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2012-13 Celtics free agent options at center

06.25.12 at 5:21 pm ET
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Eleven of the 15 players on the roster against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals can begin negotiating with the Celtics or any other team as NBA free agents on July 1. More importantly, they can sign anywhere on July 11 once an audit determines the salary cap. That figure is expected to be close to the 2011-12 number of $58 million, and a large chunk of that will be dedicated to one of the C’s biggest needs: Centers.

The Celtics started last season with two true centers (Jermaine O’Neal, Greg Stiemsma), mixed in a little Chris Wilcox early and settled on Kevin Garnett, who finished the year as the best remaining center in the playoffs. Now, a year later, nobody remains from that list. While Garnett, Stiemsma and Wilcox are all options depending on their mindset, health and value, respectively, the C’s may need anywhere from 0-3 guys who can play the five.

The Celtics have four players under contract in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rajon Rondo, $11.0M; Avery Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Stiemsma, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.

As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at center, separating the current free agent players into four categories.

THE KEVIN GARNETTS

Garnett remains Option A at center. He defined the 2011-12 Celtics during their surprising run that culminated within a game of the NBA finals. If he re-signs, scratch these guys — the cream of the center crop — off the list. However, if the KG era in Boston ends, expect anyone from this group to be on Ainge’s table.

Hibbert

RICH MAN: ROY HIBBERT

  • Status: Restricted ($4.4 million qualifying offer)
  • 2011-12 averages (65 games): 29.8 MIN, 12.8 PTS, 8.8 REB, 2.0 BLK, 1.7 AST, 49.7 FG%, 71.1 FT%
  • Why? At 7-foot-2, 260 pounds, Hibbert is one of few legitimate centers remaining in the NBA, especially on the offensive end, where he can knock down shots from 0-18 feet.
  • Why not? His foul and rebounding rates improved this season but still remain a concern, although the mutual interest between Hibbert and the Pacers seems the biggest obstacle.

COMMON MAN: BROOK LOPEZ

  • Status: Restricted ($4.4 million qualifying offer)
  • 2011-12 averages (5 games): 27.2 MIN, 19.2 PTS, 3.6 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.8 BLK, 49.4 FG%, 62.5 FT%
  • Why? As a scorer, Lopez has few peers at the center position, particularly around the basket out to nine feet, where he shot almost 55 percent in his last full season.
  • Why not? On top of his aversion to rebounding and defense, Lopez will be a 7-footer running around on a foot that required season-ending surgery after nine games.

POOR MAN: CHRIS KAMAN

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (47 games): 29.2 MIN, 13.1 PTS, 7.7 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.6 BLK, 44.6 FG%, 78.5 FT%
  • Why? A 2010 NBA All-Star, Kaman is a Jack of all trades and master of none, capable of contributing offensively (midrange), defensively (265 pounds), rebounding and shot-blocking.
  • Why not? Just a hair over 30 years old, his tires have lost most of their treads, having missed at least 25 percent of the season for various reasons in four of the last five years.

HOMELESS MEN: Kwame Brown, unrestricted (9 games: 20.8 MIN, 6.3 PTS, 6.3 REB, 52.5 FG%, 44.1 FT%); Spencer Hawes, unrestricted (37 games: 24.9 MIN, 9.6 PTS, 7.3 REB, 2.6 AST, 1.3 BLK, 48.9 FG%, 72.7 FT%); JaVale McGee, $4.4 million qualifier (61 games: 25.2 MIN, 11.3 PTS, 7.8 REB, 2.2 BLK, 55.6 FG%, 46.1 FT%).

THE GREG STIEMSMAS

Athletic limitations or health concerns keep these guys from holding down the fort at center, but they’re serviceable NBA backups. The Celtics extended a $1.0 million qualifying offer to Stiemsma and can match any figure, but they shouldn’t allocate more than $5 million (the non-taxpayer midlevel exception equivalent) to anyone on this list.

Camby

RICH MAN: MARCUS CAMBY

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (59 games): 22.9 MIN, 4.9 PTS, 9.0 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.4 BLK, 44.6 FG%, 45.3 FT%
  • Why? Having not played for a contender since the late ’90s Knicks, Camby’s 23.0 rebounding rate led the league among centers who played more than 10 minutes a night.
  • Why not? Other than the fact he’s 38 years old and can’t shoot to save his life, knee and back problems have plagued Camby for the last several seasons.

COMMON MAN: GREG ODEN

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (0 games): DNP
  • Why? A former No. 1 overall pick, Oden averaged 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes in his 2009-10 season, briefly living up to the hype he created as an Ohio State freshman.
  • Why not? Well, for starters, he hasn’t played since that 2009-10 season, and even then he only played 21 games before suffering season-ending after season-ending injury.

POOR MAN: MEHMET OKUR

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (17 games): 26.7 MIN, 7.6 PTS, 4.8 REB, 1.8 AST, 37.4 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 60.0 FT%
  • Why? While he’s a quality low-post defender and above-average rebounder, Okur’s specialty comes from beyond the 3-point arc, where he has shot 37.5 percent for his career.
  • Why not? Now 33 years old, he’s played just 30 games combined in the last two seasons, battling a season-ending Achilles injury in 2010 and lingering back issues the last several years.

