Potential options at center for Celtics

Potential options at center for Celtics
June 9, 2014, 11:15 am
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BOSTON — Seeing Kevin Love strolling around Boston recently has Celtics Nation Love-struck with the idea of seeing the three-time all-star in a Celtics uniform next season.

Even if that were to happen, the Celtics still need to address the team's void around the basket defensively.

It becomes even more paramount when you consider the struggles Love has had at that end of the floor throughout his NBA career.

Love has been especially vulnerable to players attacking him at the rim where they have shot 57.4 percent which makes him one of the league's worst defenders around the rim.

No matter how many times Danny Ainge has been asked about his team's needs, finding a rim-protecting big man has always been at or near the top of his wish list.

After winding up with the No. 6 pick in the June 26 draft along with having the No. 17 overall selection, Ainge knows Boston probably won't find that guy in this year's draft. And while trading for one is always an option, the Celtics will surely take a long, hard look at the free agent pool.

It's not extremely deep, but there are some options that would potentially be an upgrade over their center-by-committee approach last season which consisted almost exclusively of power forwards (Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass).

Here at CSNNE.com we take a look at some of the Celtics' free agent options at center.


Greg Monroe, C, Detroit (restricted free agent)

Despite new head coach/basketball ops honcho Stan Van Gundy's declaration about liking the Monroe-Andre Drummond big man tandem, something has to change with that Pistons front line that also includes Josh Smith.

League sources say the market for Smith is slim right now while Drummond is believed to be the one keeper of the threesome. That leaves Monroe, a restricted free agent this summer, the most likely available.

At 6-11, 250 pounds, he has great size for the center position while possessing the basketball skills to play a more traditional power forward spot.

But in terms of rim protection, Monroe's play leaves a lot to be desired.

He appeared in all 82 games for Detroit last season, blocking a less-than-impressive 0.6 shots per game. And when it came to protecting the basket, opponents shot 51.2 percent against him at the rim and the team's defensive rating with him on the floor was 107.8.

Ouch!

Like the Celtics, Detroit has a number of areas they need to address this offseason and they have identified the re-signing of Monroe as one of their priorities.

But with Drummond and Smith still in the fold, Detroit will not overpay to keep Monroe around.

He will certainly get some interest from other teams, but his likely asking price and what the Celtics would consider paying him probably are not one and the same.

But in breaking down his game, what's often lost in such discussions about him is the fact that in Monroe's four NBA seasons, he has played for three different coaches who presumably had three different ideas as to how to use him effectively.

But with Van Gundy, at least the Pistons know they have a coach who understands how to utilize a big man's talents (Dwight Howard) in a way that helps produce wins.

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Marcin Gortat, C, Washington

What seemed a desperate grab to get a sniff at the playoffs, turned into one of the better trades this season when the Wizards acquired the 7-footer from Phoenix.

Gortat was an instrumental force in Washington's upset of the favored Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, and was one of the reasons why the Indiana Pacers were pushed to the brink of elimination by Washington before prevailing in seven games.

He is not your prototypical shot-blocking/altering type around the basket. He's physical, pushes guys around and adds a certain amount of toughness that every teams needs more of these days.

In Washington, he averaged a near double-double of 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds to go along with 1.5 blocked shots per game.

Gortat is going to have a lot of teams in pursuit this summer, so his final decision will likely come down to which teams provide the greatest amount of financial security. He's 30 years old, so he understands this will probably be his last, big salary contract. Boston will certainly look into what it would take to land him, but more likely than not he'll be looking for a salary that exceeds what they believe he's worth.

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Spencer Hawes, C, Cleveland

Not a lot went Cleveland's way this past season, but the trade for Hawes was certainly one of the bright spots.

The 7-foot-1 center, who played in Sacramento (2007-2010) and Philadelphia (2010-2013) prior to arriving in Cleveland last season, averaged a career-high 13.5 points for the Cavs.

Hawes is decent rebounder for his size, but what separates him from a number of NBA centers is his perimeter-shooting skills.

With the Cavaliers, Hawes shot a career-best 44.8 percent from 3-point range. More than anything, he showed how effectively he can be offensively when paired with multiple players (like Cleveland's Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters) whose strength is dribble penetration.

And while the Celtics could certainly use another scorer, the addition of Hawes would make an already suspect Celtics team even worse defensively. Between Philadelphia and Cleveland last season, Hawes appeared in 53 games. Opponents attempted 10.4 field goal attempts at the rim which is more than any player saw per game last season.

Considering players shot 52.3 percent at the rim against Hawes, going at him made a lot of sense.

There's no question that Hawes has the talent to help a lot of teams going forward.

Unfortunately the Celtics are probably not one of them.


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Greg Stiemsma, C, New Orleans (unrestricted)

When the Boston Celtics signed him in 2011, his job was pretty simple: to protect the rim.

For a reserve who was called upon sparingly, Stiemsma did his job.

Appearing in 55 games that year, Stiemsma averaged 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds while blocking a career-high 1.5 shots per game.

While his offensive numbers improved in stints in Minnesota and New Orleans, Stiemsma was never quite able to be that rim-protector many anticipated him becoming.

The top rim-protecting big men such as Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan and New Orleans' Anthony Davis, all limited opponents to shooting at or below 50 percent from the field at the rim.

Opponents shot 50.8 percent at the rim against Stiemsma this past season which is equal to what players shot against Kris Humphries. But it was less than the 53.9 and 56.3 percent players shot at the rim against Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, respectively.

However, it's important to note that Sullinger and Olynyk are solid, well-rounded offensive players whose contributions extend to other parts of the game besides rim protection.

For Stiemsma, his greatest contribution would have to come at the defensive end of the floor akin to his first stint with the Celtics.

Short of finding that one player via free agency who could be that blanket defensively, adding a player like Stiemsma would be a short-term, inexpensive option that at the very least is worth giving some thought.