Surprise, surprise, surprise! According to multiple reports, the Boston Celtics were one of the first teams to call restricted free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas when free agency opened last night at 12 AM. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was the man who made the call, according to BasketballInsider's Alex Kennedy, which will only raise questions about the possibility that Rajon Rondo could be traded.
Keep in mind, the only way the Celtics can "sign" Isaiah Thomas is if it's through a sign-and-trade. As explained in part one of our salary cap preview, the Celts have no cap space, therefore the only have their exceptions to use to sign a player, or their exceptions and non-guaranteed contracts to make a trade.
What does interest in Thomas mean for Rondo?
Thomas was first reported as a possibility for Boston last December when there were rumblings about a massive Rondo blockbuster trade, and again before the draft, when there was talk that the Celtics and Kings could be discussing a move for the #8 pick.
Even more intriguing is Adrian Wojnarowski's draft night report that the Celtics were considering dealing the #6 pick for Kings guard Ben McLemore. Perhaps there is something brewing behind the scenes, like a Thomas and McLemore for Rondo swap. While that return may not be enough to complete a deal, it could work as a solid foundation.
I ask this of you. Would you prefer to have Isaiah Thomas signed to a four-year, $32 million deal as the point guard as the Celtics, with last year's #7 pick Ben McLemore as well, or would you rather go into the 2015 offseason with an unsigned Rondo who would likely command five-years, $100 million?
I'd take Thomas and McLemore, especially considering Thomas' fit in the motion offense as someone who can shoot off-ball. I had McLemore ranked as my #3 prospect last year and still think he has tons of potential as a scoring guard, so he would be a valuable asset as well.
However, thinking outside the box, it wouldn't surprise me if Sacramento was looking for a big man who could complement DeMarcus Cousins in a trade. Is it out of the question that they'd like to move Thomas for a player like Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk? I don't think so, but that still would be an interesting trade for Boston since they'd be paying a backup point guard quite a lot of money with Rondo set to be a free agent.
Former Lakers Kent Bazemore, Jordan Hill receive a call
I was very excited to hear that the Celtics made a call to two of my favorite Laker free agents, guard Kent Bazemore and big Jordan Hill. If you've been reading my offseason preview series, you'll remember that Bazemore is the top guard I outlined as an option for the Celts, and Hill was a perfect choice if they couldn't receive a true rim protector like Larry Sanders or Marcin Gortat via trade.
From the offseason previews, here are my thoughts on Hill:
Because of his small role on a horrendous team last season, few people realize that he was one of the best rebounders in the NBA, averaging 6.3 contested rebounds per 40 minutes, according to SportVU. He was also 24th best in the league, grabbing a 43.7 percentage of contested rebounds. In other words, Hill could provide a Kris Humphries-like impact, but he's also a superior defender, is two-years younger, and will cost a lot less.
And on Bazemore:
Bazemore is like a lesser version of Lance Stephenson, without any of the personality issues. Like Stephenson, "Bazed God" is a combo guard who can handle secondary pick-and-roll duties and be relied upon to make the right play, whether it's pulling up for a shot, driving to the basket, or passing it to a teammate.
While Bazemore isn't a lockdown defender like Stephenson is, he still plays with enthusiasm, intensity, and love for the game. Bazemore frequently anticipates passes and jumps the passing lanes, and he already has a handful of exciting chase down blocks on his resume. With his size, he could potentially defend three positions.
In my opinion, signing both or either of these players would be major steals. Danny Ainge has talked about finding players that make "championship plays," and both Hill and Bazemore certainly do that.
Hill is basically a more talented and younger version of Kris Humphries, and would come at a much cheaper price tag. He was one of the few bright spots for the Lakers last season and could probably come in and start at center for the Celtics. Even though he isn't a true rim protector, he'd be an upgrade over what they already have.
And Bazemore...I like everything there is to like about him. I think he's one of the most severely underrated free agents, only because he didn't receive a chance until late last season with the Lakers' season was over. As I wrote before, I think he's like "Lance Stephenson lite" with his impact on the game. Hustle. Grit. Intensity. Do-it-all player on the offensive end. And he'd come at a bargain for the Celtics? Sign me up.
CelticsBlog Offseason Preview:
Part 1: Do the Celtics have any salary cap space?
Part 2: Finding a Big Man Rim Protector in Free Agency
Part 3: Can the Celtics find a go-to wing they can lean on?