Boston Celtics fans are growing antsy for a new season. With the 2014 NBA playoffs winding down and draft day right around the corner, Boston is ready to find out who will be wearing green in 2014-15.
Beyond the wild unknowns of this well-stocked draft, and who will be available at No. 6 and 17, lies free agency.
Boston has been hearing predictions of fireworks on more than just the Independence Day down the Cape. With a name like Kevin Love being bandied about, it is hard to blame folks for getting anxious for a little less talk and a lot more action.
However, on the scale of most likely moves Boston makes this summer, a Kevin Love trade has to fall near the bottom. Not only is it not exactly a free-agent move, but with a pick as questionable as No. 6, it will be tough to entice the Minnesota Timberwolves with a sweet enough offer.
Instead, Boston’s brass will likely turn their attention back to free agency to help improve the Celtics from their 25-57 doldrums of 2013-14.
The most likely free-agency move for Boston to make is the easy, in-house one. Avery Bradley is a restricted free agent this summer, courtesy of his rookie deal running out.
The Celtics' starting 2-guard has had trouble staying on the court but proved himself for the most part to be a quality player at a scarce position. The NBA’s dearth of elite shooting guards is certainly a concern when it comes to the case of Bradley’s free agency, but Boston has a lot going for it.
Bradley has never felt pressured or uncomfortable with the Celtics. For the most part, he seems like a quiet, hard-working guy. He has experienced a fair share of bad luck on the injury front, but visibly improved in the areas he needed to to sustain a NBA career.
The contract obviously has to be right for both sides. The Celtics have previously tried to lock Bradley up but were unsuccessful prior to this past season. The 23-year-old wanted one more season to try to prove himself, which he did, to the extent of 14.9 points per game on 43.8/39.5/80.4 shooting splits. He missed 22 games with assorted injuries, but certainly held his own, at both ends, while on the court.
When it comes to free agency, Boston's first decision will be regarding their young shooting guard. Along with being the first domino when it comes to figuring out the rest of their summer financially, Bradley could also be the first move that directs Rajon Rondo to re-signing long-term.
Boston hasn't had enough opportunity to see them on the court together, but the duo has shown glimpses of great chemistry. If Bradley's corner-three improvements were more than just a mirage, they should mesh together nicely in the future.
If Kevin Love is the sexy move for everyone this summer, Greg Monroe is the safe choice.
Going after Love can be hazardous to your health as an organization. He is the extremely attractive lady, or dude, with just a bit too much crazy (lack of defense) in them, and with a history of losing relationships (never been to the playoffs). Is that who you want to hitch your wagon to?
It very well may be. However, what if dating that person was going to cost you some friends or even family members who weren't cool with her? In this case, dating, or trading for, Love comes at a very steep price. Likely a whole mess-load of draft picks, along with Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and probably more.
Then there is Monroe, the choice that would let you keep family and friends on your side and with minimal amounts of crazy. Of course, Monroe hasn't been successful in past relationships either, but he is younger and has been playing the field for two fewer years than Love.
If and when Love, with all his caveats of trying to cheat free agency by a year, chooses to be traded somewhere besides Boston, Celtics fans should turn a great deal of their attention to Monroe. Hopefully at that point it isn't too late.
Monroe is a restricted free agent with the Detroit Pistons this summer. They will have the right to match whatever offer the Celtics are able to extend.
However, the Pistons are in the midst of massive franchise overhaul, with a brand new head coach and president of basketball operations in Stan Van Gundy. With a crowded frontcourt, and budding star in Andre Drummond, the Pistons might let Monroe walk, or be amiable to an extend-and-trade for a perimeter wing like Jeff Green.
After playing four seasons in Detroit with questionable point-guard play, Monroe could become a 20-and-10 force with Rondo running the show. He is a well-rounded player with the size necessary to play center. The rim-protector crowd won't immediately fall in love with him, but there is time for improvement in that regard, and a large chunk of interior defense is simply being in the way. At 6'11" and 250 lbs. Monroe can handle that.
Taking a Flier on a Big
There are a few possible bigs on the free-agency market that Boston could take a look at. Unfortunately, the upcoming draft's crop of centers is fairly weak, and the Celtics may not be in position to take one at No. 6.
Instead, guys like Emeka Okafor and Jordan Hill enter the mind as possibilities.
Okafor missed all of this past season with a herniated disk. However, the year before that, he put together a nice season for the Washington Wizards. In 26 minutes per game (79 games) he averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebound and one block.
Okafor's career numbers are actually quite good, before you laugh at the assumption that he is a valuable player. The problem is that he is 31 years old and has been playing under the weight of a massive contract. All of the stress that goes with being a big-money player will have left Okafor this summer. Instead of making $14 million, he'll take a small deal and play hard for his next, and possibly final, contract.
Hill is another choice, who just thrived on a Los Angeles Lakers team headed toward the dumpster. He is an unrestricted free agent and averaged 16.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and one steal per game in April. Those numbers are clearly inflated by a team without many other options, but still, in 72 games he shot 54.9 percent for Los Angeles.
Hill is about to be 27 years old and may not be big enough to play center full time in the Eastern Conference. However, as a small-ball big, he is perfect. There is athleticism there and a willingness to run the court and play defense.
The name Celtics fans most want to hear, next to Kevin Love, is Gordon Hayward. The former Brad Stevens prodigy has gone through an ability growth-spurt with the Utah Jazz.
His rookie contract comes due this summer, making him a restricted free agent. The Jazz put a lot of work into him over the last four years, though, and it will still be difficult to pry him away.
Even if Hayward were to want a reunion with his college coach in Boston, Utah has the right and financial capital to easily match any offer the Celtics could make.
That would leave the possibility of an extend-and-trade, but it is unclear what that would require. The likelihood of any of this happening is slim. Yes, Hayward has the makings of a good-to-very-good player, but Boston could much more easily re-sign Avery Bradley and either run out Jeff Green's contract or look for a replacement in June's draft.
Hayward has improved statistically in each of the four NBA seasons but was a near-disaster last year shooting the ball and appeared to wilt somewhat under the pressure of trying to lead a team.
The reunion stories would be fun, and he would likely fit Stevens' system once again, but the logistics are doubtful.
All free-agent salary figures courtesy of BasketballInsiders.com
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