With Kendrick Perkins gone and Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal being no where near their All-Star past the Boston Celtics have a gaping hole in the middle of their roster. In terms of value, the center may only be the second most valuable position in the NBA right now after the point guard.
The Celtics do not have tons of options out there with so little cap space. With six roster spots currently being held and $65 million in payroll already tied up in those players the Celtics will have to find true value at the center position. Here are the eight players who can best do that.
With the 25th pick in the draft the Celtics won't get a stud center right away. If the current roster stays in tact all the Celtics would be looking to add is depth at shooting guard or power forward. Williams is a legitimate center and the biggest knocks on him are his work ethic and overall shape. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce wouldn't allow for that.
Williams can rebound and score well and has some post moves already. He won't be dominant like some of the other names on this list but he will get inside, hustle and make a difference unlike the elder statesmen that have guarded the post since Perkins left.
Likelihood: 40 percent
Samuel Dalembert is in the model of Kendrick Perkins meaning not offensively gifted and someone who can get underneath and muscle his way in for rebounds and point. Dalembert is not as tough and no where near the defender that Perkins was but would add value to the Celtics.
Dalembert is likely expendable to the Kings who have DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. That does not necessarily mean he will be cheap. Several teams are rumored to be interested in his services and with centers being hard to find could driver up his price a la Brendan Haywood. At 30, Dalembert still has some time left in him and could be a bridge to a developmental draft pick.
Likelihood: 15 percent
The Celtics need to get younger at every position including center; this is why DeAndre Jordan would be a huge addition in the middle. Jordan has done nothing but but see more time each year. Oddly enough, Jordan's per 36 numbers are nearly identical every season at 10 ppg, 10 rpg and 2.5 blocks per game. This would add rebounding and defensive help that the Boston Celtics lost with the Kendrick Perkins trade.
Jordan is an up and coming player who is improving but is not likely to see a huge raise from his current employer. As a restricted free agent the L.A. Clippers do have the right to match any offer and as a young, improving center someone may out bid the Celtics but this would be the ideal fit.
Likelihood: 10 percent
The Grizzlies may have found a steal when they traded away Pau Gasol for his brother Marc. While Marc is not yet to the level of his All-Star brother Pau, he still is improving. Gasol saw his points and rebounds per game drop this year but started all but one game for the Grizzlies this year.
He is likely to be re-signed by the Grizzlies as he is part of the young nucleus that they have in Memphis. If for some reason Gasol feels that he is under appreciated in Memphis, he may look to other contenders like the Celtics.
Likelihood: 10 percent
Mark Cuban won't let him get away but Tyson Chandler, while never living completely up to expectations has made himself into a serviceable big man. Averaging nearly a double-double will take care of some of the rebounding woes the Celtics have had while also adding more offense than Perkins did.
Chandler could be lured away by money but will likely want to play for a contender. If the Mavericks don't win a championship this year, he will probably look elsewhere unless Cuban throws some money around.
Likelihood: five percent
While not as athletically gifted as some of the other big men on this list, Hawes is an improving center and has show when given consistent time he can be a valuable asset. His turnovers need to drop but he has a soft touch around the basket and can hang with most big men even though he is a little undersized.
His rebounding numbers are solid at just below 10 per game this year and he is gifted enough around the basket that even averaging 21 minutes per game he scored an average of seven points a game. Given the starting role like he had in Sacramento, Hawes could see those numbers spike back up into the 12-14 point per game range.
Hawes is not likely to garner a ton of interest on the open market and the 76ers do have the right to match any offer he gets, Hawes' price will likely be cheap and is something the Celtics can afford. This is not a great option but a solid backup plan.
Likelihood: 5 percent
Keith Benson, from little Oakland University, is a seven-footer who needs to get a little more physical. While having a solid offensive game, he can be pushed around. The Celtics weight-training staff should be able to handle that. His game somewhat resembles KG but without quite as much range and obviously not quite as skilled at this point.
Scouts say he should play at power forward to be truly effective but could play along side KG on the floor in the meantime. Benson is probably the second best option at the 25th pick for a center prospect and could be taken if Williams is gone.
Likelihood: 15 percent
If the Orlando Magic honeslty don't feel like Dwight Howard is going to re-sign they may choose to deal him this offseason. The Celtics obviously have a few attractive pieces such as KG's expiring contract, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Unfortunately, Howard is likely to come at a pretty steep price unless the Magic and Otis Smith completely panic. Howard certainly would solve the problem and long term, paired with Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, would be a force to be reckoned with. This is likely a pipe dream.
Likelihood: zero percent
There are other options out there but those seem to be the most likely. Other targets for the Celtics could include Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. Neither of these has a chance in hell of happening but they would be fun to see.
The Celtics could always go with what they know and keep Jermaine O'Neal, Shaq and re-sign Nenad Krstic and have the same problems all over again.
Or the Celtics could turn here...fun fact, Eddy Curry is currently on the market. It's been rumored he's looking to play for a contender (kidding).