The Boston Celtics added four players to their roster last week through the 2015 NBA Draft, and yet the question still remains, “Who are they going to sign in free agency?”
Last season, the Celtics went on a run to reach the playoffs and showed signs of momentum even while being swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics have pieces, and solid moves this summer will be key to taking the team to the next level.
More than half of the team from last season is under contract. Gerald Wallace, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and James Young have guaranteed contracts. 2015 first-round picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter will be added to that list once they sign.
Jae Crowder has a $1.2 million qualifying offer, which the Celtics are expected to extend to make him a restricted free agent. The same is not certain for Luigi Datome ($2.2 million), whose stint with the team could turn out to be brief.
Guards Phil Pressey and Chris Babb both have non-guaranteed deals at less than $1 million each. In spite of the affordable dollar value of their contracts, the roster is packed at the guard position.
So where does the current state of the team leave the Celtics as free agency approaches? The backcourt is overloaded, but the frontcourt is thin.
The Celtics have not been a team to sign free agents to mega deals. Over the years they have landed the big names through trades and the draft. While the team will likely be in the mix to land star players — they explore all options — they don’t have to dish out blockbuster contracts this offseason.
The draw of signing with the Celtics is being a player to help take them to the next level. They are not championship contenders at this point, so a free agent wouldn’t be stepping into an instant win situation, but there is an opportunity for players to excel in a bigger role than with their respective teams, with a high ceiling for potential.
Looking beyond the top free agents, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love (a name that has been floating around Boston for over a year), the Celtics could target the next level of players. Greg Monroe is one free agent to watch for the Celtics. The unrestricted free agent will meet with Boston, according to The Advocate, among a handful of other teams. Monroe could be a quick fix to the Celtics frontcourt as he averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds last season for the Detroit Pistons. At 25 years old, the team that signs him could get him in his prime.
The Celtics have also been linked to having interest in restricted free agent Tobias Harris. His versatility to play the small and power forward positions would give the team lineup options, as head coach Brad Stevens likes to test out different combinations on the court. Harris averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season for the Orlando Magic. One of the biggest upsides to signing Harris is his age. He is only 22, which makes his performance up to this point in his career even more impressive. The question will be how much he will garner in free agency (there has been buzz of a max deal) and what the Celtics would be willing to offer.
In the next tier of free agents, unrestricted forward Al-Farouq Aminu is reportedly going to meet with the Celtics as well. Aminu posted 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks last season. He stood out in the postseason, averaging 15 points and 8.7 rebounds in the final three games of the Mavericks’ first-round series against the Houston Rockets. His defensive abilities are a bigger draw than his offensive contributions at this point.
While the Celtics often are in the midst of free agent buzz, their bevvy of draft picks that can be packaged with current contracts could be the route they go to land their next big player.
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