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Celtics free agent options at small forward redux

12.01.11 at 5:39 pm ET

Welcome to Part 4 of this week’€™s daily post-NBA lockout position-by-position breakdown of free agent options available to the Celtics. We’ve profiled the C’s biggest needs — at center and shooting guard — as well as another critical position (backup point guards), so we move to what coach Doc Rivers called a pressing concern during the 2010-11 season: Backup Small Forwards.

The Celtics began last season with starter Paul Pierce and only swingman Marquis Daniels to spare the nine-time All-Star from playing heavy minutes at the 3. Once Daniels went down in February with a season-ending spinal injury, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was forced to make a deal for depth behind Pierce. Enter Jeff Green, who remains a restricted free agent after the Celtics extended a $5.91 million offer in June.

As we’€™ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Kevin Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’€™Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million) and should match any offer Green receives.

The Celtics would be wise to pick up another player capable of spelling Pierce to ensure they aren’t handcuffed by the lack of depth at the position again, even if they re-sign Green. Obviously the C’€™s won’€™t be dedicating much more money beyond those two to small forwards, but they need to find as many inexpensive versatile options (2-3 or 3-4 guys) as possible to eat up minutes for their three aging stars.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at backup small forward (barring overseas exports), separating the current free agent players into four categories.


At different points past their prime, like Pierce, these capable veterans would bring extensive resumes that include success as key contributors to playoff teams. Unlike Pierce, obviously, they are not actually Paul Pierce.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (80 games): 30.1 MIN, 13.2 PTS, 4.2 REB, 2.5 AST, 48.4 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 82.9 FT%
  • Why? Like Tracy McGrady, Hill has played for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the past and told The Globe in July, ‘€œHe was great, still is, he’€™s a friend.’€ One of the most respected veterans in the league, Hill can still produce in every aspect of the game — scoring, rebounding, passing and, most importantly, defending.
  • Why not? When Shaquille O’Neal said Father Time had caught up to him, he could have been talking about Hill, who will turn 39 in October. While Hill has been relatively healthy over the course of his four-year stint in Phoenix, he has a lengthy injury history that includes 135 missed games from 2000-06 in Orlando.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (78 games): 32.8 MIN, 14.1 PTS, 4.2 REB, 2.8 AST, 47.3 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 70.2 FT%
  • Why? A starter on the Pistons’ 2004 NBA championship squad, Prince’€™s length and athleticism has made him a pest defensively to opposing small forwards like Pierce. He also takes care of the ball and fills the bucket offensively.
  • Why not? At 6-foot-9 and just 215 pounds, Prince has always been extremely skinny, and back problems that flared up during the 2009-10 season somewhat limited his ability to get to the rim offensively and keep up defensively.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (82 games): 29.0 MIN, 7.6 PTS, 4.5 REB, 2.3 AST, 45.0 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 68.8 FT%
  • Why? Battier was the subject of the now famous New York Times piece by Michael Lewis entitled, ‘€œThe No-Stats All-Star.’€ It chronicled the subtleties of Battier’€™s all-around impact (i.e., heady team defense and passing ability).
  • Why not? Age (he’€™s 33) and foot injuries during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons have somewhat subdued the qualities that made Battier an unsung hero, but he played all 82 games between two teams last season.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (33 games): 18.7 MIN, 8.5 PTS, 2.3 REB, 0.9 AST, 44.1 FG%, 41.9 3P%, 92.0 FT%
  • Why? If Stojakovic joined the Celtics, he and Allen would become the greatest 3-point shooting tandem ever, ranking fourth and first in NBA history, respectively (4,372 combined career treys). Those two also rank eighth and ninth on the all-time free-throw percentage list (88.5% each). At 6-foot-10, he can post up and shoot over smaller defenders.
  • Why not? Even in his prime — as a 20-point scorer for those memorable Kings teams — Stojakovic was never considered a great defender, and that hasn’€™t gotten better after 13 NBA seasons and a bevy of injuries. While he played in 19 of the Mavericks’€™ 21 playoff games this postseason, he wasn’t exactly a key cog against the Heat.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (74 games): 15.8 MIN, 5.1 REB, 2.9 REB, 1.1 AST, 43.1 FG%, 40.5 3P%, 88.2 FT%
  • Why? Other than the Vlad Rad nickname? Like Stojakovic, Radmanovic is 6-foot-10 and can shoot over smaller defenders, raising his 3-point percentage back over 40 percent this past season. A productive sixth man as a teammate of Ray Allen on the 2003-05 Sonics, he also contributed to the Lakers’€™ 2010 Finals run.
  • Why not? Infamously dubbed ‘€œa space cadet’€ by Phil Jackson, Radmanovic’s shot selection and grasp of a team’€™s schemes are unexceptional. Boston also puts him a lot closer to snowboarding again, and that’€™s not a good thing.


