Ranking Celtics' Priorities for 2022 NBA Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 12, 2022

Ranking Celtics' Priorities for 2022 NBA Free Agency

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The Boston Celtics have an important summer coming up.

    It may not be a busy one, but based on how this postseason run plays out, the Celtics will spend the 2022 NBA offseason either trying to keep a championship team together or searching for the final piece that pushes them over the top.

    The heaviest lifting is already done, as much of this core is already locked in place, but there are some tricky decisions to make. We'll help simplify the process by spotlighting the top three priorities on the to-do list.

1. Al Horford's Contract

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Al Horford turns 36 this summer. He helped facilitate a salary dump last offseason. He just averaged his fewest points since his rookie season, which came a decade-and-a-half ago.

    None of those things paints him as a $26.5 million player, right? But that's exactly what he could be based on Boston's handling of his contract.

    Only $14.5 million is guaranteed now, but the guarantee grows to $19.5 million if the Celtics make the NBA Finals and becomes fully guaranteed if they win it all, via Spotrac. Ducking out of the non-guaranteed portion of the pact felt like an easy call last summer, but now? It's complicated.

    Horford doesn't deliver $26.5 million stats, but he does fill a critical frontcourt role on both ends of the floor, not to mention what he offers as a leader. Having him around also keeps a big salary on the books should Boston sniff out a blockbuster trade between now and the next trade deadline. There are reasons to seriously consider bringing him back, even if he will be objectively overpaid.

2. Find Cheap Shooting

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    Boston Globe/Getty Images

    When the Celtics swung a deadline deal for Derrick White (coughing up a first-round pick and future first-round swap in the process), they found almost the perfect complementary role player. He delivered both the length and strength to fit their defensive scheme and scratched an itch for another secondary playmaker.

    Where the almost qualifier comes into play, though, is the fact White isn't a knockdown shooter—or anything close to it. He's only at 34 percent from three for his career and converted a career-worst 31.2 percent of his long-range looks this season.

    The Shamrocks need better spacers around star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Of the 10 Celtics who attempted 100-plus threes this season, only four cleared the league-average mark of 35.4: Brown, who squeaked by at 35.8; Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard, who fill support roles on the second unit; and Josh Richardson, who was sent to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the White deal.

    Boston desperately needs to up its accuracy to lift the ceiling off of this attack, and hoping Aaron Nesmith finds his form after a brick-filled sophomore season isn't cutting it. When the Celtics hit the bargain bin in free agency, they have to put a premium on perimeter threats.

3. Sam Hauser's Team Option

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Technically, the Celtics are sending five players into free agency, but even diehard Boston backers would have trouble putting names to faces with this group.

    Sam Hauser is the closest player the Celtics have to a notable free agent. The 6'8" swingman, who had his two-way pact converted to a standard NBA contract in February, logged 158 minutes across 26 games this season.

    In sample-size terms, that's microscopic.

    Still, it was encouraging to see him cash in 43.2 percent of his outside shots, particularly given Boston's aforementioned need for clearance-priced spacers. He holds a $1.6 million team option for next season, per Spotrac, which seems cheap enough to see whether his combination of size and sharpshooting could make him worthy of a regular rotation role at some point in the near future.