|Celtics really should be eyeing these free agents this offseason||05.31.15 at 1:53 pm ET|
The Celtics are heading toward a big summer in 2015, as Danny Ainge will do his best to reel in a top-tier free agent who could help the Celtics become a top team in the Eastern Conference next season.
The Celtics, who were swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs, need help in the front court. The Celtics didn’t have a go-to scorer, nor did they have anyone who could rebound against Cleveland. Scoring and rebounding are two statistical categories the Celtics most need help in.
Ainge will take a crack at signing unrestricted free agents such as Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, but chances are those players will end up staying in Memphis and Portland, respectively. Same goes for restricted free agents like Golden State’s Draymond Green and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard; two players who will stay where they are or go to another title contender out west.
But there’s still plenty of talented free agents available who could be looking for a change of scenery. Here are four free agents the Celtics could sign this summer.
Greg Monroe, PF/C
2014-15: 16 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists
The unrestricted free agent will be attracting attention from a lot of teams this summer. Monroe is a good rebounder whose consistent offense is something the C’s need out of their front court. He can score with his back to the basket and is the most realistic free agent candidate on this list for the Celtics. This past season, Monroe averaged a double-double for the first time in his career. Adding Monroe to the offense would make the Celtics a top-five team in the East next season. Even though Ainge may have Kevin Love listed above Monroe on his free agent wish list, Monroe most likely will sit atop of Ainge’s list after Cleveland ultimately signs Love back for one more season.
|Danny Ainge asks for Isaiah Thomas’ input during free agency||05.26.15 at 12:11 pm ET|
“Danny said if there’s any free agent out there I’m interested in, to let him know,” Thomas told The Boston Globe. “That has me excited. For him to ask for my input means a lot, because it means I’m definitely, right now, a part of the future, and they also value your word and what you think about the game of basketball.
“It means a lot, and it’s a mutual respect we have. Now, hopefully, we can get a few guys.”
With a void at the center position, this year’s Sixth Man of the Year said that he would like to see the Celtics bring in a rim-protector.
“A defensive-minded player,” Thomas said. “It’d be nice to get one of those in the draft. A lot of the big men out there could definitely help us out. But I know Danny is always up to something.”
After being traded from the Suns midway through the season, Thomas quickly became an integral part of coach Brad Stevens‘ pick-and-roll offense. He led the team in scoring (17.5 points per game) and assists (seven per game).
When asked about his recruiting pitch to potential free agents, Thomas kept it simple.
“The history behind the Boston Celtics is what you want,” he said. “And the city of Boston is definitely a sports city. They love their players and support their players. Really, everything you want in a basketball team and organization is here.
“It might not be Miami or LA with the weather, but what’s most important is the culture. And I can only imagine, when we really get good, what the city would be like.”
|The Kosta Koufos question: Will Celtics pursue second-tier free agents?||05.19.15 at 11:25 am ET|
Kosta Koufos is exactly the type of player the Celtics need to target this summer.
Given their history of failed free-agent pursuits and the unlikelihood of landing a center of Marc Gasol’s caliber, the C’s are forced to pursue under-appreciated options, so the latest ESPN.com report that team president Danny Ainge already targeted Koufos in trade discussions this season makes complete sense.
After ranking in the middle of the pack this past season with a 102.1 defensive rating — a number that climbed to 110.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in their brief playoff stint — the Celtics are in desperate need of a rim protector, and Koufos was as good as any backup center in that regard. According to NBA.com/stats, the 7-foot, 265-pound former first-round pick held opponents to 46.9 percent shooting at the rim, putting him in good company with Defensive Player of the Year candidates Tim Duncan and Draymond Green at the same percentage.
Offensively, Koufos has proven a capable scorer around the basket, converting 56.2 percent of his shots inside of 8 feet. It might be too much to ask a 26-year-old to suddenly develop a mid-range jumper, but Tyler Zeller made significant strides from outside the paint under Celtics coach Brad Stevens this year.
Regardless, Koufos has averaged 12.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes since being drafted 23rd overall out of Ohio State in 2008, and those numbers have remained fairly consistent for all six years, including when he started 81 games for a Nuggets team that won 57 games in 2012-13.
|Danny Ainge: Celtics ‘in the game’ for big-name acquisitions||05.14.15 at 5:58 pm ET|
In a sit-down interview with Celtics.com, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was encouraged by the development of rookie guard Marcus Smart and his team’s depth during an impressive stretch run, but he also realizes the need for a roster upgrade.
