At midnight on July 1st, the proverbial gun sounded for the teams to court perhaps the greatest free agent class the league has ever seen. Just years after the 2003 NBA Draft, experts and basketball pundits around the world were debating whether we had witnessed a draft class head and shoulders above all others. Now, just seven years later, most of that talent is eligible to alter the balance of the league and select a new home for the next six or seven years.
For the most part, the Boston Celtics will not have a hand in any of the big name players commanding monstrous contracts. Teams have tanked for the past two years while depleting their rosters of as much player salary as possible in order to set up an appointment with LeBron James, while the Celtics have made two title runs in that same time frame.
While teams with tons of cap space have a wish list that consists of names like LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Amar’e and Joe Johnson, the Celtics’ free agent targets are drastically different. Let’s take a look at who Danny Ainge should be targeting
Rajon Rondo has emerged as an elite point guard in the league. The Cs just spent the No. 19 pick of last week’s draft on Avery Bradley, a combo guard out of Texas (who just happened to be the No. 1 high school prospect of his class just months before). With that said, a back-up point guard is a modest-to-mild need for this roster, but if a serviceable option is available for the veteran’s minimum, rest assure Ainge will be making a phone call. Here’s three options to consider:
Steve Blake – A journeyman who has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 3.00, Blake would be the ideal backup. He’s got three-point range and would allow Doc Rivers to rest Rondo much more during the season. Would be my first choice at backing up Grand Theft Rondo.
Chris Duhon – A cap casualty in New York, Duhon gives about the same assist and turnover numbers over his career as Blake, but doesn’t have the jumper to match. Would not be my first choice by any stretch of the imagination, but I would gladly take him in a Celtics uniform.
Nate Robinson – A trade deadline addition, Nate didn’t play much in the regular season, but gave some inspiring moments in the postseason and won over the hearts of Celtic fans across the country. He also said he would like to be back, but at what price? If it’s for the vet’s minimum, I’m game. If he’s looking for more money, he can definitely find it elsewhere.
Those are just a few options for point guard, but I think there is a player that we all know and love (and hate) that could fill this void.
The starting wing players on this past season’s team may very well be gone, but I honestly don’t see Ray Allen and Paul Pierce leaving Boston (despite Pierce opting out of his current deal). We need to get some players behind these two veterans that will keep their legs fresh and healthy. The only other wing man on the team is the unsigned Avery Bradley, so there are spots to be had.
Tony Allen – This is the back-up point guard I alluded to earlier. We’ve all seen the three faces of this guy: Good Tony, Bad Tony and Terrible Tony. Sometimes Good Tony turns great and other times Bad Tony goes terrible. One thing is for sure, Tony Allen can play defense. On top of that, he does have some point guard skills and knows the system. I believe he will be back.
Mike Miller – A second unit that seriously lacked outside shooting, Mike Miller would be the ultimate sixth man for this team. He would also be more than capable to slide into the starting lineup in case of a Ray Allen or Paul Pierce injury. This is a no-brainer for Ainge if Miller wants to play in Boston.
Ryan Gomes – Traded on draft night along with Luke Babbitt to Portland for Martell Webster, he was waived just hours ago. Gomes was a fan favorite in Boston until traded (along with half a dozen other players and picks) for Kevin Garnett. Fans have been clamoring ever since about bringing him back and the opportunity has come. He’s a great role player, but he may command about $3 million a season and would price himself out of the Celtics’ pay range.
Tracy McGrady – By far the biggest name of this list of wing players, McGrady tried to revive his career last season in New York, but once again, injuries reared their ugly head. There were moments where we saw vintage T-Mac, but it was obvious he no longer has enough left in the tank to be relied on as even a third option, but to bring him off the bench would be intriguing. Give him a chance to compete for a title and it could pay big dividends.
Our most dire need is at both the power forward and center positions. With Rasheed Wallace retiring and Kendrick Perkins scheduled to undergo knee surgery within the next week, the Celtics have Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis as the only healthy and signed big men on the roster. Ainge could possibly deal Rasheed's contract to bring someone in return, but that's a situation I won't get in to at the moment.
Here are some targets that would serve a purpose for the Celtics.
Brad Miller – As reported here at Celtics 24/7 , the Celtics are looking to bring Brad Miller to Boston. He would fill the the role of Rasheed Wallace as a big man able to stretch the floor with his jumper. Miller also brings a blue-collar mentality that fans expect from their Boston athletes. Brad Miller has to be Ainge’s No 1. target in free agency.
Shaquille O’Neal – Believe it or not, this is a realistic option. With Kendrick Perkins possibly sidelined for the beginning of the season, Shaq would be the closest replacement to Perk as we could find. He’d be able to block shots and play some defense while allowing Glen Davis to have to play very limited minutes at the center position. The big question would be whether or not Shaq would be willing to check his ego at the door like all the other future Hall of Famers did just three seasons ago.
Al Harrington – A versatile big man, Harrington would be able to stretch the floor as a power forward. His defense has never been his calling card, but he could be a top scoring option for the second unit. If the price is right for Harrington, he would be a favorable option.
Hakim Warrick – A very reasonable option for Boston, Warrick is an energetic power forward that can run the floor and play some defense. A poor-man’s Tyrus Thomas, Warrick would be a great role player for this team coming off the bench. His length could force turnovers and bad shots and would be able to finish in transition.
That’s a quick look at some possible targets for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. I’m sure not all of these players are even being considered by the front office, but the possibilities are endless for this team. Who do you think we should be targeting?