OFFSEASON

Draft in rearview, Celtics now focus on free agents

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Draft in rearview, Celtics now focus on free agents

BOSTON In some form or another, the Boston Celtics had to address their dearth of frontcourt size.

They took their first steps in that direction on Thursday night by selecting Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger and Syracuse University center Fab Melo with the No. 21 and No. 22 pick, respectively, of the NBA draft.

Neither is expected to come in and make an immediate impact, which once again puts a premium on the C's ability to work wonders via free agency.

But unlike past seasons, the Celtics will have the kind of salary cap flexibility that gives them a chance at being a major player on the free agent market which begins Sunday. The official salary cap for the 2012-2013 season has yet to be determined, but the C's are expected to be close to 20 million below it.

And as was the case with the draft, Boston has an ever-evolving list of targets.

At the top?

Kevin Garnett.

"That's our number one option," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "One reason is because Kevin is such a valuable player. The other is he's the only guy we can talk to until Sunday."

Garnett is eligible for a contract extension which is why the C's are allowed to have discussions with him and his representatives prior to Sunday which is the first day of free agency.

While a return of Garnett is lauded by Celtics coming (Jared Sullinger) and potentially on their way out (Mickael Pietrus), Boston will need to add more veteran talent if Garnett returning for an 18th season will bring about Banner 18.

Following Boston selecting three players in Thursday night's draft - Sullinger and Melo along with Kris Joseph in the second round - Ainge isn't banking on any of the three to make an immediate impact.

"A team that's trying to win, it's tough to count on three rookies coming in," Ainge said. "Maybe one will be ready to go, maybe two will be able to play a certain role. We'll try to fill in with veterans from here on out."

Boston only has four players - Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce and JaJuan Johnson - under contract for next season.

Most likely E'Twaun Moore and Sean Williams will be back on minimum-salary contracts. When you factor in the two first-round picks, that brings the C's roster count to eight heading into free agency.

There will be an ever-expanding pool of talent the Celtics will look at. Here are some of the top unrestricted free agents that are likely to hear from the C's at some point on Sunday.

PLAYER POSITION TEAM (LAST YEAR)
Kevin Garnett FC Boston
The skinny: Because he is more than just the anchor of the C's defense, but the heart of the program. His arrival in 2007 brought about it a winning culture that's alive and well today.

Jeff Green F Boston
The skinny: Signing him part of the Celtics' long-term plans of remaining among the top teams in the East.

Brandon Bass F Boston
The skinny: His growth last season was instrumental to the team's success, with his decision to be a free agent aimed at signing a long-term deal with Boston.

O.J. Mayo G Memphis
The skinny: The C's will be one of many teams lining up for a shot at Mayo after the Grizzlies didn't make him a qualifying offer and thus, made him an unrestricted free agent.

Ray Allen G Boston
The skinny: He's arguably the best clutch shooter the past few years for Boston, which is important for a team that ultimately judges itself by performing well in big games.

Jamal Crawford G Portland
The skinny: A veteran who has played on so-so squads, being on a team locked into winning it all would be a refreshing change for the 32-year old.

Reggie Evans F Los Angeles Clippers
The skinny: Maybe the best "agitator" in the NBA, his rebounding and toughness would be embraced by Doc Rivers and Celtics Nation.

Greg Stiemsma C Boston
The skinny: Thin free agent market at center, his asking price might become too pricey for the Celtics who will not overpay for a No. 2 or No. 3 center.

-signed with Boston, but contract voided when physical determined he needed season-ending heart surgery.

OFFSEASON

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

You’re probably thinking the summer fireworks are finished after the Celtics brought back Tyler Zeller, added ex-Celtic Gerald Green, and signed rookies Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil. It’s true, these moves do lower the likelihood of a multifaceted trade, but it doesn’t totally extinguish the odds of something seismic happening.

The Celtics still retain their flexibility, since none of these deals have actually been finalized. Even after they are, they’d still have the pieces required to make a deal work for a superstar like Blake Griffin. It’s not hard to make a valid trade for one player, but it is difficult if it’s a multi-step process like a Russell Westbrook renegotiate-and-extend trade.

“This is not necessarily what the team will be,” a source told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s probably changes coming.”

