After the massive trade that saw the Boston Celtics acquire Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick, the Celtics not only altered the landscape of the NBA Eastern Conference, but continued an almost complete overhaul of the roster.
Since we last saw Boston take the court in May, they have turned over 11 of 15 players on the roster. Out are Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, Jordan Mickey, Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Thomas, James Young and Tyler Zeller. Those players ranged from inconsequential to nearly invaluable. Or least that is what we thought.
The roster purge began in an effort to clear space to sign Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract as a free agent, but it obviously didn’t end there. Only Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart and the virtually untouchable Terry Rozier remain in green and white from last year. Remarkable turnover for a roster that played in the Eastern Conference Finals less than three months ago.
The Irving trade ate away at the Celtics depth even further, and Boston now sits with 16 players on standard contracts, 14 of them fully guaranteed. Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird are expected to be the Celtics two-way players and are not factored into this count. In Brad Stevens’ parlance, Boston has the following:
- Ball Handlers: Irving, Shane Larkin, Rozier, Smart
- Wings/Swings: Brown, Daniel Dixon, Hayward, Marcus Morris, Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, Andrew White
- Bigs: Aron Baynes, Horford, Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele
Of this group, Dixon and White are on partially guaranteed contracts that were seemingly designed to bring them to training camp and eventually on to the Maine Red Claws in the NBAGL. As for that competition for the final roster spot? That now seems moot, with all 14 of the fully guaranteed players likely to make the regular season roster.
The above roster is incredibly versatile, as several players can fit in multiple positions in Stevens’ rotation/system. Many players will fill their primary role, as well as a secondary role. For example, Morris is likely part of the Wings/Swings group, but could just as easily be a part of the Bigs group.
It is that Bigs group that seems to scream out the most for an addition, but Danny Ainge won’t confine himself to that line of thinking. The challenge is that at the end of August, when most teams are filling out their squads with camp bodies, pickings are fairly slim in terms of available free agents for Boston to fill that last roster spot. Keep in mind, the Celtics are out of cap space, so they have only the Minimum (Rookie or Veteran) to offer any free agent. Because of this, you can rule out a run at any of the remaining restricted free agents, a group that includes: Nerlens Noel, JaMychal Green, Alex Len and Mason Plumlee. Boston can’t offer a deal that wouldn’t be immediately matched, meaning it would have to be a sign and trade, which seems unlikely given how much the Celtics had to give up to match salary for Irving.
With all of that said, in no particular order, here are some available options that the Celtics could consider:
- Tony Allen – Wing/Swing: The Celtics are short a perimeter defender with Crowder traded. Allen can’t slide up to the Bigs spot, but fans would love to bring the tough, defensive-minded guard back to where his career began.
- Matt Barnes – Wing/Swing: Barnes is the kind of tough (some would suggest crazy) player that Celtics fans hate on another team, but would love in green. He is capable of sliding up to the Bigs position and has often done so in recent years.
- Gerald Green – Wing/Swing: Green had a resurgence back with the Celtics last year. Many were sad to see him go when the team had to purge the roster. He remains unsigned and would be a welcomed return as a known quantity, both on the floor and in the locker room.
- Shabazz Muhammad – Wing/Swing: Muhammad has had an incredibly cool market as a free agent. Minnesota wants him back, but they have only the Veteran Minimum to offer, same as the Celtics. Could Muhammad see Boston as closer to contending and want to move on?
- Lavoy Allen – Big: Allen is a veteran who has good playoff experience with both Philadelphia and Indiana. He would play a similar type of role to Amir Johnson, with less prominence.
- David Lee – Big: You know what? Let’s just move on.
- Thomas Robinson – Big: Robinson is still somewhat intriguing. He’s been productive in short stints, but hasn’t been able to catch on anywhere. If the Celtics wanted a low-risk/high-reward play, Robinson makes a lot of sense.
- Derrick Williams – Big: Williams is a good fit, due to his versatility. But at this point his game probably overlaps too much with that of Ojeleye and Yabusele to bring him in.
- Boris Diaw – Big: Diaw’s ability to handle the ball and pass would give the Celtics a nice backup behind Horford. He would fit in nicely and has plenty of big game experience over the course of his career.
- Andrew Bogut – Big: Boston almost signed Bogut last year. He and his agent said they would like to revisit that idea this summer. The Celtics ran out of roster space, but have one now. Despite his lengthy injury history, Bogut would immediately be the best rebounder and rim protector on the roster.
- Larry Sanders – Big: There was interest last year before Sanders picked the Cavaliers. He looked pretty far from being ready to be a contributor though and Cleveland moved on fairly quickly. This one seems like a fairly big longshot at this point.
- Tyler Zeller – Big: There is obviously a comfort level with Zeller. He’s been with the Celtics for a few years now and knows the system. He’s an almost ideal fifth big because he stays ready and doesn’t complain when he doesn’t play. He’s basically the big equivalent to Gerald Green.
With one open spot on the regular season roster and one camp spot open (teams can carry a max of 20 in the offseason), the Celtics will definitely add two players. They may even bring in two players on guaranteed deals and look to create competition for the final roster spots. And don’t rule out a trade either, as Ainge said at the end of his press conference announcing the Irving trade: “The summer isn’t over yet.”