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2012-13 Celtics free agent options at small forward

06.28.12 at 11:48 am ET
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Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joins NBA free agency on July 1. Anyone from Kevin Garnett to Keyon Dooling can leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap (an estimated $58 million). We’re examining the C’s free agent options at each position. Now starting: Small forwards (Also see: Centers, shooting guards and power forwards).

Believe it or not, Paul Pierce‘s ailing foot and Jeff Green‘s season-ending heart problem meant the Celtics began last season with Sasha Pavlovic as the starting three and Marquis Daniels as his backup. Of course, Pierce returned, and the signing of Mickael Pietrus helped solidify the position in Green’s absence. The C’s first order of business after convincing Garnett to return should be re-signing Green. Pietrus seems intent on coming back, but Pavlovic and Daniels will likely be shown the door, so the they may still need one more player for depth.

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

As a result, expect the Celtics 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 small forward, separating the current free agent players into three categories.

THE JEFF GREENS

Given the shared experience of Green’s treatment under the Celtics’ care for his heart condition, and given the desire by both parties to see the 25-year-old succeed in Boston after the Kendrick Perkins trade, it seems logical Green will be in a C’s uniform next season. However, if he signs elsewhere, these should be Ainge’s next targets.

BATUM

RICH MAN: NICOLAS BATUM

  • Status: Restricted ($4.4 million qualifying offer)
  • 2011-12 averages (59 games): 30.4 MIN, 13.9 PTS, 4.6 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.0 BLK, 1.0 STL, 45.1 FG%, 39.1 3P%, 83.6 FT%
  • Why? At 6-foot-8, Batum defends well, but offensively he’s special, getting to the rim, where he shoots 65 percent, and draining 3-pointers, where he makes 40 percent.
  • Why not? Since a shoulder injury ended his 2009-10 season, he’s been relatively healthy, so it’ll be hard to pry him from Portland, despite his agent’s hardball approach.

COMMON MAN: GERALD WALLACE

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (58 games): 35.8 MIN, 13.8 PTS, 6.7 REB, 2.8 AST, 47.2 FG%, 30.7 3P%, 77.6 FT%
  • Why? Wallace has started the vast majority of his career, but his defense and ability to run with Rondo in transition would suit the Celtics, who may or may not have expressed interest at the trade deadline.
  • Why not? Despite seeing a decline in production over the last two seasons, the 11-seasoned veteran declined a $9.5 million player option in Brooklyn, so he’ll surely be looking for more than that.

POOR MAN: STEVE NOVAK

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (54 games): 18.9 MIN, 8.8 PTS, 2.0 REB, 47.8 FG%, 47.2 3P%, 84.6 FT%
  • Why? If you remember his explosion from beyond the arc against the Celtics (8-10 3P), it’s no surprise Novak led the league in 3-point field goal percentage and ranked second in 3-point field goals.
  • Why not? The 6-foot-10 Novak does little outside of his specialty, so it’s probably not worth out-bidding the Knicks, who can offer $5 million after winning the Early Bird rights decision on him and Jeremy Lin.

HOMELESS MEN: Derrick Brown, unrestricted (65 games: 8.1 PTS, 3.7 REB, 1.0 AST, 51.8 FG%, 25.0 3P%, 66.7 FT%); Donte’ Greene, $2.5 million qualifier (53 games: 14.7 MIN, 5.4 PTS, 2.5 REB, 40.6 FG%, 23.8 3P%, 80.0 FT%); Bill Walker, unrestricted (32 games: 19.4 MIN, 5.9 PTS, 2.5 REB, 1.2 AST, 39.8 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 85.0 FT%).

THE MICKAEL PIETRUSES

Injuries to Bradley and Allen meant increased minutes for Pietrus at the two, but ideally he would log equal time behind both Bradley and Pierce this coming season, just as Green could split time backing up the three and four, giving Celtics coach Doc Rivers flexibility and different looks. So too could these guys to varying degrees.

HILL

RICH MAN: GRANT HILL

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (49 games): 28.1 MIN, 10.2 PTS, 3.5 REB, 2.2 AST, 44.6 FG%, 26.4 3P%, 76.1 FT%
  • Why? Like Tracy McGrady, Hill played for Rivers in the past and once said, “He was great, still is, he’s a friend.” Even at 39, the 17-year veteran still contributes both ways.
  • Why not? Despite remaining healthy in Phoenix the past five years, Father Time has to catch up with Hill at some point, right? Unless Hill is Father Time. Mind. Blown.

