|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.
|Perfectly played: C’s steal a huge road win over Pacers||03.06.13 at 9:27 pm ET|
Jeff Green scored on a reverse lay-up on a bullet pass from Kevin Garnett with 0.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift the Celtics to an unlikely 83-81 road win over the Pacers, Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The brilliant play was drawn up by head coach Doc Rivers and executed by a team that appears to be hitting its stride.
Rivers called for Green to get free on the baseline on a back-pick set by Pierce, with Garnett at the top of the key. That’s exactly how the play unfolded as Green got free underneath, caught the ball under the basket and turned his body just in time to hit the layup off the glass.
Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley finished with 13 points apiece for the Celtics, who won their fourth straight and improved to a season-best six games over .500 at 33-27. They also improved to 12-4 without Rajon Rondo.
With the Celtics playing their second road game in 24 hours, the Pacers were predictably the stronger team out of the blocks, shooting out to a 27-19 lead after one.
The Celtics got a layup from Pierce right before the halftime buzzer as Boston cut Indiana’s lead to seven, 49-42, at the break.
Garnett made history with a defensive rebound in the first minute of the third quarter. It was his sixth of the game and No. 13,370 of his career, passing Wes Unseld for 10th all time in NBA history.
The Pacers went to their inside game to build the lead to 14, 63-49, midway through the third but the Celtics finished the quarter on a 9-5 run to close to within 10, 68-58, heading into the fourth.
The Celtics pulled to within one, 73-72, on a Jason Terry three with just over six minutes left, capping a 20-7 run. The Pacers then responded with the next eight points to build a nine-point lead.
As great as the play execution was for the Celtics, Boston was the beneficiary of some highly questionable play-calling on the part of the Pacers. Leading by 14 points and with Roy Hibbert taking it to the Celtics inside, Pacers fell in love with the three-point shot, finishing a miserable 6-of-27 from long range.
The Pacers had all five starters in double figures, led by Paul George with 16 points. David West had 11 points and 16 rebounds while Hibbert finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Celtics are off Thursday before returning to action Friday at home against Atlanta at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|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.
|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 »
|What can Celtics expect from JaJuan Johnson?||07.19.11 at 6:11 pm ET|
The C’s picked the 6-foot-10, 220-pound four-year collegiate power forward with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft. In the five previous drafts, ever since the NBA banned high school players from joining the league until age 19 or one year after the graduation of their high school class, exactly 30 four-year college players have been drafted in the first round.
- Of those 30 players, seven were either power forwards or centers like Johnson.
- Of those seven players, four lasted past the lottery.
- Of those four players, three played more than 10 games.
- Of those three players, two averaged more than three points as rookies.
- Of those two players, one measured under 7 feet, 2 inches tall: Trevor Booker.
It could be better (Roy Hibbert) or worse (DeMarre Carroll) than the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Booker, the No. 23 pick by the Wizards (via the Timberwolves) in 2010. To get an idea of what the Celtics should expect from their first-round pick if and when the 2011-12 season begins — and beyond — here’s how the seven other four-year collegiate big men have fared since 2006 …