HOMELESS MEN: Aaron Gray, unrestricted (49 games: 16.6 MIN, 3.9 PTS, 5.7 REB, 51.6 FG%, 53.2 FT%); Nazr Mohammed, unrestricted (63 games: 11.0 MIN, 2.7 PTS, 2.7 REB, 46.7 FG%, 56.5 FT%); Ben Wallace, unrestricted (62 games: 15.8 MIN, 1.4 PTS, 4.3 REB, 39.5 FG%, 34.0 FT%).

THE RYAN HOLLINSES

Young and athletic, like Hollins, these guys could come cheap, contribute deep off the bench and grow into a larger role in the future. On a veteran team, perhaps one of them blossoms into a diamond in the rough. However, if the Celtics draft someone like Fab Melo, this group might not be worth a roster spot.

Asik

RICH MAN: OMER ASIK

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (66 games): 14.7 MIN, 3.1 PTS, 5.3 REB, 1.0 BLK, 0.5 APG, 50.6 FG%, 45.6 FT%
  • Why? The Bulls finished with the NBA’s best record, thanks in part to Asik’s defensive contribution off the bench (opponents scored 9.5 fewer points with him on the floor).
  • Why not? Asik isn’t exactly Wilt Chamberlain offensively, committing twice as many turnovers than he doled out assists and contributing little outside of three feet.

COMMON MAN: ROBIN LOPEZ

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (64 games): 14.0 MIN, 5.4 PTS, 3.3 REB, 0.9 BLK, 0.3 APG, 46.1 FG%, 71.4 FT%
  • Why? A downgrade from his twin brother Brook on the offensive end, the 24-year-old might be a slight upgrade defensively and still scores 14.4 points per 36 minutes.
  • Why not? Consider this fact: Lopez has totaled fewer than 10 total assists in three of his four NBA seasons.

POOR MAN: SEMIH ERDEN

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (28 games): 11.9 MIN, 3.5 PTS, 2.6 REB, 0.4 STL, 0.3 AST, 52.7 FG%, 51.2 FT%
  • Why? While he averaged 6.5 personal fouls per 36 minutes, the former Celtics draft pick also averaged 10.7 points and 7.8 boards in that time span while starting nine games for the Cavaliers.
  • Why not? The Celtics sent Erden packing for Cleveland in 2011 for a reason, and his injury woes and longing for his homeland of Turkey haven’t subsided since.

HOMELESS MEN: Solomon Alabi, unrestricted (14 games: 8.7 MIN, 2.4 PTS, 3.4 REB, 36.1 FG%, 87.5 FT%); Daniel Orton, unrestricted (16 games: 11.7 MIN, 2.8 PTS, 2.4 REB, 56.7 FG%, 44.0 FT%); Hasheem Thabeet, unrestricted (20 games: 7.0 MIN, 1.8 PTS, 2.1 REB, 52.4 FG%, 65.0 FT%).

THE JERMAINE O’NEALS

While these unrestricted free agents could be stuck on the end of the bench, available to eat minutes in emergency purposes only, like O’Neal, they’re expendable for a reason. Thanks, but no thanks.

  • Tony Battie (27 games: 10.9 MIN, 1.6 PTS, 2.5 REB, 37.3 FG%, 100.0 FT%)
  • Jason Collins (30 games: 10.3 MIN, 1.3 PTS, 1.6 REB, 40.0 FG%, 46.7 FT%)
  • Eddy Curry (14 games: 5.9 MIN, 2.1 PTS, 0.9 REB, 46.2 FG%, 75.0 FT%)
  • Kyrylo Fesenko (3 games: 5.7 MIN, 2.7 PTS, 3.0 REB, 40.0 FG%, 66.7 FT%)
  • Dan Gadzuric (2 games: 6.5 MIN, 0.0 PTS, 2.5 REB, 0.0 FG%, 0.0 FT%)
  • Mickell Gladness (26 games: 9.7 MIN, 2.2 PTS, 2.2 REB, 42.4 FG%, 50.0 FT%)
  • Hamed Haddadi (35 games: 5.9 MIN, 2.0 PTS, 2.0 REB, 54.2 FG%, 69.2 FT%)
  • Jamaal Magloire (34 games: 11.0 MIN, 1.2 PTS, 3.3 REB, 37.8 FG%, 25.9 FT%)
  • Mikki Moore (7 games: 16.9 MIN, 3.4 PTS, 3.1 REB, 45.0 FG%, 85.7 FT%)
  • Joel Przybilla (27 games: 16.6 MIN, 2.0 PTS, 5.1 REB, 45.8 FG%, 61.1 FT%)

As you may have noticed, there are about 472,503 possible scenarios for Ainge to fill various center roles this summer, and the first few hundred thousand should and will start with Garnett, who will likely make his decision prior to July 1. And the same combination of Garnett, Stiemsma and Hollins certainly isn’t the worst-case scenario.

Read More: 2012 NBA Free Agents Rumors, Boston Celtics, Brook Lopez, Chris Kaman Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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