For 15 years, Paul Pierce was the Boston Celtics' go-to scorer at the wing position. But after averaging 21.8 points per game over that historic run, Pierce was traded and the Celtics were without a star go-to scorer they could lean on.
Jeff Green took on that role and had his moments, but he still isn't the type of player who can take over on a nightly basis. And looking at the rest of the roster, there really isn't anyone else with that type of potential either, with Chris Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and rookie James Young being the only other wings.
So, can the Celtics find their next go-to wing scorer in free agency? Of course, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony look like perfect fits, but we all know it's a fantasy for them to sign in Boston.
But there are still some attractive players who could fit that role next season; besides LeBron and Carmelo, here are ten free agency options at wing for the Boston Celtics:
Gordon Hayward (Last Team: Utah), 6-8, 220 lbs (Restricted FA)
2014 Basic Stats: 16.2 pts, 5.2 asts, 5.1 rebs
Boston, Charlotte, and Phoenix are the three teams who will reportedly "throw large offers" at Hayward, according to The Deseret News. However, the Celtics can only offer the full mid-level exception ($5.3 mil) in the deal, which isn't nearly enough to sign Hayward, since both Phoenix and Charlotte could offer him a max contract.
But that doesn't mean Hayward can't be traded to Boston, he'll just have to force his way there. The language of the CBA gets complicated, but to put it simply: Hayward can't sign an offer sheet with Boston no matter what, because Utah would just match it, blocking any chance of a trade. Even if Hayward demanded a trade, the NBA prohibits restricted free agents from being traded to the team whose offer sheet was matched.
In other words, no matter what he's offered, he'll have to either refuse to sign an offer sheet, deciding instead to negotiate a separate contract, or he can sign an offer sheet with any team other than Boston, which Utah would likely match.
If all of this happened, then Boston who would likely have to throw a massive offer Utah's way in order to complete a transaction. It's not unrealistic that a deal would have to include a wing (Jeff Green), a big man (Jared Sullinger), and a future draft pick.
Gordon Hayward might be worth it though, because he always makes an impact as a do-it-all player on both ends of the floor. Even though his percentages dipped last season, he has consistently been a terrific three-point shooter throughout his career, both off the catch and the dribble. Hayward has also developed into an efficient secondary ball handler, with the skill to either score or dish it off to a teammate. He's also a terrific rebounder for his position and is a very good team defender.
It's nice to think about seeing Hayward and Stevens reunite in Boston, but it appears the only way it's happening is if he forces his way to the Celtics, tarnishing his relationship with Utah. But basketball is a business, so we'll see.
Paul Pierce (Last Team: Brooklyn), 6-7, 235 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 13.5 pts, 4.6 rebs, 2.4 asts
Would Paul Pierce like to finish his career in Boston? Probably, but leaving Kevin Garnett alone in Brooklyn would be a difficult move. But even if KG decides to retire, it's difficult imagining seeing Pierce sign with anyone else other than a contender. Maybe if the Celtics make a power move for a guy like Kevin Love, then Pierce could be added on.
With a lesser role in Brooklyn, Pierce turned in his most efficient season since 2011, with a 52.9 eFG%. Even though he can't be relied on to be "the man" every night, Pierce's return to the Celtics would work as an effective stop gap before a long-term option is found through trade or free agency.
Chandler Parsons (Last Team: Houston), 6-9, 227 lbs (Restricted FA)
2014 Basic Stats: 16.6 pts, 5.5 rebs, 4.0 asts
Remember when Boston was rumored to be after Chandler Parsons around the trade deadline earlier this year? Whether or not the story is true is still unknown, but he'd certainly be a perfect fit for the Celtics. He's a stellar three-point shooter who happens to be one of the smartest players in the league, which may be one reason why he's been able to constantly improve his skills despite coming to the NBA as a second round pick.
Unfortunately for Boston, basically everything that was said about Hayward's situation applies here. There is simply no way the Celtics acquire Parsons unless he's re-signed and then used as part of a large package, but the only way that even happens is if LeBron or Carmelo is headed to Houston and they need to clear cap space.
Maybe if Houston is able to sign one of those two superstars, Boston could be a team that can absorb Jeremy Lin's contract with their trade exception and acquire Parsons in the process. Houston could receive a bundle of non-guaranteed contracts, which is something not a lot of teams can provide. But this is only a pipedream, as the chances are slim this all happens in Boston's favor.
Luol Deng (Last Team: Cleveland), 6-9, 220 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 16 pts, 5.7 rebs, 2.9 asts
It's hard to see why Luol Deng would have any interest in coming to the Boston Celtics unless they were in a position to contend. He's going to have a teams like Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta going hard at him, and they present a winning opportunity and a much more wealthy contract. Truly, the only realistic way Deng comes here is if it's in a sign-and-trade with Cleveland.
Of course, Deng is exactly the type of player that would interest the Celtics, so he's on the list. At only 29-years-old, Deng is still a terrific defender and a solid shooter. Though his production has declined in recent years, he would provide a veteran boost on both ends of the court; it's just unrealistic that he signs with the Celts.
