clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Could Festus Ezeli be an option for the Celtics?

The Celtics missed out on superstar forward Kevin Durant, but the mood amongst Celtics nation should still be one of optimism. After landing Al Horford, the Celtics have already cemented themselves as a sure top-3 team in the East and perhaps the biggest conference to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Apart from not having that elusive scoring wing, the Celtics' biggest concern may be it's rebounding.

With Jared Sullinger most likely gone after the acquisition of Horford, the Celtics will be able to sport a more modern frontcourt but will lose a lot in terms of overall rebounding. Sullinger was one of the best rebounders in the league, ranking 20th in rebounding rate, and he was 12th in defensive rebounding rate amongst centers who've played 20 or more minutes. On the other hand, Horford has struggled mightily as a rebounder, ranking 54th in rebounding rate. These type of deficiencies became apparent in the postseason, as teams found a lot of success grabbing offensive boards over the Atlanta Hawks. In order to counter this potential pitfall, the Celtics will need to bring in a player that can rebound the basketball. Sullinger may be an option, but chances are after he was exposed as a liability against modern frontcourts, the Celtics may look elsewhere to fill this void. The answer may be newly unrestricted free agent Festus Ezeli.

In Golden State, Ezeli proved that he can play the role of a rim-running big man who can protect the rim, be an excellent roll man, or step out and guard in the perimeter. He's strong, plays with a high motor, and could be a perfect compliment to Al Horford. Though Horford is also a center, he has the ability to step out and guard opposing power forwards. His shooting and passing combined with his Ezeli's rim-running and above-the-rim play could lead to a strong duo that may be able to stay on the court against small-ball lineups.

In terms of rebounding, Ezeli is 23rd amongst centers in total rebounding rate but is 8th amongst centers in offensive rebounding rate. This puts added pressure on teams, specifically in the playoffs, to make sure they always have a body on him or risk giving a team another possession to work with. Ezeli will begin his next contract at the beginning of his prime, and he will most likely be looking for a bigger role and big money. If the Celtics let go of Amir Johnson, they could afford to pay him around 17-20 million dollars per year without losing any assets. At this stage, he'll most likely be a better version of Amir Johnson and will be nearly 2.5 years younger. The potential downside here is that getting Ezeli probably requires offering a multi-year deal which could go into next year's cap. However, despite the deepness of next year's free agency, it will be weak at the center position, so if the Celtics need to deal him to make room there will be suitors. The same goes for a potential trade scenario; being able to add a potential starting center under contract to a package centered around Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, or Jae Crowder could be the difference in getting a star.

He won't be cheap, but he will be an upgrade that could potentially be the reason the Celtics can beat the Cavaliers in the playoffs, or he could be the final piece in a trade package for another star player. The Celtics would be wise to give him a call.