By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
WALTHAM The Boston Celtics need size in the worst way.
Only Jermaine O'Neal, a hybrid forwardcenter coming off a career-low 24 games played this past season due to injuries, is signed for another tour of duty at the position for this upcoming season.
A. Sherrod Blakely's third, and final, mock draft
The NBA draft is Thursday, a chance for the C's to bolster their paper-mch thin frontcourt.
But here's the thing.
The Boston Celtics are no different than most NBA teams when it comes to size.
They all want it.
But holding the No. 25 pick in Thursday's draft, well . . . we'll let Danny Ainge explain.
"Not trying to put a negative spin on this; trying to be realistic," said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "The 25th pick of the draft is probably not going to help us immediately. But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, the personality of our team, make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster."
And when it comes to finding a big man that late in the draft, "if size is available at the 25th pick, I don't know if that's a good sign or a bad sign," said coach Doc Rivers. "Sometimes you can get lucky."
The Celtics could use a bit of that after this past season.
Before it began, Boston's starting center - Kendrick Perkins - was out with a right knee injury sustained in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The 2010-11 season ended with Perkins in Oklahoma City, having been traded there in February, and his replacement, Shaquille O'Neal, only able to play a total of 12 minutes in the playoffs due to a series of right leg injuries. The Perkins trade landed Boston another center, Nenad Krstic, who has since signed a multiyear deal to play in Russia next season.
There's no argument that Boston has to bolster its frontcourt.
"We have to address size in the offseason, for sure," Ainge said, adding that "it doesn't necessarily have to be the draft."
Certainly free agency is a more likely route for the Celtics to take.
Boston can also look to make trades, but with only six players currently under contract, the Celtics are more likely to keep their current group together and build around them.
While Ainge acknowledges that he loves the Celtics' core group, he is open to the idea of trading anyone - including the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
As he does this time of year, Ainge both takes and receives calls regarding potential trades involving his players regardless of their standing with the team.
So the idea that he could potentially move one of the Big Four isn't all that surprising.
"I will just say this: I never tell players that I would never do anything like that," Ainge said. "We have to keep our options open and explore. That's my job. Our intention is to bring our core group back."
Ainge has had conversations in recent weeks about moving up, down and even out of Thursday night's draft.
But more than likely, the Celtics are expected to keep the No. 25 pick.
And while it's unlikely the C's can address the need for immediate help in the frontcourt, Boston understands that there is a need to build both for the present and the future.
That's why it wouldn't be that big a leap for the C's to target a young big man who might need a year or two to develop.
One player who fits into that category is Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center who has taken one of the more bizarre journeys to the NBA.
The San Diego native left high school after his junior year, and spent two years playing in Israel and Japan, respectively.
Tyler, who turned 20 on Tuesday, was considered by some the best high school player in his class before opting to play overseas before his high school class graduated.
And while he had his ups and downs playing overseas, his potential can not be denied.
"The kid can play, no doubt about that," said one NBA scout who has followed Tyler since he was in high school. "But the whole leaving high school early thing, the issues he had in Israel, it's all baggage that teams have to take into account. That's why at best, he's a late first-round pick instead of top-10, top-15 pick."
If he has that kind of talent, that could be just the kind of luck this Celtics team could use more of during this offseason.