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Celtics bench takes shape

When the short offseason began the Celtics [1] had a bench unit that literally consisted of one player: Avery Bradley [2], 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 [3], who is an unrestricted free agent. All without using the mini mid-level.

Ainge began by re-signing Marquis Daniels [4], who needs no introduction to Celtics fans. I made the case for bringing him back [5] 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 Dunleavy [6]s 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 [7] and LeBron James [8].

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 [9], 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 [10], 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 [11], 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 [12] and he wound up playing 76 games.

The Celtics will also have Bradley and first round draft pick JaJuan Johnson [13] vying for playing time. Second round pick E’Twaun Moore [14] 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 [15] 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 [16]. 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 [17] that he will sign a guaranteed contract on Friday night, so he is listed with the shooting guards.)

PG: Rajon Rondo [18], Dooling, Bradley

SG: Ray Allen [19], Daniels, Moore

SF: Paul Pierce [20]

PF: Kevin Garnett [21], Bass

C: Jermaine O’Neal [22], Johnson

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

Restricted free agent: Green