|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.
|Celtics search for a big man||03.15.12 at 11:57 pm ET|
SACRAMENTO — After not making a move at the trade deadline, the Celtics are going forward with the core of their roster intact, but they are by no means a finished product. After learning that Chris Wilcox will need aortic surgery and miss the rest of the season, the search is on for a big man, and possibly two.
The market is limited, but there is some hope that a few players will become available by March 23. That’s the deadline for players to be bought out of their contracts and waived and still be eligible for a postseason roster. It’s important to note that players can sign at any point up to the end of the regular season as long as they are not on someone’s roster after the March 23 deadline.
“We do need to add a big man,” team president Danny Ainge said. “We need to find the best big man available and we’ll be a little bit patient in that.”
Here’s a list of some of the big men who are, or may become available.
Chris Kaman — The biggest name by far, Kaman is averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Hornets who have to tried to trade the 7-footer most of the season but found no takers for his $14 million contract. Hornets GM Dell Demps told reporters on Thursday that the team plans to keep Kaman.
“Everything is always a possibility,” Demps said. “I mean there’s no reason to say I’m certain, 100 percent sure. There’s always a possibility. I never want to say never. But our intention is to keep Chris.”
If Kaman is waived, the Celtics will have competition. Yahoo! reported that the Spurs and Heat would also be interested in signing him.
Jermaine O’Neal — This may be a stretch, but his situation remains murky.
“I don’t think he’ll be back, but nothing clear,” Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “It’s not been final but I don’t see him playing.”
Still, Ainge said later that he hasn’t closed the door on O’Neal who has been working out at the team’s facility and he plans to meet with him on Friday. “I don’t know what’s going to come from that meeting,” Ainge said.
It’s an indication of how thin the big man market is that O’Neal could be a lot of team’s Plan B if Kaman isn’t available.
Turiaf is a tough interior presence and a consummate pro, but he played in only four games with the Wizards this season. He also underwent aortic heart surgery in 2005. He’s played without incident since the surgery, but this is a team that has already lost Wilcox and Jeff Green to heart surgery. Still, he’ll be in demand like Kaman and possibly O’Neal.
Chris Johnson — The one-time Celtic is expected to be waived by the Blazers, along with Greg Oden. Johnson appeared in 20 games for Portland this season and played just 93 minutes. He’s 7 feet tall and a shot blocker, and the Celtics are obviously familiar with him after signing him to a 10-day contract last season.
As for Oden, forget it. The former No. 1 overall pick is recovering from his fifth knee surgery and won’t play again this season, if at all.
Leon Powe — The popular former Celtic has been playing in Puerto Rico, but the Celtics have shown little interest in bringing him back since they cut ties with him after the 2009 season.
Earl Barron — Currently playing for the Meralco Bolts in the Philippines, Barron has played for six NBA teams over seven seasons.
Here’s a look at some of the players in the D-League. Among the names are Brian Butch, Keith Benson and NBA veteran Dan Gadzuric.
Other veterans: Jake Voskhul, D.J. Mbenga, Francisco Elson, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Brian Skinner.
|The wait for Chris Kaman||at 3:19 pm ET|
OAKLAND — With no deadline deals to be had, the Celtics will now turn their attention to the veteran free agent market in their quest to fill the big-man void left by Chris Wilcox who will have heart surgery on March 29. The Celtics will have to clear a roster spot to add a player as they are at the 15-man roster limit. A prime candidate for a buyout is center Jermaine O’Neal who has not played since the All-Star break.
The deadline for players to be waived and be eligible for the postseason on another team’s roster is Mach 23rd.
If the Celtics are able to make room, they will surely have their eyes on Hornets center Chris Kaman who is in the final year of his contract worth $14 million. New Orleans wasn’t able to make a deal for Kaman at the deadline and under normal circumstances, he’d also be a likely buyout candidate. However, the Hornets are owned by the NBA and that might complicate matters. Would the league sign off on a buyout knowing that Kaman will be in high demand for teams that are trying to win a championship?
They will have competition. Yahoo! reported that San Antonio and Miami would also be interested in Kaman if he is bought out.
The Celtics have gone to the buyout route in the past. They were able to coax PJ Brown out of retirement and add Sam Cassell in 2008. Both players helped them win a championship. They weren’t as fortunate in 2009 — Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury — or last season when they aacquired Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo and Sasha Pavlovic.
|Trade Deadline: Making the Chris Kaman cap math work||03.14.12 at 5:18 pm ET|
The problem is that Kaman makes $14 million and fitting that contract under the cap is difficult, especially for a team like the Celtics who are not only over the cap, they’re also over the luxury tax line. Recent reports indicate that New Orleans is willing to accept second round picks for Kaman, but not willing to take on any more salary.
With a number of players in the final years of their contracts, there are a handful of scenarios where the Celtics could satisfy that demand, starting with the expiring deals for Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox. Adding Keyon Dooling‘s expiring deal would make the math work, but adding a young player like JaJuan Johnson would make it more difficult.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the Hornets are owned by the NBA. Would the league be willing to sign-off on a deal that yielded only second round picks and expiring deals? Celtics team president Danny Ainge has said that he wasn’t going to trade future assets to help this year’s team and it’s not likely he’d be willing to part with one of his two first round picks for a short-term rental.
If the price for Kaman goes beyond those bare-bones parameters, the Celtics could wait and see if the Hornets buy him out. They’d have to make room on the roster, which is at the 15-player limit.
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