I think most would agree that the Celtics' biggest need on their current roster if they are looking to be competitive next year rather than just develop young assets would be at center. Trade Rondo or not, having a center allows both of our young power forwards an opportunity to develop as they should. It offers rim protection for Avery if he comes back to be able to be the kind of pressure defender he is. I think most would be more confident with Vitor Faverani as a 2nd string center and Colton Iverson as the bench guy who comes in under emergency circumstances (if he makes the team). So, with Asik no longer a possibility, who should we be targeting?
The Cheap(er) Targets
One thing that you may notice is many of these players are technically listed at PF. I presume that if you are 6'11 or taller and 230 lbs or over you can play center. Some may disagree. McRoberts is 6'11 and weighs in at 230. I've always liked his motor. He could probably be had for some portion of the midlevel exception and would be a cheap option that allowed the Celtics to put out a competitive team next year but didn't take away flexibility for trader danny.Jordan Hill
Another PF/C that would likely be more comfortable playing PF, but will likely end up playing Center. He doesn't bring a whole lot of skill or scoring to the table, but is big and rebounds. He is an even shorter term solution than McRoberts, but does plug the hole at the center position for now.Greg Stiemsma
Now this is a real center. Only problem is he's not a really good center. Stiemsma is my favorite on the list of cheaper options as he will hustle every night and we've seen how much effort he will put out on a nightly basis. Again, not the long term solution, but more than a passable stopgap.Emeka Okafor
Certainly not as cheap as the other cheaper options since even his veteran minimum at this point would be multiple millions per year, but arguably a better player still than the other cheap options. Look, he spent all of last year hurt so it is very hard to know what he still has in the tank. We do too easily forget though that Okafor, while maybe not living up to his lottery selection, was certainly an above average center when he could get on the court.Aaron Gray
He was lost in Sacramento purgatory last year behind Boogie Cousins, but remember when Gray was an exciting young big with Chicago? Well since then he has traveled to New Orleans, Toronto and now Sacramento. He is no longer young, and we probably know what he is now, but he did show flashes in all of his stops and both the Hornets and Raptors resigned Gray after seeing some of him. He ended up in Sacto as part of the Rudy Gay trade. Gray could be the cheapest of all the players I've mentioned so far and might be worth a flyer.
The Expensive Options
Generally, I feel that talking about restricted free agents is a waste of breath. They almost never move teams. Probably the only way a team gets Monroe this summer without Detroit matching is to offer him the max or something close to it. He is not a max player. Also, the Celtics can't offer anyone the max this year. The reason I include Monroe is that I think the Pistons could pretty easily be convinced to do a sign and trade with him. If I were Danny Ainge, I'd offer my trade exception plus the Clippers' pick and a couple of second rounders. If the Pistons actually wanted a player back, I'd do a sign and trade swap with Avery Bradley plus Keith Bogans and a couple of second rounders, maybe the Clippers' pick if they pushed for it. Monroe would be the most expensive option on my list, with likely the longest demanded length of time on his contract.
Unfortunately, I think they would prefer to get rid of Josh Smith's idiotic contract. Fortunately... they won't be able to.Marcin Gortat
Gortat played himself into a pretty good contract this year. He is alternately been a serviceable big man and a disappointment. I never like to give someone a big contract coming off of a great last year of their prior contract, but there does not seem to be as much risk with Gortat as some others. His floor is pretty high. So is his ceiling. He is an above average center, who will do his job but not much else. Perhaps the biggest negative about Gortat is that it will be hard to get him away from Washington. They just made the playoffs for the first time since the Declaration of Independence was signed and will be very motivated to keep him. We won't have the room required to sign him, so would have to do a sign and trade with the Wizards. Presumably, we would offer something like Jeff Green, Vitor Faverani and a first round pick for him. Some of you may think this is too much. I can promise you we would not get him for anything less. We might not be able to get him for that.Pau Gasol
This one is more of a pipe dream than anything else, but if ESPN can have articles about how Phil Jackson is trying to get him to New York for 4 million a year, then I can talk about the Celtics getting him. Make no bones about it, if we manage to get Pau Gasol for next year we are trying to be very good. More moves are following that one. The most likely way we would do it (he is NOT signing somewhere for 4 million) is to offer LA a sign and trade package centering around the trade exception, a first round pick and either Sully or Olynyk. Maybe the Lakers really like Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart. If so, they can have them for Pau.
If I were to trade for Pau, the absolute next thing I would do is call up Minnesota and tell them I'm offering a Godfather offer for Love and they have 24 hours to take it or I am out of the Love trade talks entirely. Then I'd find some inconsequential free agent with the same agent as Love and let a low level staffer leak what I offered so Love can start putting on pressure for the deal to happen. My offer would have to be way overpaying to get him, but it is worth it if I have Rondo and Pau to pair him with. I'd offer Bass, Young, Bogans, Sully, Olynyk, Anthony, every pick the Nets owed me including the swap, the Clippers' pick (if I still had it after the Gasol deal), the Philly pick (likely second rounders, but still...), and the Celtics' first round pick next year and 3 years from now. I'm not sure the Timberwolves could say no to 3 young assets, decent replacement PF and 6 first round picks.
What I Think After Looking at Center Possibilities
It is very apparent that to get anyone the fan base (or Rondo) could get excited about it will have to be a sign and trade. Only the cheap options are attainable without help from the team that they are coming from. So essentially, the ability to get a "good" center is heavily dependent on the willingness of any of those 3 teams to work with the Celtics. If any of the three teams above are interested in moving Monroe, Gasol, or Gortat... I would try my best to make it happen. If not, I would grab one of the cheaper guys, hopefully on a shorter term contract and see if I could roll the dice at another position.
Many of the "expensive" option guys hurt because you would have to give up an asset or multiple assets for them and then turn around and give them a pretty big contract. That being said, they are all better by enough that I would absolutely trade for any of those three guys.
An underrated position is that perhaps Joel Anthony is not that much worse than any of the cheaper options. He is already on the team getting paid. Maybe if you can't get one of the expensive guys, you stand pat with him as the starter, maybe to be eventually overtaken by Faverani. I think especially in light of Danny's statements that they needed a center, you almost have to bring someone in, even if they aren't much of an upgrade over Anthony so that you can say you've upgraded. Most of the other options are at least younger than Anthony.
Let me know what you think and if you think I left any options off.