COMMON MAN: MATT BARNES

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (63 games): 22.9 MIN, 7.8 PTS, 5.4 REB, 2.0 AST, 45.2 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 74.2 FT%
  • Why? The erratic Barnes’ energy and toughness allows him to get to and finish at the rim as well as rebound extremely well for his 6-foot-7, 226-pound frame (13.4 rebound rate, second among everyday swingmen).
  • Why not? The 32-year-old either loves fouling people (he commits a foul once every 9 minutes) or isn’t a great defender, and he takes 2.3 triples a game while shooting 33 percent for his career.

POOR MAN: JAMES SINGLETON

  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2011-12 averages (12 games): 21.8 MIN, 8.2 PTS, 6.8 REB, 1.3 AST, 54.7 FG%, 22.2 3P%, 93.3 FT%
  • Why? Upon returning from two seasons in China, Singleton proved tough in the NBA, too, dominating at the rim (83.3 FG% within 3 feet) and on the glass (his 17.5 rebound rate ranked 11th among regular forwards).
  • Why not? After being jettisoned by the Mavericks in 2010, the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder enjoyed his most productive seasons on the lowly Wizards, so it’s tough to gauge how’d he’d perform for a contender.

HOMELESS MEN: Dahntay Jones, $2.9 million player option (65 games: 16.2 MIN, 5.3 PTS, 1.8 REB, 40.9 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 83.8 FT%); Jamario Moon, unrestricted (8 games: 15.4 MIN, 2.3 PTS, 2.8 REB, 29.2 FG%, 20.0 3P%); Anthony Tolliver, unrestricted (51 games: 17.3 MIN, 4.1 PTS, 3.0 REB, 39.0 FG%, 24.8 3P%, 74.5 FT%).

THE MARQUIS DANIELSES

Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, like Daniels, these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over anybody at the league minimum. Thanks, but no thanks.

  • Rasual Butler (34 games: 13.3 MIN, 3.2 PTS, 2.9 REB, 30.8 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 58.3 FT%)
  • Devin Ebanks (24 games: 16.5 MIN, 4.0 PTS, 2.3 REB, 41.6 FG%, 65.7 FT%)
  • Jeremy Evans (29 games: 7.5 MIN, 2.1 PTS, 1.7 REB, 64.3 FG%, 50.0 FT%)
  • D.J. Kennedy (2 games: 29.5 MIN, 6.0 PTS, 3.5 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.0 STL, 41.7 FG%)
  • Dominic McGuire (64 games: 17.6 MIN, 3.5 PTS, 3.8 REB, 1.7 AST, 44.8 FG%, 73.6 FT%)
  • Eduardo Najera (22 games: 12.3 MIN, 2.6 PTS, 2.3 REB, 37.5 FG%, 27.6 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
  • Andres Nocioni (11 games: 5.1 MIN, 1.5 PTS, 1.3 REB, 25.0 FG%, 16.7 3P%, 54.5 FT%)
  • DaJuan Summers (15 games: 13.9 MIN, 4.5 PTS, 1.5 REB, 43.1 FG%, 31.3 3P%, 77.8 FT%
  • Damien Wilkins (60 games: 15.4 MIN, 3.2 PTS, 1.7 REB, 39.4 FG%, 30.4 EP%, 63.0 FT%)
  • Chris Wright (24 games: 7.8 MIN, 2.9 PTS, 1.9 REB, 51.1 FG%, 77.4 FT%)
  • Sam Young (35 games: 10.7 MIN, 3.3 PTS, 1.8 REB, 35.4 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 73.1 FT%)

As you can see, the signing of Green is almost essential to the Celtics’ success next season, no matter how you feel about his potential. If Garnett is Option A, then he must be Option B. Batum and Wallace would be great fits, too, but both will be extremely difficult to sign on the open market given the lack of available talent at the position. The trio of Pierce, Green and Pietrus isn’t the worst-case scenario; it’s probably Ainge’s best-case scenario.

Read More: 2012 NBA Free Agent Rumors, Boston Celtics, gerald wallace, Jeff Green Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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