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Evaluating the Celtics’ options for their 15th roster spot

What type of player should Boston look to add?

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Justin Jackson. Juwan Morgan. Luke Kornet. Vincent Poirier. Guerschon Yabusele.

Those are the last five “15th men” on the Boston Celtics.

Of the group, only one has been able to stick in any sort of fashion, and that’s Kornet, who played in 69 games for the Celtics this past season in his return to the club.

The takeaway? The 15th man on the roster usually doesn’t matter. It’s often a throwaway player who provides a solid locker room presence, a specific skill, or is younger and can be developed.

But while Boston’s history of 15th men doesn’t leave much hope for them finding any sort of contribution, other teams have found success.

Just look at the Golden State Warriors. Gary Payton II was moments away from accepting a role as one of the team’s video coordinators before he accepted a 10-day deal to be the final guy on the roster. Nowadays, he’s making nearly $9 million a season, and in 2022, he played a significant role in Golden State’s championship run.

The Miami Heat brought on Caleb Martin on a two-way contract two seasons ago, and he slowly grew into one of their most important contributors.

In each of those situations, the team had opportunities to dole out for the players. Golden State utilized Payton’s defensive presence and talent as a cutter, while the Heat’s bench is molded by undrafted talent, paving the way for Martin to contribute.

There won’t be many opportunities in Boston, as they have a stacked roster with plenty of young players who would receive minutes over any 15th man they sign.

That said, there are a couple of spots where the Celtics could use a hair more depth. Behind their big-man trio of Kristaps Porzingis, Robert Williams, and Al Horford, Kornet is left as the lone big man. And with the injury and age concerns of the former three, adding another big could be useful.

The wing position also poses an intriguing quirk, as the Celtics have a fine group of point guards and a fine group of forwards, but not many players who fit in between. Does Dalano Banton play up? Can Malcolm Brogdon keep up with wings on the defensive end? Can Sam Hauser and Oshae Brissett play down? Are the Celtics comfortable rolling out rookie Jordan Walsh for backup minutes at the wing? At the very least, having another guy in that spot could be an insurance plan. Add in the fact that Justin Champagnie’s contract is non-guaranteed, and having an extra playable guy on board would be useful.

There are a bunch of different groups a 15th man could fit into, so that’s how we’ll break it down here.

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Group 1 - Why aren’t these guys signed?

Kelly Oubre

Does Oubre wait for a team to offer him an MLE? Would they have thrown him that offer already if they were interested? Both are valid questions. But if teams are indeed out on Oubre, he could be a fine candidate for Boston to target should he be forced to settle for the minimum. He’d give them a nice scoring punch, and when playing alongside the right group, he’s a solid three-point shooter.

Christian Wood

It seems as though teams around the league are out on Wood this summer, as reports have indicated he’s only received minimum contract offers. The defensive concerns are certainly there, but Wood could be a decent choice for a third-string big.

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Group 2 - Legitimately intriguing options

Trendon Watford

This may be the most intriguing option of the entire list. The 22-year-old was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this summer but put up solid numbers this past year. He’s a strong but undersized big who could give the Celtics legitimate center minutes behind their core three guys.

Terence Davis

Rumors of Boston’s potential interest in Davis swirled at the beginning of the offseason, but there hasn’t been much buzz since. He’s an undersized wing who provides a solid scoring punch and decent three-point shooting.

Justise Winslow

Injury concerns could get in the way of this idea, but Winslow’s frame and underrated playmaking could make him an intriguing option to give Boston some plug-and-play minutes at the wing spot. He’s not a great shooter, but he does almost everything else fairly well.

Group 3 - Take-a-chance players

Hamidou Diallo

Diallo has been unable to stick anywhere in the league up to this point, but his wild athleticism keeps him around. At 24 years old, the clock is ticking for him to find a role, and with the Celtics, he could look to lock in on the defensive end and hope to capitalize on cuts on offense. The lack of shooting makes the fit questionable, though.

Frank Ntilikina

Like Diallo, time is running out for Ntilikina to find a spot in the NBA, especially after he failed to stick with the Dallas Mavericks. That being said, the 24-year-old’s defensive presence could help him play up to the wing spot and act as a defensive specialist for the Celtics if they wanted to take a chance.

Udoka Azubuike

One of Boston’s Summer League guys, Azubuike looked a bit slow at times, but he has a great NBA frame. If the Celtics can work with him on his foot speed and positioning, the 23-year-old could be a solid developmental big-man option.

Group 4 - Anything left in the tank?

Bismack Biyombo

There’s a chance Biyombo deserves to be on the “legitimately intriguing options” list, but the fact that the Phoenix Suns didn’t bring him back is odd. He’s been solid for them the past two seasons, yet they let him walk when they most needed depth. Having Biyombo play behind Williams at the center spot wouldn’t be a terrible idea if he still has enough athleticism left.

Danny Green

Remember when everyone was upset that the Celtics lost out on the “Danny Green sweepstakes” to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season? Well, here’s their chance to make up for it, should they choose to do so. At worst, Green would bring a veteran presence without playing real minutes, and at best, he’s able to make some shots.

JaMychal Green

Green quietly played a decent role for the Warriors this past season, sometimes eclipsing Jonathan Kuminga in the rotation. He’s a bit undersized for the center spot, but he’s prone to a few hot shooting nights. Having him as a fourth or fifth-string big couldn’t hurt.

Terrence Ross

It feels like the Celtics were mentioned as a destination for Ross for years, so we might as well throw him on this list. After finally leaving the Orlando Magic this past year, Ross was solid in the regular season for Phoenix, but his shooting splits trailed off in his limited playoff minutes.

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Group 5 - Vibes guys

Blake Griffin

The ultimate locker room presence. Griffin established himself as a fan and team favorite in Boston this past season, as seemingly everyone on the roster had something positive to say about the Bus One Boys leader. Recent rumblings have indicated that the team could wait until right before the season begins to bring him back, but it would be a fun addition if they do.

Boban Marjanovic

There’s a chance that Marjanovic could give the Celtics limited center minutes next to Kornet, but the latter is more likely to get significant run. If Boston did bring in Marjanovic, it would likely be for deep center depth and, as the group name indicates, the vibes.

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