the sample size is small. But opponents are shooting 47.2 percent at the rim when he’s defending it. That number is better than the ones posted by Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan.
Again, those three players have played so many more minutes than Oden and have so many more responsibilities to worry about, but there’s little harm if the Celtics take a flyer on a player who might be able to fill their gaping void in the middle for the foreseeable future.