Best Bargain-Bin NBA 2014 Free-Agency Options for Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are a young, rebuilding team with a full non-taxpayer midlevel exception ($5.305 million) and a bi-annual exception ($2.077) at their disposal. Even though cap space is basically nonexistent, they’re also in position to fill out their roster with minimum player salary exception contracts.
Since we’re discussing bargain-bin deals, here are five players that should still be available for any one of the exceptions listed above long after the dust settles. These aren’t Boston’s top targets, but instead players they’d be perfectly fine signing if everyone else wound up elsewhere.
They’re ranked by how happy their hypothetical acquisition would make Celtics fans next season.
5. Ekpe Udoh
Ekpe Udoh's career since getting picked sixth overall in the 2010 draft (ahead of Gordon Hayward, Paul George and Greg Monroe) has been uneventful. The long, 6'10" forward is a career 42.8 percent shooter who's yet to have any substantial impact in any meaningful area.
But you can't teach size, and Udoh's long limbs and relatively young age (he just turned 27) make him a decent get at the right price. What price is that? It's tough to see anyone guaranteeing him more than one-year, including the Celtics, who would gladly take him on a minimum contract.
Udoh could provide depth in the front line, play a little center and maybe carve out a nice role rebounding the ball and protecting the rim. His abysmal 7.6 PER last year as a fourth or fifth big with the Milwaukee Bucks keeps expectations in the basement, though.
4. Alan Anderson
Alan Anderson played on a minimum contract last season with the Brooklyn Nets, so inking him to a bi-annual exception might be possible if every other team in need of shooting (so, every team) fills up their cap space with other pieces.
Anderson wasn't Kyle Korver last year, but he's only two years removed from making 39.3 percent of his threes while playing for the Toronto Raptors. He shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, too. The point being: He can help space the floor for a Celtics team that really needs shooting.
The 31-year-old is also bigger than most think (6'6"), and his presence would allow Boston to utilize various lineups that take advantage of Anderson's versatility. Put him at shooting guard or small forward and have fun with a solid three-and-D wing making less than $3 million.
3. Al-Farouq Aminu
If the Celtics stretch, bench or trade Gerald Wallace next season, Al-Farouq Aminu would be a neat replacement. He could either play beside Jeff Green, behind him on the bench or in front, nudging Green towards a less complex role off the bench.
While Green is a one-dimensional scorer, Aminu can't shoot but uses his tremendous length to make a significant impact on the boards and on-ball defense.
It's tough to gauge Aminu's market right now. He's only 23, coming off a season where he showed virtually no improvement on the previous year. But at the right price, betting on Aminu to make marginal strides on offense is a smart move.
The Celtics would love to take him on with half their midlevel exception, which keeps him on a tradable contract in case the Aminu we've seen is the only version that will ever be.
2. Trevor Booker
The Wizards still want to bring back the energetic, rugged forward but Booker actually played so well in his fourth season – averaging 6.8 points with 5.3 rebounds in 72 games – that he priced himself out of what Washington had intended to spend on him.
Before the season began, Booker was eligible for a qualifying offer of $3.4 million as the 23rd pick in the 2010 NBA draft. But Booker was set to earn an offer nearly $1.3 million higher after meeting what the NBA collective bargaining agreement calls, “starter criteria.” If a non-lottery first-round pick starts at least 41 games or plays 2,000 minutes, he is eligible to receive the same qualifying offer as the ninth overall pick. Booker started 45 games.
The Boston Celtics are overflowing with power forwards, and Booker may be out of their price range anyway. But he's a quality NBA player, and adding him makes it easier to move either Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk.
Offering the full midlevel exception would be questionable if no other moves were made, but it would be a solid brush stroke in a larger picture.
1. Emeka Okafor
Aside from a top-10 overall player, what's the number one thing Danny Ainge should be trying to acquire this summer? Rim protection.
Emeka Okafor missed last season with a neck injury, but he's "only" 31 and hopefully far from washed up. Okafor logged over 2,000 minutes two years ago and was an above-average rebounder who banged down low, set hard screens and scored on the occasional post-up.
On the Celtics, he'd slide into his natural position at center, giving Brad Stevens a big on the back line he didn't have last year. Is he worth a full midlevel exception—four years at about $23 million? That's a contract Boston should be excited about. If, of course, Okafor is healthy.