The Boston Celtics have an extremely important offseason ahead of them.
In the second year of a rebuilding process, the Celtics have the financial flexibility and the draft picks to put them on track for a playoff berth sooner rather than later.
In this piece, we're going to focus on free agency and what the Celtics can do in that stage of the offseason to better themselves.
Let's go position by position and look at the best free-agent fits for Boston.
With Jerryd Bayless, Kris Humphries and Avery Bradley (restricted) becoming free agents, the Celtics head into the offseason with $48.42 million in guaranteed contracts for next season, according to Brian Robb of CBS Boston.
That means Boston certainly will have the opportunity to bring in some high-priced players from the outside.
But with Rajon Rondo in the fold, the Celtics don't need to make such a splash at point guard.
In fact, the smart move for Boston is to make the least splashy choice of all and simply re-sign Bayless on the cheap.
Bayless appeared in 41 games for the Celtics in 2013-14 after a midseason trade brought him to Boston from Memphis.
He immediately brought in a scoring ability that the Celtics desperately needed. He shot 39.5 percent from outside on a Boston team that ranked 28th in three-point-shooting efficiency this year. He also gave Boston, a team that ranked 27th in points per possession, 10.1 points per game.
Bayless isn't a great defender by any means, but he's someone Boston knows can help its offense and do so inexpensively.
At just 23, Stephenson posted impressive averages of 13.8 points (49.1 percent shooting from the field), 4.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds. He can get his own shot and get to the basket, distribute the ball, outwork others for rebounds and make things tough for opposing ball-handlers.
Stephenson is a high-energy guy who can make an impact in all facets of the game, making him very similar to Rondo in that respect.
With both of them athletic and blessed with great playmaking skills, a Rondo-Stephenson backcourt would be a nightmare for opponents.
But acquiring "Born Ready" is not going to be easy. This is going to be someone, with his age and talent, who will cost north of $10 million annually. Stephenson promises to have multiple suitors with deep pockets that Boston will have to beat out for his services.
The Celtics' potential signing of Gordon Hayward makes a ton of sense, and that doesn't just stem from the fact that Boston coach Brad Stevens coached Hayward at Butler.
Like Stephenson, Hayward is a very versatile player. The 24-year-old averaged 16.2 points while also posting more than five rebounds and five assists on a nightly basis this year.
The knock on Hayward is that he wasn't a very efficient shooter this season, shooting just 41.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from outside. But part of those shortcomings can be blamed on the fact that he was on a bad offense (25th in points per possession) and was asked to carry a huge load of that offense.
Rondo is someone who could get the ball to Hayward in better spots and make the game much easier for him. It's easy to project that those efficiency numbers would improve if he came to Boston.
Hayward would be a great addition for a Celtics team that could use another offensive weapon.
For a team that's rebuilding as the Celtics are, Jordan Hill represents a nice option.
In just 20.8 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Lakers last year, Hill averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. That means Hill averaged 16.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is awfully impressive.
Hill is always going to be a solid rebounder, and his offensive game is continuing to develop. Remember: He's still just 25 and has the potential for plenty of growth.
He obviously isn't the best power forward on the market, but with his price tag likely just a few million bucks, he could be a nice value signing.
The big get here would be Greg Monroe, who averaged 15.1 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. But considering Monroe, at just 23, is likely to command a max deal, Boston should look elsewhere.
The Celtics should pursue Marcin Gortat, an expensive option, but not cripplingly so (likely around $10 million annually).
Gortat is coming off a fantastic season with the Washington Wizards in which he averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He has an effective low-post game and can give the Celtics the size and strength inside that they need.
It's going to be difficult to pry Gortat out of Washington, but he's worth making the effort. Marcin would immediately become a go-to guy on this team and is a veteran who could teach Boston's young bigs a thing or two.
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