Remaining Free-Agent Fits for the Boston Celtics
At the moment, the Boston Celtics currently have a crowded roster. The team has 17 players signed under contract for next season and an 18th reportedly on the way with guard/forward Evan Turner. The Celtics agreed to terms with the former Pacer earlier this week, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, for a portion of the team’s mid-level exception.
Despite the overstocked roster, the Celtics still have some glaring holes on their depth chart, especially in front-line defense. New addition Tyler Zeller will provide some assistance in the middle, but the team is still in dire need of a rim-protecting big man and some defensive help at forward.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge still has the ability to clear out some roster space via cutting players with non-guaranteed contracts (Chris Babb, Chris Johnson and Keith Bogans). He has also shown interest in trading away a veteran or two, and Zach Lowe of Grantland reported last week that Ainge had been considering dealing power forward Brandon Bass to the Warriors.
After signing Turner, the team will still have a portion of the mid-level exception remaining to add another useful piece or two to the roster. Here are a few available free agents who would fit Boston’s needs.
All statistics provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The undrafted big man started his career back with the Boston Celtics during the 2011-12 season, making the roster after surprising the team with his defense and shot-blocking during the preseason. After a terrific rookie campaign, Boston didn’t have the money to re-sign Stiemsma, having used their entire mid-level exception on Jason Terry in the summer of 2012.
Two years later, the Celtics still have not been able to replace Stiemsma’s role as a rim-protecting big man, so what better way to fill that void than bringing back the 6'11" center and his impressive career average of 4.1 blocks per 36 minutes to Boston?
After a couple underwhelming seasons in Minnesota and New Orleans, Stiemsma’s stock has taken a little bit of a hit, but he’s still young enough (28) to fit in a rebuilding Boston roster. He’d provide some good competition at the center spot with new additions Tyler Zeller and Vitor Faverani and would cost no more than $1-2 million per season.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge likes to take risks, and there may be no bigger injury risk on the open market right now than Emeka Okafor. The veteran center missed the entire 2013-14 season with the Phoenix Suns due to a herniated disc in his neck, and his health status for the upcoming season is still unclear.
If Okafor returns to the floor next year, his imposing presence in the middle would be exactly what a young Celtics frontcourt would need.
Okafor is a tremendous rebounder on both ends, grabbing an impressive 18.3 percent of all available rebounds while he’s on the floor during his nine-year career. His shot-blocking (2.8 per game in his career) and overall defensive awareness would also translate well in providing a backbone to a surprisingly competent Celtics defense last season that just lacked an experienced true center.
It’s unclear whether Okafor would be interested in playing for a non-contender at age 31, but if he signed with Boston, he would have a great opportunity to rebuild his value with the ample playing time available at the center spot.
The Celtics have already bought low on one lottery pick from the 2010 NBA draft this offseason after agreeing to terms with the No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner. Al-Farouq Aminu was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft and would be another great buy-low opportunity for Danny Ainge this offseason.
The 6'9" forward has spent his last three years in New Orleans with mixed results but showed some promising signs of improvement during the 2013-14 season. His size allows him to guard both small forwards and power forwards, and his athleticism makes him a great disrupter on the defensive end. Animu is also a great rebounder for his size on both ends of the floor.
For a rebuilding team like Boston, Animu could be a cheap wing-defender for years to come, and his youth (age 23) makes him an ideal candidate for a long-term deal for a portion of the mid-level exception.
At the power forward/center spot, the Celtics have plenty of offensive weapons right now in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass. What the team could use at those positions is a little bit more defense, and 6'10" Ekpe Udoh would be an appealing option in that department.
Udoh’s offensive game is largely non-existent (an average of just 3.4 points per game over his career), but his impact on the defensive end of the floor is stellar. He’s a terrific defender with a high basketball IQ. He’s also an imposing shot-blocker for his size, averaging 3.7 blocks per 36 minutes over his career.
Udoh isn’t a starter-level talent in the NBA, but his skills would make him a great defensive anchor for Boston’s second unit in the frontcourt.