Whether or not that upgrade will come in the form of a draft-day trade or a free-agent signing this summer remains to be seen, but at the very least the C’s are in position to set off the fireworks they’ve stocked away since trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“We’ve tried to put ourselves in the game to have those options and to have some opportunities to make big moves, so I guess if there are big moves that we like, we do them; if there are big moves that we’re not in love with, then we hold off and we wait,” Ainge told Celtics.com. “Those are the challenging ones. Some of them are very easy to determine and some are very challenging and take a lot of investigation and thought and debate and discussion on our side, but I think that you can’t just determine that you’re going to wait or you’re going to do it. It all depends on those opportunities.
|Report: Kelly Olynyk wants to apologize to Kevin Love, but Love won’t take his calls||05.08.15 at 12:04 pm ET|
According to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk has made efforts to reach out to Kevin Love in an attempt to personally apologize for the injury that knocked the Cavaliers forward out for the rest of the playoffs.
Olynyk pulled on Love’s arm while the two were chasing a loose ball during Game 4 of the teams’ first-round series, leaving Love with a separated shoulder and an expected six months of recovery time following surgery.
After the game, Love called the play “bush league,” although Olynyk has insisted that he did not mean any harm.
Olynyk later received a one-game suspension from the NBA.
Love, who could elect to become a free agent this offseason, has been missed in Cleveland, although he was criticized during the year for not living up to preseason expectations. Now, with the Cavs splitting the first two games of their conference semifinal series with the Bulls, Love’s absence is being lamented.
“It’s so unfortunate that [the appreciation] has to come when he goes down,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt told Yahoo. “Kevin, in his own way, sacrificed the most this season, but still gave us a high-level performance. And he needs to be appreciated for that. And going forward, hopefully, he’s going to have a long career here.”
|Danny Ainge admits luring big free agents to Boston ‘unlikely’ this summer||04.30.15 at 4:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Danny Ainge isn’t pulling any punches about his efforts to go after some big-time unrestricted free agents this summer. But he’s also be very, very realistic about his chances.
There is a good pool of free agents available this offseason around the league. And many of those free agents are big men, one of the pressing needs of the Celtics as they look to build for 2015-16. And on top of that, the Celtics will have a great deal of cap space to work with, even after offering Jae Crowder a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent.
But the unprecedented rise in the cap in the next two years, growing by as much as $20 million, has a down side, namely 29 other teams with the same expanded flexibility.
“I think free agency is hard,” Ainge said Thursday. “I think it’s unlikely but possible. So we’re going to go after any and everybody that we think is a significant player to upgrade our talent roster. And when I say upgrade our talent, you’ve got to be pretty good to upgrade our talent because we have good players. So, we’re going after all the top names on the list and see what happens.”
Names like LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap and DeAndre Jordan are all scheduled to hit the market.
“I don’t think any of us can predict that. That’s good talk radio stuff but I think ultimately every player is different, unique,” Ainge said. “Some players look at the Celtics organization and tradition, and think it’s something special. Some don’t. Some prefer hot weather to cold weather but most players prefer good contracts and good opportunities to play and hopefully to win, in that order first in most players. We have to prove to people that we have the opportunities for them to be paid, to play, to reach their full potential and to win. I think Boston will be a good destination for some.
|Danny Ainge to offer Jae Crowder qualifying offer, adds: ‘We need to have a busy summer, and we will’||04.30.15 at 12:23 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics surprised a lot of people by finishing the season with a six-game winning streak, ending up with the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But the work to improve on that encouraging ending doesn’t stop with a four-game sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Far from it.
Now, according to the team’s president of basketball operations, the hard work really begins. How does he and his staff go about improving upon a 40-42 mark through the NBA draft and added space under the salary cap?
“I feel like we need to have a busy summer and we will have a busy summer,” Danny Ainge said Thursday. “Hopefully, we can get some things accomplished that we need to. I think we need to upgrade our talent level on our team and at the same time, I’m very excited about a lot of the individuals that we have.
“Actually, all of the individuals I thought played the best basketball of their careers in a lot of cases. So, I’m excited about the players that we have. At the same time, I feel like we’re not at the same level as a team like Cleveland, and we found that out.”
Ainge confirmed one of his moves already on Thursday when he announced he will extend a qualifying offer to Jae Crowder. By extending a qualifying offer to Crowder, the Celtics would make him a restricted free agent.
The key to the summer will likely be how Ainge and his staff handle the extra spending space afforded by the expansion of the NBA salary cap. The Celtics currently have $40.4 million committed to salaries for 2015-16. The current cap number of $63 million is expected to grow to about $66 million next season but could explode to $87 million in 2017. The reason: A brand new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal.
But while the Celtics will have more money to spend, so too will the other 29 teams, creating tremendous cap competition this summer.
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