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Would Vince Carter make sense for the Celtics?

12.05.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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Vince Carter will soon be available. Would he fit with the Celtics? (AP)

Word leaked out over the weekend that the Suns were prepared to buy out the final year of Vince Carter‘s contract when the lockout officially ends at the end of the week. In other words, the Suns would rather pay the eight-time All-Star $4 million to not play for them then shell out the $18 million required for the final year of his services.

This move has been long-expected and comes as absolutely no surprise because the 34-year-old Carter has been declining since the 2007 season and is coming off the least productive season of his career. His rate of getting to the free throw line has fallen off substantially and he hasn’t been the one-on-one maestro that he was earlier in his career for several years. Defensively, Carter is suspect at best and at worst uninterested.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for the Celtics, right? Actually, yes.

Perfect may be stretching it — OK, a lot — but the question for the Celtics isn’t whether Carter would make sense for them, it’s do the Celtics make sense for Carter?

Barring a blockbuster demolition of his roster, team president Danny Ainge has about six roster spots to work with and not a lot of options to fill them. He reiterated last week that size was the team’s top priority and assuming that’s where he devotes most, if not all, of the taxpayer mid-level exception (a three-year deal starting at $3 million) he still needs to find some warm bodies on the perimeter, preferably ones that can score.

“We just need to get more talent,” Ainge said after the team had been eliminated from last season’s playoffs. “Scoring droughts have been a problem we’ve had the last few years. For whatever reason we’ve had too many scoring droughts at crucial points in games and that’s hurt us.”

Ainge is absolutely right. It was an undersold story of the Celtics season that their bench was a major problem area last season, particularly offensively. If you want to know why Ray Allen and Paul Pierce played 36 minutes a night, every night, it’s because Doc Rivers didn’t have a lot of options, especially after Delonte West missed so much time with injuries.

Too often, Allen and Pierce had to play major minutes because the bench unit couldn’t hold a lead. It wasn’t just the total time on the court either. Allen and Pierce had to play tough minutes in close games because 10-point leads suddenly became deficits. Rivers won’t have that option with a condensed 66-game schedule staring them in the face. But where will that help come from?

If Ainge devotes his scant free agent resources on big men, that leaves him with only the veteran minimum to offer for perimeter help. As tempting as names like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and Shane Battier may appear, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get them to Boston. There are a handful of other options, some more realistic than others, like Shannon Brown and Anthony Parker, but even they may be too rich for what Ainge has to offer.

That would leave Ainge sifting through the likes of Michael Redd, Jason Kapono and Rasual Butler. Put it another way, would you rather have 10-15 minutes of Vince Carter or Michael Redd, who has played just 61 games total the last three seasons.

Despite all his red flags, Carter still shot 36 percent from 3-point range. He still has size at 6-foot-5 and despite his reputation, he’s managed to play at least 70 games every year since 2003. Still, it remains to be seen if Carter can adapt from his role as a starter who plays 30 minutes a night to a bench spot that would require him to bring energy and instant offense. That’s the choice he’s going to have to make if he signs on with a contender.

Is he an ideal fit for the Celtics? Probably not thanks to his declining playmaking skills and defensive lapses, but the Celtics aren’t exactly in an ideal position either.

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