Almost three weeks into NBA free agency I think it’s a good time to take a look at where the Celtics stand, what they still need to do, and who is still even available. When I wrote my first column about the Celtics free agency plans around a month ago I stressed the need to find a wing scorer and a couple big men to fill the Celtics rather gaping hole in the middle with Perks injury and Rasheed’s retirement. Well so far neither of those things has really happened
With teams around the league making splashes akin to a Big Baby cannonball the Celtics have barely caused a ripple so far in the free agency pool. The team has resigned Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Nate Robinson and have also added Jermaine O’Neal.With those moves the Celtics roster now consists of those four, Kevin Garnett, Perk, Rondo, Glen Davis, Avery Bradley, and Semih Erden. Clearly the Celtics will still be a good team but much more has to be done if they want to have any chance at getting banner number 18.
The first step is getting Rasheed Wallace to commit to retiring. As free agency has gone on and big men people hoped the Celtics could get have kept flying off the market people have quietly started suggesting maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Rasheed didn’t retire.
I want to put a stop to all that talk right now. It would be a terrible thing if Rasheed didn’t retire. His contract is the only possible piece of value the Celtics have that they can move, besides Avery Bradley all things considered. Yes Rasheed did have his moments in the post season but throughout the regular season he showed less life than Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s”. Pairing Rasheed with Jermaine O’Neal and an aging Kevin Garnett would not be a recipe for success. The Celtics need to use Rasheed’s expiring contract to pick up either a wing player or a big man who can help.
In my opinion the Celtics need to use that contract to find a wing player who can help. As everyone who watched the team last year knows, scoring was the Achilles heel of the Celtics last season. I’ve stressed in my columns here again and again the need for the Celtics to find a reliable wing scorer to bring off the bench.
The market has been drawn pretty thin in terms of available wingmen. Mike Miller took less money to join the Superfriends in Miami, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw are off to New Jersey, JJ Reddick is staying in Orlando, and now Matt Barnes is heading to Toronto. This leaves the Celtics without many options other than a sign and trade using Sheed’s contract.
The Celtics have been pursuing Josh Howard in recent days and that could be a move that really helps them out. If they can swing Rasheed’s contract to the Wizards for Howard, a former All-Star with some injury and personal problems but a lot of talent, it could turn out to be a great pickup. Howard would be able to provide both solid defense and scoring off the bench.
Another player that comes to mind is Rudy Fernandez. The Blazers drafted Luke Babbitt and don’t seem to have much room for Rudy in their future plans. While the Celtics might have to include a first round pick with Rasheed’s expiring deal to get Fernandez I think it could really be worth the pick. Fernandez has a ton of talent and could provide a spark off the bench that the Celtics desperately need. Fernandez wouldn’t fill the defensive stopper role the Celtics still have open but he could certainly take some stress of Pierce and Allen with his excellent outside shooting and creativity in the lane.
The last step for the Celtics is still finding another big man to help out down low. Jermaine O’Neal, whether you love the move or are in my camp and aren’t sold on it, is not the answer by himself. Unfortunately the cupboard is about as bare of big men as it is reliable wing scorers.
Right now the best options for the Celtics come down to either an aging big man like Kurt Thomas, Fabrico Oberto, or Joe Smith or an unknown young player like Randolph Morris, Oleskiy Pecherov, Earl Barron, or Anthony Tolliver. A third possibility could be to pick up a perennial underachiever like Tim Thomas or Josh Boone.
I’m pretty torn here as to what the Celtics should do. While the safest move would be picking up a vet like Kurt Thomas who has shown the ability to defend and hit the mid-range jumper a player like Tolliver is extremely interesting. Tolliver is a smaller big man but he is athletic around the basket, plays with great energy, and can hit a jump shot as well. I think Tolliver could combine nicely with Big Baby to give the Celtics some young legs in the frontcourt to help KG and O’Neal carry the burden.
However if the Celtics do go with Kurt Thomas it would be fine by me. Thomas is a consummate professional who comes to play every day and brings a great attitude to the locker room. He certainly won’t be putting on his Rasheed Wallace suit and disappearing until game 84.
In a few more weeks I’ll check back in with another look at what the Celtics have done, and what they still need to do.