Well, yeah. Changes have to come. The Celtics don’t really have a choice here.

Assuming Jaylen Brown is signed, they’ll have 18 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts. So at least three players will have to be exported before the season, since the NBA requires a maximum of 15 players on a roster.

Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current projected depth chart:

  STARTERS BENCH RESERVES ON THE BUBBLE
FRONT COURT Amir Johnson Kelly Olynyk Tyler Zeller  
Al Horford Jonas Jerebko Jordan Mickey Ben Bentil*
Jae Crowder Jaylen Brown* Gerald Green James Young
BACK COURT Avery Bradley Marcus Smart RJ Hunter John Holland*
Isaiah Thomas Terry Rozier Demetrius Jackson  

So, something has to happen. It’s just a matter of what. You can choose to believe the Celtics aren’t actually trying to make a blockbuster move. Or you can choose to believe the signals that have been firing off this month from the Celtics themselves indicating they’re “not done.”

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Celtics to get closer to 15 players by completing a blockbuster trade for a player like Griffin.
 
Perhaps some combination of veterans (Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, and Jonas Jerebko) with youth (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young) and draft picks (2018 Nets pick) could bring in Griffin and Paul Pierce.

Saturday’s moves make sense regardless of any transactions to follow.

Zeller is a bargain at just $8 million as a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. But, if Johnson were dealt, he’d be able to slide right up the depth chart as the team’s backup center.

Green shot 37.2 percent on spot up threes, per SportVU, over the past three years, so he provides spacing as a scorer who can catch fire. Considering Brad Stevens’ track record of sapping every ounce of talent out of each of his players -- hello, Jordan Crawford! -- it’s possible the Celtics will be getting the Green who scored an efficient 15.8 points per game just two years ago in Phoenix, and not the subpar Green who struggled to stay on the court last year in Miami.

If one or two of Boston’s young wings were dealt, Green, on a mere veteran minimum contract, would have an even easier path to playing time as a spark off the bench.

It’s difficult to read into the signings of second-round picks Jackson and Bentil, but either way the should both spend the season developing with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

The Celtics haven’t made a move yet, but they also haven’t done anything to suggest they’re entirely done. These moves could be precursors to something significant, or not. But at the least they provide depth to an already impressive roster.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

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Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

On a busy Saturday for the Celtics, they have brought back center Tyler Zeller and agreed to deals with draft picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier Saturday, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Celtics will sign guard Gerald Green. 

Himmelsbach reports that Zeller's is a $16 million, two-year deal with the second-year not guaranteed. Jackson, the point guard from Notre Dame who was the 45th overall selection in the draft, has a guaranteed deal and Bentil, the forward from Providence who was the 51st player drafted, has a partially guaranteed deal. 

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported that the second-year of Zeller's deal is a team option and that Green agreed to a one-year deal at the $1.4 million veteran mininum based on his nine years of NBA service.

The 7-foot Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game last season. 

R.J. Hunter, James Young, Bentil and John Holland are in position to fight for the final roster spot, Himmelsbach reports, pending more deals, which the Celtics are reportedly working on. A source told Himmelsbach, that while there are probably changes coming, "There is no big deal right now." 

Bulpett reported that Celtics' talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving a deal for Sixers' big man Jahlil Okafor have, according to sources, grown "stale" and that the moves Saturday put 2014 draft pick James Young's roster spot in jeopardy.

With Green, Zeller, and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have has 15 guaranteed contracts and three partial or non-guaranteed deals. 

 

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

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Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

The Celtics will sign free agent Gerald Green, the guard they drafted with the 18th overall pick back in 2005, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported.

Green, 30, played for the Miami Heat last season and averaged 8.9 points a game. Deveney reports Green will sign a one-year guaranteed contract. 

Green has been well-traveled since being traded by the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett deal in 2007, the year he won the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest. He has played for seven other NBA teams and played two seasons in Russia. His best season was 2013-14 in Phoenix when he averaged 15.8 points a game for the Suns. 

Deveney also reports that sources around the league continue to indicate the Celtics are looking to make a trade for a "star-caliber type" player. Last week, he reported on their interest in the Clippers' Blake Griffin.