Lance Stephenson (Last Team: Indiana), 6-5, 230 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 13.8 pts, 7.2 rebs, 4.6 asts
Lance Stephenson is a triple-double waiting to happen. He's a terrific all-around player, but especially potent on the defensive end. He can effectively defend four positions, which would be valuable in Brad Stevens' preferred style of "switching" on defense. And offensively, he does it all as a perimeter and interior scorer, as a playmaker, and in clutch situations.
Yet, he has his major warts that will likely lower his expected price tag and could eliminate Boston's total interest. Even in a perfect situation with Indiana, he managed to derail himself, suggesting that he can't even control his impulses in a structured setting.
What happens when he gets a huge contract, possibly with a team that doesn't have the same group cohesion Indiana had? Maybe he continues to implode and we're looking at the contract he receives years from now thinking about how crazy of a decision it was. The Celtics are in a spot where they need someone they can rely on, and Stephenson probably isn't that guy.
Boris Diaw (Last Team: San Antonio), 6-8, 250 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 9.1 pts, 4.1 rebs, 2.8 asts
The chances are that Boris Diaw will re-sign with San Antonio, but after drafting Kyle Anderson, it's possible they'd like to go with the younger and cheaper player who plays a similar style. While Diaw will receive interest from a handful of teams, it might be in his best interest to join a team that plays a style similar to the Spurs.
With that said, why not Boston? While Brad Stevens runs different types of set, at its core, it's clear he draws a lot of influence from San Antonio; after all, he has said countless times they play the "purest" and "best" basketball. Even though Diaw is 32-years-old, he could be a valuable veteran for a team looking to compete next season.
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Last Team: Charlotte), 6-7, 210 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 6.9 pts, 2.4 rebs, 1.0 asts
Douglas-Roberts was an afterthought when Charlotte signed him last December, but he stayed persistent and carved out a role as a key player during their playoff run in March and April. CDR doesn't have any great skills, but he's a terrific spot up three-point shooter and has quality instincts when slashing to the rim. On top of that, he is a solid defender, though he isn't a "lockdown" defender by any means.
Nick Young (Last Team: LA Lakers), 6-7, 210 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 17.9 pts, 2.6 rebs, 1.5 asts
There's not much of a chance that Nick Young leaves his L.A. lifestyle and his girlfriend Iggy Azalea for the cold city of Boston, but he could be on the Celtics' radar because of his ability to score the basketball at will. Young's an exciting player who can score from anywhere on the basketball court and has consistently been a knockdown three-point shooter throughout his career.
However, Young has a terribly low basketball IQ but has never been part of a winning atmosphere that promotes healthy behavior. Maybe pairing him with Brad Stevens could improve his shot selection, maximizing his efficiency, but even then, Young struggles as a team defender and hasn't shown a willingness to pass the basketball. If Boston is willing to spend the mid-level exception on him, they better be sure he can improve in these cerebral areas.
C.J. Miles (Last Team: Cleveland), 6-6, 231 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 9.9 pts, 2.0 rebs, 1.0 asts
C.J. Miles has actually developed into quite effective role player, increasing his three-point percentage to 38.8 percent over the course of the past two years. At only 27-years-old, he could work as a sparkplug off the bench since he tends to score in bunches. Maybe the Celtics will be interested because of his low cost, though adding him wouldn't bring them any closer to contending.
Anthony Morrow (Last Team: New Orleans), 6-5, 210 lbs
2014 Basic Stats: 8.4 pts, 1.8 rebs, 0.8 asts
If the Celtics are looking for a shooting specialist, Anthony Morrow could be an excellent cost-efficient option. He shot 45.1 percent from three last year and does a good job of sticking to his role as a shooter and nothing more. However, the C's may prefer with more defensive versatility to complement his limited offense.
What Would I Do?
It's unlikely we see the Boston Celtics make any major moves at this position, but it would be stunning if they didn't at least inquire about Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons. Both players are perfect fits for Brad Stevens' motion offense, and Stevens' connection with Hayward as his former coach is undeniably intriguing; there's something wrong if Stevens isn't on the phone with Hayward at 12:01 A.M. on Tuesday.
Of course, Utah needs to have interest in that for it to ever happen, and Hayward would burn every bridge as a result of such a ferocious trade demand. It's just hard to see it ever happening, so that leaves the role player options on the market.
But are any of them really significant upgrades over Chris Johnson or James Young, or even Gerald Wallace? Unless another move is made, I don't see the Celtics breaking the bank in order to sign Anthony Morrow to a one or two-year deal as a shooting specialist.
With that in mind, if I'm the Celtics, I'm pushing as hard as I can for Hayward or Parsons in a sign-and-trade deal. If that happens, I'm riding with what I have unless other unexpected moves are made which open up spots for specialists.
CelticsBlog Offseason Preview:
Part 3: Top 10 Wing Free Agent Options
Part 4: Top 10 Guard Free Agent Options