Celtics free agency primer: Small forwards

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Celtics free agency primer: Small forwards

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

One of the reasons the Boston Celtics were so willing to part with Kendrick Perkins and add Jeff Green right before the trading deadline was because of the glaring hole at the backup small forward position behind Paul Pierce. With Green on board for at least this upcoming season, the need for another small forward isn't nearly as great.

But as we've seen this past season (and for the foreseeable future if you're in the Eastern Conference), you can't really have enough players capable of playing the small forward position.

The Miami Heat, preparing for the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, are led by arguably the best small forward of this generation in LeBron James.

No individual player can defend him by their lonesome. Heck, two guys can't get it done on most nights.

So while having Pierce and Green is nice, the C's are wise enough to know that they'll need more talent - especially at the small forward position - moving forward.

Next month's upcoming draft has a number of intriguing talents at the small forward position that may very well still be around for the Celtics when they pick at No. 25. But when it comes to adding impact players, free agency once again trumps the draft.

Here's a list of some small forward free agents that the Celtics just may have some interest in acquiring.

Top available small forwards (team they played with last season): Gerald Wilkins (Atlanta); Sasha Pavlovic (Boston); Dominic McGuire (Charlotte); Caron Butler (Dallas); Peja Stojakovic (Dallas); Wilson Chandler (Denver); Tracy McGrady (Detroit); Tayshaun Prince (Detroit); Al Thornton (Golden State); Vladimir Radmonovic (Golden State); Mike Dunleavy (Indiana); Jamario Moon (LA Clippers); Shane Battier (Memphis); Jarred Jeffries (New York); Shawne Williams (New York); Earl Clark (Orlando); Grant Hill (Phoenix); Marquis Daniels (Sacramento); Andrei Kirilenko (Utah); Josh Howard (Washington).

-restricted free agents
Best of the bunch: Chandler, Hill, Kirilenko, Butler and Prince.

Best fits for the C's: Thornton, Clark or Battier.

Why Thornton?: For all the questions about Thornton's game, his athleticism is the one thing you can count on every night. And at 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, he also has the kind of size the Celtics will need to compete with the Eastern Conference's top teams who for the most part, are led by athletic small forwards. Although he's not there now, Thornton has the athletic tools to develop into an excellent defender. The biggest knock on him has been an inability to grasp the nuances of the game as quick as he and his teammates would like. But coming off the bench in what would be a limited role, might be just enough to mask that flaw in his game.

Why Clark?: Like Thornton, Clark is another relatively young player who hasn't really found his niche in the league yet. At 6-10, Clark has the ability to score both inside and from the perimeter. Talent isn't the issue. It's whether he can display his skills with any kind of consistency. But in the right system with the right head coach, it wouldn't be a stretch to believe that Clark could develop into a key contributor off the bench for the C's.

Why Battier?: Good locker room presence, strong defender and clutch shot-maker. The only real concern with Battier is his age (he'll be 33 in September) and his lack of athleticism. But the lack of athleticism - something that has been a knock on him even before he got to the NBA - has never been a major issue because of Battier's high basketball IQ which has allowed him to be a solid defender despite having to guard younger, more athletic wing players. While he shouldn't necessarily be their top target, the C's could do a lot worse than Battier as they look to add a reserve small forward during this offseason.

Others deserving strong consideration: Butler, Prince and Kirilenko.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

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Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- On Friday night, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan absolutely torched the Boston Celtics. The game before that, it was Chicago’s Jimmy Butler giving the Celtics major fits with a barrage of baskets. 

Both were All-Star starters this year, the kind of lofty status that helps explain how the Celtics were so defensively-challenged in their efforts in limiting them.

Detroit doesn’t have a bona fide high-scoring perimeter star like those other teams, but don’t think for a minute that tonight’s game will be a breeze for the Celtics. Boston (37-21) comes in having lost two in a row to Chicago and Toronto, respectively. The Raptors loss was especially painful because it assured the Raptors would get the higher seed in the playoffs if these two teams finished with an identical record. 

Boston hopes to secure an edge over the Pistons tonight with a victory that will give them the season series, three games to one. While it may seem a bit early to get too caught up in tie-breakers and their importance, the last thing Boston wants is to finish the regular season tied with one or more teams, and wind up with the lower seed because they lost the head-to-head series. 

“You hear people say every game counts; it’s true,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We need to win as many games as we can because you never know which game could be the difference between having home court or not.”

If Boston continues to find ways to win and finish with a tie-free, top-four finish in the East, they will begin the playoffs at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Meanwhile the Pistons are currently eighth in the East and, like the Celtics, they too opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. And like Boston, they are looking for growth from within as they try to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We’re not real happy with how we’ve played up to this point overall,” said Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations and head coach. “But we still have a young group. As much as you would like the progress to be steadily uphill, it’s not always. That doesn’t mean you lose faith in your guys. At the end of the day, we ended up standing pat, which is pretty much what we expected to do.”

One of Boston’s biggest concerns coming into the game will be rebounding. It was among the many factors contributing to Boston’s loss on Friday. But as much as execution at both ends of the floor will be a factor, effort will be just as vital if not more, to the success of the Celtics in the playoffs. There were plenty of reasons as to why Boston lost on Friday night, with effort being near the top of the list. 

“They played harder than us,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. 

And that was surprising when you consider what was at stake – a chance to push their lead over Toronto to five games with a couple dozen to go.

Rookie forward Jaylen Brown has heard all the reasons and explanations as to why the Celtics have hit a mini-hiccup following back-to-back losses. And he has also heard how Boston blew a golden opportunity to beat Toronto with Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry still out. 

“We didn’t have one of our key guys, either,” said Brown, referring to Avery Bradley still being out with a foot injury. So it’s basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t’ matter who is on the floor. You have to do your job; we just have to do our job.”