Established but still fairly young, like Green, they’€™ve shown (few) flashes of brilliance and (some) potential as reliable rotation players. Their ability to play multiple positions would give Rivers versatility off the bench.


  • Status: Restricted ($4 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (82 games): 26.0 MIN, 12.7 PTS, 5.3 REB, 1.1 STL, 54.1 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 70.7 FT%
  • Why? An athletic 6-foot-8, Young can obviously rebound and defend both forward positions fairly well. One of the reasons for the 76ers’€™ surprising season, he has the speed to run the floor with Rondo — and he’€™s only 23 years old.
  • Why not? This statement to HoopsHype doesn’t sound like someone who would sign on the cheap: ‘€œRight now my mindset is that anything can happen. Somebody may make you an offer that the Sixers don’€™t want to match. I really don’€™t want to think about it too much. It’€™s in the hands of my agents and I just let them take care of the situation.’€


  • Status: Restricted ($1.1 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (80 games): 20.3 MIN, 9.2 PTS, 2.7 REB, 1.5 AST, 46.9 FG%, 42.3 3P%, 74.6 FT%
  • Why? A season and a half ago, anybody could have signed Williams while he was scoring 26.4 points per game for the D-League’€™s Sioux Falls Skyforce, and he’€™s continued to demonstrate his scoring/shooting ability at the NBA level.
  • Why not? Like the rest of his Warriors teammates, Williams isn’t exactly considered Tony Allen or even Tim Allen on defense. There are also reasons he went undrafted: 1) he’€™s not uber-athletic, and 2) he’€™s undersized (6-foot-4).


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (71 games): 19.5 MIN, 7.4 PTS, 3.0 REB, 0.9 REB, 47.6 FG%, 15.4 3P%, 77.5 FT%
  • Why? Coming out of Florida State, Thornton was tabbed as a long (6-foot-8), athletic scorer from within 17 feet who committed three times more turnovers than assists. Not much has changed in four relatively healthy NBA seasons, but he did average double-digit scoring in his first three years — including 16.8 per game in 2008-09.
  • Why not? Partly as a result of his poor decision-making and defensive effort, Thornton has already played for three teams — and not very good ones — in his four seasons. For a scorer, he also doesn’t shoot very well from the outside.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (81 games): 19.1 MIN, 5.9 PTS, 2.0 REB, 0.5 AST, 42.2 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 83.3 FT%
  • Why? How could the Celtics forget Jones’€™ Game 1 effort that beat them in the Eastern Conference finals, when he dropped 25 points on seven shots and goaded Pierce into getting ejected? That came after the career 40 percent 3-point shooter defeated both Pierce and Allen in the 3-point contest. In case you haven’€™t noticed, he likes 3s.
  • Why not? Of course, Jones followed that Game 1 performance up with 15 total points over the Heat’€™s next 15 games and didn’t even appear in the NBA Finals. He can’€™t play defense, can’€™t rebound and can’€™t create shots for teammates. In fact, he can’€™t do anything but shoot treys (in his last two seasons, 81.1 percent of his shots are 3-pointers).


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (64 games): 20.7 MIN, 7.1 PTS, 3.7 REB, 0.8 BLK, 42.6 FG%, 40.1 3P%, 83.7 FT%
  • Why? At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Williams is long enough to shoot over opponents, which he did surprisingly well — shooting 40 percent from 3-point range for the first time in his career. While he’€™ll never be praised for his defense, Knicks fans credited his effort and ability to guard (averagely) anywhere from the 3-5.
  • Why not? Williams’€™ DraftExpress profile might be the harshest of any player in the league: No discipline, no strength, no professionalism, no consistency, no handle, no efficiency, no passing ability, no quickness and no fundamentals. Oh, he also got arrested last year on felony drug charges and fought teammate Bill Walker at practice.


Daniels may not be ready to start the season after spinal surgery in March, but colleague Paul Flannery made a sound argument for bringing him back into the fold next season. Like Daniels, these alternatives are coming off serious injuries but could prove worth the risk as potential double-digit bench scorers.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (29 games): 29.9 MIN, 15.0 PTS, 4.1 REB, 1.6 AST, 45.0 FG%, 43.1 3P%, 77.3 FT%
  • Why? A UConn product a la Allen, Butler has averaged more than 15 points in eight of his nine NBA seasons, including back-to-back 20-point seasons the year before last. He’€™s also averaged as many as 7.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game in his career, albeit for middling Wizards teams.
  • Why not? Other than the fact that he missed 53 regular-season games and all of the playoffs due to knee surgery, and the Mavericks didn’€™t miss a beat without him? He’€™s not a great shooter and a worse defender. Besides, both Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and Butler’€™s agent have hinted at his desire to stay in Dallas.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (18 games): 22.7 MIN, 8.4 PTS, 4.1 REB, 1.3 AST, 35.8 FG%, 24.1 3P%, 61.7 FT%)
  • Why? Like Butler, Howard has averaged 20 points and seven rebounds for an NBA playoff team. If he could stay healthy — a big ‘€œif’€ considering he’€™s only played more than 70 games twice in eight seasons — Howard has the potential to be a creative scorer and decent defender off the bench.
  • Why not? Considering Howard once admitted during a radio interview to smoking weed, I’€™m guessing he’€™s not the brightest bulb. And there’€™s the little matter of the 101 games he’€™s missed in the past two seasons due to knee injuries.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (0 games): DNP — knee injury
  • Why? Azubuike’€™s points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and shooting percentages all steadily climbed in his first three seasons on the Warriors, culminating in averages of 14.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 32.1 minutes over 74 games during the 2008-09 season. And the London native is still only 27 years old.
  • Why not? Any time someone hasn’€™t played since Nov. 17, 2009, that has to be a concern. As strange as it sounds, the 6-foot-5 Azubuike is undersized for his position. And he wasn’€™t considered a strong defender before his injury.


Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, like Pavlovic, these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’€™t be much of an upgrade over anybody at the league minimum (NOTE: Butler, Moon and Kapono might be longshot exceptions, considering the Celtics eyed all three around the buyout deadline). Thanks, but no thanks.

  • Rasual Butler (47 games: 16.4 MIN, 4.7 PTS, 1.6 REB, 0.6 AST, 33.3 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 66.7 FT%)
  • Jamario Moon (59 games: 17.7 MIN, 4.3 PTS, 2.8 REB, 0.9 AST, 40.7 FG%, 30.9 3P%, 88.2 FT%)
  • Jason Kapono (24 games: 4.6 MIN, 0.7 PTS, 0.5 REB, 0.2 AST, 25.0 FG%, 12.5 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
  • Rodney Carney (27 games: 12.4 MIN, 4.7 PTS, 1.8 REB, 0.4 AST, 41.8 FG%, 44.7 3P%, 66.7 FT%)
  • Earl Clark (42 games: 11.0 MIN, 3.9 PTS, 2.4 REB, 0.4 BLK, 43.0 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 57.4 FT%)
  • Derrick Brown* (49 games: 11.7 MIN, 3.8 PTS, 2.0 REB, 0.7 AST, 56.5 FG%, 50.0 3P%, 53.3 FT%)
  • Julian Wright (52 games: 14.7 MIN, 3.6 PTS, 2.3 REB, 1.1 AST, 51.2 FG%, 20.0 3P%, 51.2 3P%)
  • Damien Wilkins (52 games: 13.0 MIN, 3.5 PTS, 1.7 REB, 0.8 AST, 50.4 FG%, 20.0 3P%, 71.4 FT%)
  • Jeremy Evans (49 games: 9.4 MIN, 3.6 PTS, 2.0 REB, 0.5 AST, 66.1 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 70.3 FT%)
  • DaJuan Summers (22 games: 9.0 MIN, 3.4 PTS, 0.5 REB, 0.1 AST, 40.6 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 45.0 FT%)
  • Steve Novak (30 games: 7.2 MIN, 3.5 PTS, 0.9 REB, 0.2 BLK, 52.2 FG%, 56.5 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
  • Quinton Ross (36 games: 9.8 MIN, 1.6 PTS, 0.8 REB, 0.3 AST, 44.1 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 35.7 FT%)
  • Darnell Jackson (59 games: 8.2 MIN, 3.2 PTS, 1.6 REB, 0.2 AST, 48.7 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 61.2 FT%)
  • Ime Udoka (20 games: 6.5 MIN, 0.7 PTS, 1.0 REB, 0.7 AST, 23.8 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 50.0 FT%)

*Restricted ($1.1 million qualifying offer)

The Celtics almost have to match whatever offer Green receives (unless some team makes a ridiculous offer, which I don’€™t see happening). It’€™s the only way the team can save face from the infamous Kendrick Perkins trade, especially after Nenad Krstic said ‘€œDo svidaniya!’€ and signed a two-year deal in Moscow.

That leaves Pierce and Green as a stellar 1-2 punch at small forward. So, what do the Celtics do beyond that? Depending on whether they dedicate dollars to a shooting guard or big man, the C’€™s must sign the best available forward who will sign for the veteran minimum and is versatile enough to spell Pierce and Allen (if Glen Davis returns) or Kevin Garnett (if Jamal Crawford or someone else signs on).

Ideally, Grant Hill, Tayshaun Prince or Shane Battier would be that guy. If not, it’€™s worth taking a flyer on Marquis Daniels, who has already resumed workouts in hopes of returning healthy for the 2011-12 season, since the Josh Howards and Kelenna Azubuikes of the world are equal risks.

Not much needs to be done here, but upgrades at backup small forward could go a long way in solidifying the Celtics’€™ depth and completing the necessary task of dialing back the minutes for The Big Three.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Grant Hill, Josh Howard, NBA
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