Very Early 2013 Free Agent Targets for Boston Celtics
It's never too early to look ahead for any team, and the Boston Celtics are at a crucial point in the franchise's history.
On one hand, you have a team that is just four seasons removed from a title with its core (minus Ray Allen) still intact from that year. On the other, you have a team that may need to rebuild eventually with an aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. What that means is the 2013-2014 campaign could be the last hurrah for the now Big Two (actually still a Big Three if you go ahead and include Rajon Rondo).
They are going to be just a hair over the $58 million salary cap imposed by the new collective bargaining agreement, but teams are always resourceful with the mid-level exception (M.L.E.) and Boston GM Danny Ainge is creative at making things happen even when over the cap. Look at the way he managed to bring in Courtney Lee via a sign and trade, and used the actual M.L.E. on Jason Terry this year to replace Allen.
Still, the options aren't the greatest with so little money to spend. There will be no signing of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith, or even guys like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden.
Instead, these are the guys the Celtics will search for at bargain prices.
2013 Players Under Contract
Let's first take a quick look at the players under contract before beginning to look at the options available. These are their salaries** for the 2013-2014 campaign (only players with guaranteed deals, excluding Avery Bradley & Kris Joseph):
Paul Pierce - $15 Million
Rajon Rondo $12 M
Brandon Bass $6.7 M
Avery Bradley $2.5 M- Team Option
Jared Sullinger $1.3 M
Fab Melo $1.3 M
Kris Joseph $0.8 M
Jeff Green- $8-9 M*
Jason Terry- $5 M
Kevin Garnett- $10 M
*- Jeff Green is still not technically signed but is expected to sign a four year deal worth an average of $8 to $9 million per season.
**-Salaries rounded to nearest decimal
10) Nate Robinson, Unrestricted
Nate Robinson already has had a stint in Boston, and it was one with mixed results.
His scoring off the bench could provide a lift to the Celtics when things get tough. He shouldn't be too expensive to sign given his journeyman-like nature and inability to stick with a franchise, but he is a fan favorite all over as a former Dunk Contest winner, and that always helps keep fans in seats.
The C's could likely sign him for far less than the M.L.E. and split the money to go after either another guy later in this slide show or someone whom I have not mentioned (pickings are sparse when you're over the cap already).
Robinson isn't a franchise saver, but that's not what you're going to get for $2 to $3 million per year, which is the most I think he could command at any rate.
9) Austin Daye, Restricted
The Pistons have been high on Daye and are far under the cap, so it's likely he re-signs…but only if he wants to. He may have already grown tired of the losing and sharing time with Tayshaun Prince. Not to mention, the grossly underachieving Charlie Villanueva, who I still feel should be amnestied, as I wrote for Yahoo! Sports back on April 11.
Joe Dumars hasn't looked so brilliant since compiling the championship squads of the Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups days, and allowing Daye to walk as a restricted free agent would just be one more mistake on his part, but one that the Celtics could capitalize upon. Unlike Nate Robinson, however, Daye would take up most of the Mid-Level Exception.
8) Marreese Speights, Player Option
Speights is a big and athletic young player who could help fill some needs on the interior. He's better than the currently rostered Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins (by far), and likely better than Fab Melo will be, at least for a while.
He shined last year in Memphis after Zach Randolph went down with an injury and forced the Grizzlies to surrender Pitt product Sam Young in exchange for Speights. He's not going to draw a ton of interest on the free market, so the C's could likely get him for half of the M.L.E. He first, however, would have to choose to waive his player option to become a free agent after this year.
7) Corey Brewer, Unrestricted
Brewer is a guy that I think Doc Rivers would be high on.
He's a good enough shooter to spread the floor and is a lockdown defender, which is something Rivers likes in players. He's been disappointing since being drafted 7th overall in 2007, but shined in the NCAA at Florida with Joakim Noah and those impressive Gators championship squads.
