Offseason Update Series: Top 10 Remaining Free Agent Big Men for the Boston Celtics

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Will the Boston Celtics be able to find a rim protector in free agency?

It's mid-July, your air conditioner isn't working, and sweat is dripping down your face as you sit there looking at your computer waiting for a colossal trade or signing by the Boston Celtics.

The green fireworks haven't come this summer, and despite some minor changes, the offseason has been a dud so far. Hopes of acquiring Kevin Love are still alive, but other options are quickly running out as many of the NBA's top free agents have already signed with new clubs.

But Boston still has their Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level, Bi-Annual, and Minimum Player Salary exceptions available to sign free agents, which could mean they'll become active as we inch towards the end of the hot summer.

Position Overview

Boston currently has seven "big men" (centers and power forwards) on their roster, with only six under contract. Of those six players with guaranteed deals, only one of them, Joel Anthony, is a "true center."

Players like Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani, and Kelly Olynyk are all quality players but are perimeter-based scorers, and none of them are prototypical rim protectors. The same goes for both Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who are well-rounded offensively, but can't be expected to lockdown the paint.

It's unlikely that Boston will be able to make a large splash in free agency, especially if they're hoping to find an interior defensive-oriented center, but there are some serviceable options.

Here are the top ten remaining bigs, ranked by their fit with the system and skill level:

Top Options

1. Greg Monroe (Team: Detroit, Restricted FA)

At only 24-years-old, Greg Monroe is a terrific scorer on the low post who would compliment Boston's other big men quite well. With a plethora of post moves, Monroe is a creative scorer inside, who also does a fantastic job of passing to his teammates as well. He can also be a force on the boards; of players who averaged 7 or more rebounds per game, Monroe ranked as 8th best in the league, snatching 44.2 percent of contested rebounds, according to SportVU.

However, Monroe might not be worth his heavy price tag considering the fact that he's not a true rim protector. The 6-foot-10 big men struggles defending on the perimeter and he is not much of a shot blocker, averaging less than one per 36 minutes in his career.

If Boston acquired Monroe in a sign-and-trade with Detroit, perhaps in exchange someone like Jeff Green and a draft pick, they wouldn't fill their need on the defensive end, though the offense would be upgraded drastically. Fans shouldn't be expecting to see Greg Monroe with the Celtics anytime soon, unless they believe he can be a better defender than he has proven to be so far.

2. Ed Davis (Last Team: Memphis)

Could Ed Davis be the classic example of a player who only requires a consistent opportunity in order to flourish? Because of various different circumstances, Davis has never really received his chance in the NBA, but the Celtics could be a fit for him, possibly even as a starter.

At only 25-years-old, Davis is one of the best defensive big men remaining in free agency, as he held opponents to a miniscule 43.3 at-rim field goal percentage last season, ranking him in the same league as bigs such as Roy Hibbert, Kendrick Perkins, and Serge Ibaka. Naturally, Davis was a bench player and faced a lower level of competition, but film study confirms that he is very good at moving his feet and using his athleticism to protect the rim.

Davis scored 1.26 points per possessions in the pick-and-roll, the 6th most efficient rate in the league last year, according to Synergy Sports. Davis showcased his improving hands, quick feet, and verticality, a sign that he may just require a higher usage in order to improve statistically. Perhaps the Celtics are a team that can afford to overspend for him on a short-term deal, giving him a chance to realize his potential.

Low Risk, Medium Reward

3. Emeka Okafor (Last Team: Phoenix)

The last time Emeka Okafor played in an NBA game was April 15, 2013, because he sustained a neck injury and missed the entire 2014 season. However, Okafor was one of the league's most reliable defenders back in 2013, helping the Wizards to one of the best defensive ratings in the league. Assuming he is at least 75-to-80 percent of the player he was in 2013, he is arguably the next best option remaining on the market.

4. Kris Humphries (Last Team: Boston)

To many fans, Kris Humphries was a pleasant surprise for the Boston Celtics, but he really did what anyone who has watched him before could've expected: play average defense, run the floor, rebound, and hustle. You know what you're getting from Humphries, and that's a guy who'll play hard every night, but the Celtics wouldn't magically get their rim protector if he re-signed. He'll make whichever team he signs with very happy, but it probably won't be the Celtics considering the logjam at the position.

5. Greg Stiemsma (Last Team: New Orleans)

It'd actually be quite surprising if the front office didn't at least call Greg Stiemsma's agent; he's a former Celtic, a terrific human, and a good shot blocker. Even though "Stiemer" is only a backup, he could come off the bench and provide a lot more energy and production than Joel Anthony will. For a low price tag, Boston should take a look at him.

6. Andray Blatche (Last Team: Brooklyn)

Ironically, Andray Blatche is quality fit for Boston's offensive system, as he can explode for huge games, scoring from all areas on the court, but he's one of the worst defenders at his position in the league. If Boston even inquires about Blatche, it means a need for a scoring big man has opened up.

7. Ekpe Udoh (Last Team: Milwaukee)

Milwaukee declined to make a qualifying offer to the oft-injured Ekpe Udoh, making him an unrestricted free agent who could interest the Celtics. Udoh might be a liability on the offensive end, but he's a terrific shot blocker and solid rebounder, and could help protect the paint off the bench.

Last Resorts

8. Greg Oden (Last Team: Miami)

As fun as Greg Oden's return to the NBA has been, there's a reason why the Miami Heat sparingly played him during the playoffs: he's no good anymore. Oden is only 26-years-old, but he's playing on 36-year-old legs, which showed in his lack of ability to close out on the perimeter and move laterally. Oden might be worth a flyer, since it's possible he'll come back more athletic this season, but it depends on the price.

9. Jermaine O'Neal (Last Team: Golden State)

Everyone thought "J.O." was done after his horrendous 2012 season with the Celtics, but he still keeps on grooving as a quality backup. But at 35-years-old, would Boston really consider signing O'Neal, a player they reportedly "hated" for "stealing money" because of his poor work ethic? Maybe as a last resort the Celts will turn to him, but sticking with Joel Anthony is a far superior option.

10. Jason Smith (Last Team: New Orleans)

There is no doubt that Jason Smith is a quality big man, but he'd be redundant considering the state of Boston's roster. Smith is a mid-range jump shooting specialist, not a defender, rebounder, or inside scorer. It would be surprising if the Celtics signed him unless a trade occurred, opening up the need for him.

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