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Irish Coffee: If not Kevin Love, then who? 07.30.14 at 9:09 am ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and trade target Kevin Love arguably comprise the two top free agents on the NBA market next summer. While the possibility of Love coming to Boston has faded, the C’s front office continues to pursue a second star to pair with Rondo.

A look at the remaining talent in the 2015 free agent class may offer a clue about who Celtics president Danny Ainge & Co. consider a potential Garfunkel to Rondo’s Simon. The C’s have the salary cap space to target anyone on the list, and stars signed beyond the coming year are rarely traded during the season.

Let’s start by crossing off the list LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng — all of whom have player options for 2015-16 and never looked Boston’s way this summer. Now, let’s sort the cream of the crop into four tiers.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agents to watch in ’15 05.14.14 at 11:02 am ET
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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.

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Read More: Anderson Varejao, Brook Lopez, Danny Ainge, Kenneth Faried
Preview: Celtics at Grizzlies 11.13.10 at 10:00 am ET
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In advance of Saturday night’s game between the Celtics (7-2) and Grizzlies (4-5) in Memphis (8 p.m.), we caught up with Chip Crain at the “3 Shades of Blue” blog. He answered our six most pressing questions on a young Grizzlies team …

1. The Grizzlies took a big step forward as a team last year. Do you expect them to take another one this season?

Well, we can always hope that the maturation of the team alone will be enough to get them over the hump, but honestly that’s about all the team has.

Will it be improved? Yes, I think they will. Will it be enough? It doesn’t look like it to me.

The problem with the Grizzlies is not their starting five but the bench. They simply  are too inexperienced off the bench, even with Tony Allen in the fold. Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur and even Hasheem Thabeet have shown some promise, but they aren’t ready to contribute, which puts too much of a strain on the starters to see it lasting for 82 games.

2. What’s the general feeling on Rudy Gay in Memphis? Does his new contract affect the way fans feel about him?

People complained about Rudy Gay‘s contract when he signed it, but no one is complaining now. Rudy has always had a ton of talent, but for the first time he seems to be applying it to more than just scoring.

Rudy is somewhat popular in Memphis — more than Pau Gasol was when he was here but less than Zach Randolph is now.

3. Has the play of Marc Gasol helped fans get over the Pau Gasol trade? Or is there still bitterness?

Yes and no. Marc Gasol‘s play has won over many fans, but people still believe that the Grizzlies could have gotten more. After all, no one would trade Pau for Marc straight up. The Grizzlies got Javaris Crtittenton (out of the league), the draft pick that brought in Darrell Arthur and the draft pick that became Greivis Vasquez in the deal, so talent-wise the city is still sore about the trade.

However, that trade also allowed the Grizzlies to acquire Zach Randolph with the cap space, so Arthur, Randolph, Vasquez and Marc in return for Pau was a great trade in Memphians eyes.

Of course, it’s still a sore subject for the fans of teams that thought their team would have won the title if the Lakers hadn’t gotten Pau.

4. Chris Wallace became a bit of a punchline in Boston after his deal for Vin Baker. How do Grizzlies fans feel about him?

Chris Wallace is very fortunate. His owner has made so many blunders no one has really focused on the poor decisions Wallace has made. Everyone points at Michael Heisley making the calls and forgets who’s whispering in his ear.

Thabeet was a horrible pick that Wallace was against (if you believe the rumors) but Heisley insisted on. That got Wallace off the hook. The problem is that DeMarre Carroll was Wallace’s pick, and he didn’t get his third-year option picked up. Wallace passed on DeJuan Blair three times, and now the team is thin at power forward.

Arthur’s fast start this season has made people forget what a disappointment he’s been his first two seasons, and Conley’s fast start has helped him avoid criticism on that deal. The Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo trade has been a financial noose around the team’s neck as well, with the Grizzlies still owing Marco Jaric money while he babysits Adriana Lima‘s child. Mayo straight up for Love would be questionable now, and with the bad contracts the Grizzlies ate to acquire Mayo it looks really bad to me.

5. What’s a realistic expectation for Tony Allen this year?

I see his upside as starting shooting guard to allow Mayo to move to the bench as the designated scorer, while Allen becomes the defensive stopper in the starting rotation. The downside is he loses his playing time to Henry and Sam Young, and he joins the list of questionable Wallace moves I just mentioned.

Realistically, he should be one of the guys off the bench who contributes on some nights and never gets into games on other nights.  

6. Is Hasheem Thabeet a bust, or is there still hope?

There is always hope, but the buzzards are circling just the same.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA
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