After a disappointing end to the 2008-2009 season, it didn’t take long for Celtics’ fans to scour the free agent list for this off-season’s newest additions. Our key needs are a backup center (because you can never have too many), a backup small forward (to relieve Paul Pierce’s tired legs) and a veteran point guard to run the second unit. For a list of the free agents this off-season, check out this site.
There is a short “Most Wanted List” started by the great community over at CelticsBlog. These are the free agents that the fans want most to dawn the Celtics green. If these players want to play in Boston, they would be the selection over any other free agents available (in our opinion). The list consists of five players: Grant Hill, Marcin Gortat, Chris Anderson, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace. Hill would be a good small forward off the bench, while the other four are clearly the big men we could use, especially if Glen Davis and Leon Powe aren’t re-signed. Let’s take a look at some free agents, not on the Most Wanted List, by position, starting with the big men.
Zaza Pachulia – A 6’11” center from Georgia (the country) who played his last four seasons in Atlanta. Whenever the Celtics played against the Hawks, I hated Zaza, but definitely can appreciate what he would bring to our bench. He’s got ideal size and a pretty good rebounder, making the transition from Perkins to our backup center that much less painful. He has backed up Al Horford for the past two seasons, and could be looking for a starting gig. If not, we could try to lure him here. Only thing that could stop that is his price tag.
Hakim Warrick – At 6’9″, Warrick would not be an effective backup center, but could easily fill in the role of Leon Powe off the bench. He brings great energy and attacks the rim just as hard. Being a restricted free agent, Memphis could match any offer towards Warrick, meaning Boston may have to overpay to get him. That’s not something we are capable of doing, so this could be a long-shot.
Joe Smith – Before Mikki Moore, Smith was the target Danny Ainge had his eyes on first. After his trade to New Orleans was rescinded, there was talk that he wouldn’t be bought out of his contract. When Moore was bought out, Ainge couldn’t wait around hoping Smith would be available, so he jumped at bringing him in. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as we would have liked. Joe Smith doesn’t have the athleticism as Moore, but is a much better defender and has a more consistent jumpshot that he’s willing to take. He’s got good hands when cutting through the lane and can still flush it from time to time.
There are some viable, backup small forwards among the litter, so if Grant Hill were not to come to Boston, I would be happy/satisfied with any of the following:
Matt Barnes – Barnes is a good, tenacious defender and is a capable scorer on the wing. He can shoot the three, slash to the bucket and even post up when he’s feeling like being a bully. His energy is something that can be contagious, ala Eddie House and Leon Powe. Picking up Barnes would definitely help reduce the minutes Pierce plays in the regular season.
Josh Childress – Everyone knows that Childress went to Greece last season, but is looking at a return to the NBA. If he does return, Atlanta still has the rights to match any offer he receives. Add to that the fact that Marvin Williams is a free agent, I believe the Hawks would only match one of the two. Personally, I think ATL lets Childress go (with a fight, of course) and keeps the younger Williams. Childress would be a player I would give the full MLE to over three years, but I’m sure his agent will push for at least four, probably five years. Childress would be a perfect 6th man and leader of the 2nd unit.
Von Wafer – More of a shooting guard than a small forward, but still could add depth and reduce minutes for Ray and Paul. Wafer is a straight scorer, plain and simple. He’s not going to do much else, but if he could improve his defense a bit, he’d be a nice addition to the bench. Wafer would be more of a last resort if we couldn’t get anyone better.
Backup point guard has been a position of importance for the past two seasons. Sam Cassell played well for us two seasons ago down the stretch while Stephon Marbury struggled for us this year. Who is a possibility for us this time around?
Anthony Carter – Coming off the bench behind Chauncey Billups in Denver, Carter brings great defense and a viable shooter to the bench. He reminds me a bit of Lindsey Hunter, and that’s never really a bad thing. Personally, I see him staying in Denver, but nonetheless, still worth a look.
Ramon Sessions – Played great for the Bucks as a 2nd round pick the last two seasons. He doesn’t have any resemblance of a three-point shot, but is a crafty scorer and a willing passer. He’d be an ideal backup point guard for a championship team. Whether or not he would allow himself to come off the bench is another question. I really couldn’t tell you how much he could command as a free agent, but I think I would give him $7.5 million over three years and be very happy about it.
Stephon Marbury – You had to know this was coming. Marbury showed flashes that he can still score and distribute the ball, but he was WAY too hesitant to pull out the inner Starbury inside. In fact, you could even say he was too much of a team player for his own good. I think an entire off-season with the Celtics and he could find his niche with the team. But if a team offers him a starting spot anywhere in the league, better believe he’s packing his bags.
Jarrett Jack – Viable bench point guard and, although restricted, could be had at a low price, in my opinion. The Pacers already have TJ Ford and, according to my mock draft, will be drafting a point guard in the first round. Perhaps we get lucky and Indiana doesn’t match an offer for JJ, giving us a little help at the point position.
So there’s a quick list of 15 free agents that I think the Celtics should pursue in one way or another. If we could grab two off of the Most Wanted List, I think Celtic Nation (is that copywrited yet?) would be ecstatic. If we weren’t able to snag any of those top-5 targets, I think we could still salvage the off-season with the 2nd tier options. Pairing them up with the best starting unit in the league and a couple decent bench veterans would prepare us for another run at a title.