By A. Sherrod Blakely
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.