He's still only 26, so he would figure into long-term plans if the Celtics decided to sign him for a few seasons.
6) Shawn Marion, Player Option
Marion is now 34 and is one-third the athlete he was when Nike was doing commercials with him wearing ankle weights and still dunking all over his competition. However, he still has some left in the tank and managed to average 10.6 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game in 30 minutes of play last year for the Mavericks.
He's likely going to continue to fall off, but should still be a couple years away from retirement if the Celtics wanted a defensive guy off the bench or someone to check a hot swingman when they got cooking. He would likely take most of the M.L.E. to sign.
5) Reggie Williams, Unrestricted
Fantasy basketball geeks will recall Reggie Williams' impressive stint down the stretch in 2009-2010 when he posted 15.2 points per game in 24 games for the Golden State Warriors while shooting just under 50% from the floor, hitting 1.4 threes per game (35.9 percent).
He never rediscovered that magic and saw 12 minutes less per game in his full season campaign the following year, and he was plagued with injuries last year for the Bobcats, which he probably was almost pleased about as it removed him from the infamy and blame of their horrendous season.
I imagine Williams would be eager to join a winning organization. His scoring would help when Paul Pierce needs a rest, which will become only more frequent as Pierce continues to age.
4) Anthony Morrow, Unrestricted
I realize Morrow may be a redundancy with Jason Terry signed through 2014-2015 and Courtney Lee signed through 2015-2016, but Morrow would enable the Celtics to add one more shooter to the roster, and possibly consider moving one of their three better shooting guards to add front court strength and depth.
It's a bit of a strange move, but Danny Ainge has shown a predilection for making head scratching moves, anyway, and I think he moves one of the three shooting guards this year—there's just no telling which one.
Morrow would be a cheaper option than Terry or Lee, and at 6'5" he could see some minutes at small forward in the role of a better-shooting Mickael Pietrus, as Pietrus experienced good success at the small forward spot with similar size and comparable athleticism.
3) Jarrett Jack, Unrestricted
Jack is the exact type of guard the Celtics need. He fits the M.L.E. level salary perfectly and is a combo-guard that could back up Rondo and start at times, if Rondo were injured or if the shooting guard spot experienced similar problems.
Jack is an 85.3 percent free throw shooter which makes him valuable when Rondo is clanking up bricks and putting C's fans on edge late in games. Again, we have the redundancy of guards on this Boston team, but I have to figure that will be addressed before the trade deadline, and we are still talking about an offseason nearly a full year away.
2) Tiago Splitter, Restricted
Splitter has a $5.8 million qualifying offer which the Spurs are likely to match, so he couldn't be signed outright and will likely command more than the M.L.E. anyway. It would require a sign and trade to get the talented Brazilian big man, and that is a long shot, but they worked wonders doing so with Courtney Lee.
With a brilliant GM like Danny Ainge, where there is a will there is a way.
Splitter could end up being the answer to the Celtics woes at center and allow Kevin Garnett to shift back to power forward for what would likely be his last year before retiring after the 2013-2014 season.
Splitter would usher in a new era of defense in the paint in Boston and has improved both his first two years in the league, continuing to work on his weaknesses and learn the NBA game after getting a late start at age 26.
1) Taj Gibson, Restricted
Taj Gibson would have to choose to settle for the M.L.E. with Boston to make this work, and the Bulls are going to be deep in the luxury tax unless they bite the bullet and amnesty Carlos Boozer. That is a very likely option for the Bulls, who have been disappointed with the mediocrity of the once 20 point, 10 rebound machine.
Gibson can block shots, rebound and play heady defense. In short, he is the kind of guy Rivers would love, but it isn't often a young player sacrifices his salary to chase a ring, and his best chances for a ring might not even be in Boston—let's be honest.
Still, I would have to say of all the realistic and semi-realistic options, Gibson represents the best addition for the Celtics if he were willing to take a reduced paycheck to play in Beantown.