|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agents to watch in ’15||05.14.14 at 11:02 am ET|
In my last column, I wrote about some free agents who potentially could catch Danny Ainge‘s eye this summer. However, if you expect a 2007-ish rebuild to happen overnight again, I’m afraid your expectations are too high. The Celtics are going to take a couple of years to build back up, making 2015 an equally important offseason.
A lot can happen between now and next summer, but a strong free agent class is anticipated. Much like the last column, not all of the names may look like fits now, but under the right circumstances could be in the future. Following is a handful of names that should be on Ainge’s radar for 2015.
Brook Lopez – First and foremost, Lopez needs to prove he can stay healthy. He’s had serious foot issues so far in the NBA, but he also is one of the best scoring centers in the league when healthy. Lopez is a legit 7-footer, something Ainge is looking for in his next big man.
Lopez signed a four-year extension in 2012, but 2015-16 is a player option, so he could choose to opt out if the Nets begin to fade from contention. The Nets have the potential to implode over the next couple of seasons due to age and bad contracts. Even as players begin to come off the books, Brooklyn still should be over the cap for years to come, making the team’s future a delicate situation.
This signing would be a risk, but if the price is right, Lopez could be the perfect fit next to Jared Sullinger … on offense, that is. Defensively Ainge still would need to find a solution. That said, a frontcourt that features and healthy Lopez and Sullinger is scary for any team to face.
Robin Lopez – For twin brothers, Robin and Brook sure have different games. Robin is much more of a low-post defender and shot-blocker than his brother, but he is nowhere near as developed on offense.
With the scoring ability of Sullinger, Robin would be just as good a fit as his brother in Boston. Robin would not be leaned upon to score, allowing him to do what he does best — defend and rebound. He has had a ton of success in Portland this season playing alongside scorers, including in the playoffs. The more I think about it, despite Brook’s All-Star appearance; Robin is the Lopez brother to watch in 2015.
|2012-13 Celtics free agent options at center||06.25.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
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.
|Trade Rumor: Six to eight teams pursuing Dwight Howard||03.06.12 at 9:22 am ET|
With less than 10 days to go until the March 15 trade deadline, the future of Magic center Dwight Howard is still cloudy.
It’s been known for some time that there are three teams on his list of preferred trade destinations: New Jersey, Dallas and the Lakers. It has also been known that Golden State would be willing to trade for Howard without assurances that he would sign an extension with them.
Magic GM told Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that “six to eight” teams were still calling. Orlando is still hoping to convince Howard to stay long-term.
In other Howard-related news, the Nets announced that center Brook Lopez will be out three weeks with a sprained right ankle. Lopez has been mentioned prominently in trade talks.
|Five restricted free agents for Celtics to consider||01.26.12 at 1:31 am ET|
On Wednesday, Minnesota forward Kevin Love signed a four-year extension that could be worth up to $60 million. Love didn’t get the five-year max offer that he was seeking from Minnesota, but he may have gained something more valuable: control over his future. Love can opt out after three years, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season at the same time Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams will be finishing their rookie deals, as well as coach Rick Adelman, who is also signed through the 2015 season.
Why the Timberwolves didn’t lock up the 23-year-old double-double machine when he wanted to sign on for the long-term is the kind of curious decision that has defined GM David Kahn‘s very curious tenure. But it does take Love off the restricted free agent market this summer and removes another potential target for the Celtics, who are positioned to have ample room under the cap after the season.
The problem with having all that cap space is there are very few worthy players to spend it on outside of Dwight Howard. Team president Danny Ainge noted last week in an appearance on The Big Show that, “My philosophy is it’s really challenging to build a team when you overpay role players before you have your stars.”
That puts Ainge in a difficult spot, but patience is the right call and for an obvious example of what not to do when cap money burns a hole in your pocket, see the Pistons, who blew up their roster when they traded Chauncey Billups and then quickly signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon to their ever-lasting regret.
Make no mistake, the 23-year-old Love is a star and quite possibly a franchise player in the making. He’s exactly the kind of player for whom you save cap space when he does hit unrestricted free agency and thanks to the Wolves, that will now happen far sooner than it would have otherwise. But the Celtics, and everyone else, will still have to wait.
Wednesday was the deadline for players from the 2008 draft to sign extensions and in addition to Love, Denver signed Danilo Gallinari to a four-year deal. They join Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook as the other players from the draft class to sign long-term deals.
But there were several intriguing players who didn’t sign deals and will be restricted free agents this summer. While none of them are franchise players worth max money, here are five intriguing possibilities for Ainge to consider. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||02.16.11 at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
Paul Pierce finished with a game-high 31 points, and Kevin Garnett recorded his 17th double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds). Brook Lopez led the Nets (17-40) with 18 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.