It has not even been 24 hours after the start of free agency, and the entire league looks to be shifted on its axis. It was one of the most consequential days in NBA history after all was said and done. The Brooklyn Nets created a new powerhouse in the East, and the Golden State Warriors restructured their roster to try and stay on top in the West. Even with all of this playing out, Kawhi Leonard, one of the most highly coveted free agents, has yet to make a decision on his future going forward.
As for the Celtics, they have a little more work to do this free agency. The team, of course, got a big time commitment in Kemba Walker giving him a four-year, $141 million max deal. He will come in as a perfect, lower maintenance replacement to Kyrie Irving. Even as Walker was a major step to continue to be contenders in the East, the Celtics will now need to focus all their attention to the hole at center.
For a second yesterday, it looked as if the Celtics were working on a move to bring back Al Horford jumping through salary cap hoops with a sign-and-trade for Terry Rozier. That rumor was squashed when last night Horford signed his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. That makes the team now have to focus their attention to other free agents in a shallow pool of candidates at the center position.
One free agent who looks to be a Celtics’ top target is Kevon Looney. He is a 23-year-old center who has played his whole career with the Golden State Warriors. Looney has proven to be a formidable, young center playing great minutes on the biggest stages. He is an athletic big man that could flourish outside of Golden State using he tools that were not necessary on the Warriors’ dynasty. He should be a top choice at center who would not ask for too much depending on how much extra salary cap room the Celtics are going to end up having.
Another bigger name for the Celtics to consider is Enes Kanter. He definitely has his flaws defensively, but as we saw in this year’s playoffs, he plays every game with a chip on his shoulder. Kanter can score and rebound putting up impressive numbers this season with Portland after Jusuf Nurkic went down. If his defensive liabilities could be shaded, Kanter would be an interesting acquisition that could prove positive for the Celtics. Also, his expected salary is right around where the Celtics could pay.
A few other names to also consider for this hole is Willie Cauley-Stein and Noah Vonleh. WCS took a solid jump up last season with the Sacramento Kings. He is a rim protecting player who averaged 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season on an improved Kings squad. Similiar to Looney, he is a younger player that could thrive in a different situation than the one he has been in his whole career. Cauley-Stein is a restricted free agent who the Kings do not look like they will be matching given the moves they have made this far. Vonleh is a bit more of a project in that he has been around the league and has not developed into anything to this point in his career. He is better defensively than some of the other options, but he does not show much on the stat line. Both him and WCS will not be asking for a big contract, so that is a positive for these two players as well.
Finally, the last name that has been floating around is Vincent Poirier. He is a French big man from Baskonia in the EuroLeague. He is 25 years old and averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds for his team last season. Poirier is a relative unknown on the NBA level, so the expectations with him could vary. It could be a very cheap option that the Celtics could steal from overseas reaping the benefits of great scouting.
The harsh reality is there are no game-changing centers left on the market to this point. I do think they can find a serviceable big man to satisfy their needs. If they can find someone that knows the position with a high ceiling, Stevens can work his magic and hopefully fill a need the Celtics will desperately need to address.