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Celtics bench takes shape

12.09.11 at 1:58 pm ET
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When the short offseason began the Celtics had a bench unit that literally consisted of one player: Avery Bradley, and only one surefire means of acquiring talent in the taxpayer mid-level exception (a three-year deal starting at $3 million).

Over the last two days, Danny Ainge is set to acquire three veteran players for the rotation at the cost of the veteran minimum, a trade exception and a second round pick and Glen Davis, who is an unrestricted free agent. All without using the mini mid-level.

Ainge began by re-signing Marquis Daniels, who needs no introduction to Celtics fans. I made the case for bringing him back last summer assuming his heath checks out, and for one year this is a tremendous pick-up.

With wing scorers way out of the team’s price range — see Caron Butler‘s, 3-year $24 million with the Clippers for a scary deal and Mike Dunleavys 2-year, $7.5 million contract with the Bucks for a savvy one — Daniels offers underrated defense and his usual all-around offensive versatility. He was particularly missed against the Heat where he could have helped on both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

When Ainge traded Daniels to the Kings last season to clear a roster spot and help Sacramento reach the minimum salary floor, he also created a trade exception, which helped him land Keyon Dooling, a combo guard from the Bucks. Dooling shot less than 40 percent from the field the last two seasons, but he made up for it by making 38 percent of his 3-pointers two years ago and 35 percent last season.

Dooling is not point guard in the traditional sense, but he can handle the position in a backup role and also slide over to the other backcourt spot. He’s the likely replacement for Delonte West, who reportedly has offers from other teams and may not be back.

In his latest move, Ainge is set to trade Davis for Brandon Bass, his onetime teammate at LSU. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Bass is primarily a power forward who can also play center in smaller lineups. He’s a much better shooter than Davis, particularly from 16-23 feet, where he knocked down 47 percent of his attempts last season. He’s not in the same class as a defender, but Bass’ contract is a much better fit than the 4-years and $26 million that Davis will get from the Magic.

Bass has a player option for $4 million for next season and while Ainge would like to keep the salary sheet as clean as possible, his salary is both reasonable and tradeable. Bass was bothered by a left knee injury last season, but he and the team elected to not have surgery and he wound up playing 76 games.

The Celtics will also have Bradley and first round draft pick JaJuan Johnson vying for playing time. Second round pick E’Twaun Moore is also in the mix along with undrafted free agent Gilbert Brown. The Celtics will also be inviting a trio of centers in Jamal Sampson, Greg Stiemsma and veteran Michael Sweetney, who was in camp last season.

There’s more work for Ainge to do beginning with restricted free agent Jeff Green. Look for him to add at least one more big man and possibly a shooter, as well. Training camp opens tonight.

Here’s a look at where the Celtics roster stands. (Note: Not all moves are official yet. Moore and his agent both told the Journal and Courier that he will sign a guaranteed contract on Friday night, so he is listed with the shooting guards.)

PG: Rajon Rondo, Dooling, Bradley

SG: Ray Allen, Daniels, Moore

SF: Paul Pierce

PF: Kevin Garnett, Bass

C: Jermaine O’Neal, Johnson

Invited: Brown (Guard), Sampson, Steimsma, Sweetney (Bigs/centers)

Restricted free agent: Green

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