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Celtics’ free agent options at backup power forward

We’€™re almost two months into the NBA lockout, and more progress has been made on the crippled U.S. economy than the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but that doesn’€™t mean we can’€™t still examine the likely free agents available to the Celtics [1] for the (fingers crossed) 2011-12 season once commissioner David Stern [2] and players association executive director Billy Hunter kiss and make up.

We’€™ve profiled the C’€™s biggest needs — at center [3] and shooting guard [4] — as well as two other critical positions (backup point guards [5] and small forwards [6]), so we move to the final piece of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘€™s puzzle: Backup Power Forwards.

The Celtics started this past season with a surefire Hall of Fame four in Kevin Garnett [7], and backed him up with a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Glen Davis [8]. The C’€™s version of assistant to the assistant regional manager rotated from Luke Harangody to ‘€œWe Hardly Knew Ye’€ Chris Johnson [9] to Troy Murphy [10], with a dabble of Jeff Green [11], who played the four for the Thunder but is more suited to the three on the Celtics. Got all that? Good.

As we’€™ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce [12], $15.33 million; Ray Allen [13], $10 million; Rajon Rondo [14], $10 million; Jermaine O’€™Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley [15], $1.53 million), and should match any offer Green receives — unless another team far exceeds his qualifying offer of $5.9 million.

Davis and Murphy are free agents, and while they might sound like a buddy cop duo from Dublin, they’€™re actually both pretty darn good for second and third options at the four. The addition of first-round pick JaJuan Johnson [16] — a 6-foot-10 senior power forward out of Purdue — likely makes a Murphy-type expendable. But even with Garnett, Green and Johnson expected to be on the 2011-12 roster, the Celtics should seek one more power forward option, in case Johnson isn’€™t ready and to leave Green on the wing.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at backup power forward (barring overseas exports), separating the current free agent players into four categories and forgetting about David West, because that ain’€™t happening ‘€¦

THE GLEN DAVISES

Big Baby is an enigma, and these guys are, too. They might take a charge, make an unlikely jump shot, grab more rebounds than they should for an undersized power forward or none of the above. Either way, on their good days, they can help limit the minutes on Garnett’€™s aging knees ‘€¦

KARDASHIAN MAN: KRIS HUMPHRIES

RICH MAN: KENYON MARTIN [20]

COMMON MAN: CARL LANDRY

POOR MAN: CHUCK HAYES

POORER MAN: CHRIS WILCOX [22]

BIONIC MAN: LEON POWE [23]

BIZARRO MAN: REGGIE EVANS [26]

THE JEFF GREENS

Relatively established but still fairly young, like Green, they have shown (few) flashes of brilliance and (some) potential as reliable combo forwards in an NBA rotation , giving Doc Rivers [29] versatility off the bench ‘€¦

COMMON MAN: ANDREI KIRILENKO

POOR MAN: LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE

POORER MAN: JONAS JEREBKO

POOREST MAN: YI JIANLIAN

THE TROY MURPHYS

Big bodies who can more often be found around the 3-point line than banging underneath, like Murphy, these guys might add value to the Celtics roster — as nothing more than the last big man off the bench ‘€¦

RICH MAN: JOSH McROBERTS

POOR MAN: BRIAN CARDINAL

POORER MAN: BRIAN SCALABRINE

THE CHRIS JOHNSONS

Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, like Johnson [37], these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’€™t be much of an upgrade over anybody at the league minimum (NOTE: Cunningham might be an exception, but he’€™s not worth getting into a bidding war with the Blazers). Thanks, but no thanks ‘€¦

*Restricted ($1.1 million qualifying offer)
**Restricted ($1.0 million qualifying offer)

One player’€™s future I’€™ve been contemplating is that of Humphries. You’€™ve got to assume as the newest member of the Kardashian family he’€™s interested in marketing himself in a big city, right? Only he can’€™t be an impact player in Los Angeles, because the Lakers already have Pau Gasol [44], Andrew Bynum [45] and another Kardashian (Lamar Odom) in the frontcourt, and Blake Griffin [46] is the cornerstone of the Clippers’€™ future. Likewise, seven more teams in the top media markets already have better fours on their rosters (Knicks [47]: Amare Stoudemire; Bulls: Carlos Boozer; Sixers: Elton Brand; Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki [48]; Warriors: David Lee [49]; Celtics: KG; and Hawks: Josh Smith).

That leaves Humphries four options: 1) re-sign with the Nets [50], who move to Brooklyn in 2012-13, and play in the NBA’€™s largest media market; 2) accept a backup role on a big-market championship contender a la his brother-in-law Odom; 3) claim a starting role on a small-market playoff team like the Magic or Spurs; or 4) seek the most money you can, regardless of where the team is located or how good it is.

Option No. 1 seems best for Humphries, but isn’€™t there at least a chance he picks door No. 2? Imagine Kardashian husbands as the Sixth Men on opposite sides of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry. That’€™s a reality show in itself. If so, I’€™d gladly take him over Davis, as I probably would with Kenyon Martin or Carl Landry.

If Humphries, Martin and Landry all prove too rich for the Celtics blood, then I’€™d just as soon stick with the status quo and re-sign Big Baby. We’€™ve already discussed reasons the Celtics will probably bring Davis back [51] into the fold, since he’€™s expressed interest in returning to Boston, they should be in a better position to sign him based on his ‘€œBird rights’€ (as long as those remain in a new CBA) and the sign-and-trade possibilities are scarce.

Another option Ainge should consider is allocating Green’€™s dollars to Kirilenko (a similar 3/4 type and better defender), but that likely wouldn’€™t work under a new CBA. Besides, Green is younger and healthier.

So, are you comfortable with Garnett, Davis, Green and Johnson as your options at the four? I am.