Entering the 2010 summer free agency period, the Celtics had a short list of their top priorities: Retain the services of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, and secure a legitimate big man to handle the paint while Kendrick Perkins rehabs his injured right knee. Check, check, check, and check. Doc, Paul, and Ray will remain with the Celtics through at least next season, and Jermaine O'Neal (who will be officially introduced later this afternoon) is now on board after accepting the Celtics' offer of the full Mid-Level Exception.
However, the Celtics failed to bring back Tony Allen, who elected to hit the highway and head for The Volunteer State, where he'll make about $10 million with the Memphis Grizzlies over the next three seasons. The loss of TA magnifies the lack of depth the Celtics possess along the perimeter, along with a now faulty support system for Pierce and Allen.
News also broke this morning that the Shelden Williams era is now over, as the journeyman power forward will be taking his talents to Denver next season. I know, I know. I'm heartbroken, too. But, with Williams now gone, the Celtics could use a quality, low-cost, insurance big man, capable of stepping in should any other injuries befall the front line once the season commences.
So, who's still available? Hit the jump for three potential candidates.
Right now, the Celtics' best asset for acquiring a quality player to add bench depth is Rasheed Wallace's contract, but they can also sign multiple players to deals worth the Veteran's Minimum. Here are three candidates who, based on their salaries from last season, might consider such an offer from Boston.
Matt Barnes - If he's with you, you love having him. If he's against you, you hate everything about him. Barnes is a gritty, tough-minded, 6'7 forward who the Celtics saw with the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. He'll replace some, if not most, of the defense Tony Allen would have brought to the table, and his offensive game stretches all the way out to the three-point line. Barnes's toughness actually stuck out on a somewhat soft Orlando team this past season, and that attribute should help him fit right in with the Celtics' preferred style of play.
Barnes's stint with the Magic might very well be over, as Orlando recently agreed to a deal with forward Quentin Richardson. However, Barnes might very well be looking for more than the Veteran's Minimum, as - despite him making only $1.6 million last season - he himself said he opted out of the final year of his most recent contract in order to make some more money before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated upon at the end of next season. While he could most likely field better offers elsewhere, if winning remains a priority to Barnes, he might not want to rule out Boston as a potential destination.
Kurt Thomas - Just when you thought it wasn't possible for the Celtics to get any older. Thomas will be 38 at the start of next season, but if the production he gave the Bucks in this most recent postseason is any indication, he could provide some quality minutes for the Celtics off the bench.
In seven games against the Hawks in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, Thomas stepped in for the injured Andrew Bogut, averaged 28.6 minutes per game, posted 5.4 points per game, and, more importantly, 7.9 rebounds per game. He pulled down a personal series-high 13 rebounds in Game 3, and, much like Barnes, plays with a specific toughness that makes up for what some might consider a lack of size (he's listed at 6'9). On top of that coveted toughness, he'd bring with him solid defense, and another veteran presence, with 89 games worth of playoff experience under his belt. He made just under $4 million last season, but it's difficult imagining him fielding any significant offers due to his age.
Joel Anthony - His numbers aren't overwhelming: 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.36 blocks for the Heat last season. In the aftermath of the Miami series, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Anthony. Like Thomas, he's listed at 6'9, but he played with a certain ferocity that caught my eye, and I remember thinking afterward that, after Wade, Anthony was one of the more important players for the Heat during that series, mainly due to the energy he brought that wasn't put forth by the majority of his teammates. He's more athletic than people realize, which gives me hope he could continue to progress as a shot blocker. For a fourth of fifth big guy off the bench, I'll take it. Anthony made $825,497 last season, so a Veteran's Minimum deal would actually count as a pay raise. The Heat have expressed interest in bringing Anthony back, but, for Miami, it could come down to how much it's willing to pay other free agents who are higher up on its own list.