With Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and potentially Tyler Zeller entering free agency, Kelly Olynyk due a qualifying offer, and Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele waiting in the wings, what other big men should the Celtics go after this summer?
Keith Smith: My favorite target for the Celtics is Alan Williams. Williams is a restricted free agent with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns would probably pause at matching offers that start in the $8-10 million average annual value range. Williams is a bit undersized, but he plays bigger than his measurements. His per 36 minute numbers last year were 17.6 points per game on 52 percent shooting, 14.8 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game. He's fairly limited as an offensive player, but he would help Boston's interior defense and rebounding immensely, and he could benefit from playing with better players around him.
With the 37th pick in the draft, the Celtics should consider Alec Peters from Valparaiso. He's a 6'9'' combo forward that can really shoot it from the outside. He would make a nice replacement for Jonas Jerebko and/or Kelly Olynyk as a developmental big.
Greg Cassoli: I would like to see Boston make an offer to Dewayne Dedmon. He's a good rebounder and an impactful player on defense. The Spurs were allowed more than five fewer points per 100 possessions with Dedmon on the floor last year, per Basketball Reference. He also shot 62.2 percent from the field, with the majority of his looks coming within three feet of the hoop. That kind of discipline is meaningful for a player whose offensive repertoire is limited to screening, dunking, and layups. He's essentially a more athletic Amir Johnson, without the three-point experimentation.
All that being said, it's not clear to me exactly what Dedmon's market will be. San Antonio may have an interest in bringing him back. He allowed them to play with greater pace, and he was the team's most switchable big man on defense. He's already been indoctrinated into the Spurs culture, and that familiarity my make him more valuable to them than to other teams. Boston might not have enough money to make Dedmon a meaningful offer, should they succeed in their goal of landing a bigger fish in free agency.
Lavoy Allen and Thomas Robinson may serve as interesting, lower-cost alternatives. Both of those players have significant flaws, but rebounding is not one of them, and I would really like to see Boston bring in someone that can help shore up that aspect of the game.
Carl Brooks: Nerlens Noel is the perfect big man to fit into this team as they look to be competitive now and into the future. At just 23 years old with a few seasons under his belt already, he could both help the Cs contend right away while being a part of the young core that will emerge with the #1 pick, Jaylen Brown, and players like Ante Zizic. Noel is a legitimate 7 footer who is extremely fluid for his position. Adding him allows Horford to play the 4 when needed and would allow Boston to have two big men who could move their feet in the pick and roll, whether it comes to hedging or staying with one of the league's great guards for a few steps. Noel is also a paint protector, something no current Celtics big man can say. Offensively, you don't need to run any plays for Noel because the big man is all energy on his dives to the rim off of the pick and roll and his ability and willingness to run in transition. He also averages 5.1 OREB per 100 possessions, making him formidable on both backboards. It's easy to see how a seemingly small addition like Noel would be an instant upgrade from big men like Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. Noel would look great in green, but that would mean prying him away from Dallas, who is high on the restricted free agent and is likely to match any offer that comes his way.
Bobby Manning: I've made it no secret that I'm big on Kyle O'Quinn. He doesn't perfectly fit the Celtics’ big man mold, but he's a massive interior presence at 6'10", 250 pounds. In Orlando and New York, he's had his moments despite being dumped by the Magic and ultimately buried behind other players like Joakim Noah in New York. Last year, O'Quinn averaged 14 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks per 36 minutes. That's no certain transition with more playing time, but it does speak to untapped potential. His contract also leaves the Celts with flexibility, given that he has a small player option of just over $4 million after next season. As for the three-point shooting, he's yet to attempt over 43 in a season, but given that he has taken them in the past there's at least a small chance he could start taking them in a system that emphasizes them. Amir Johnson took more before his arrival in Boston than O'Quinn, but he honed in on the skill at a new level with the Cs. My fascination with O'Quinn revolves around his power, strength, shot-blocking and hopefully a cheap price tag given his impending opt-out. The Celts need a mean, overwhelming interior presence at least to start games and O'Quinn looks like someone who can send some shots flying and throw down some monster slams in first quarters.
Alex Kungu: I think the move will be to grab a big in the second round if one interests Boston, and if not they can just go into free agency and sign a guy for the veteran minimum. Guys like Zaza, Bogut, Randolph, etc. are all guys you can rely on as a 3rd or 4th option. If both Yabusele and Zizic come over, then you'd be more than fine. I'm willing to bet Zizic can give you 15-20 min a night, the vet guy gives you 8-10 mpg, and Horford plays the other mins at the five when the Celtics go to their small lineups.
Bill Sy: James Johnson and Patrick Patterson, but I also want to keep Olynyk. I know there’s cap holds and max contract math that needs to be figured out before keeping KO in green can even be a possibility, but if the money’s right, Kelly should stay. He filled in admirably for Horford as Boston’s first big off the bench, and with a full off-season to get quicker and stronger (last summer he rehabbed after shoulder surgery), he should come back even better.
With that said, the Celtics need to get nastier in the front court, and I’ve always loved the energy that Patrick Patterson and James Johnson have brought to the game. Picture Jordan Mickey with John Wick’s attitude. They both can stretch the floor with their three-point shooting and are ferocious defenders on the switch.