Some potential offseason targets for the Celtics
The Celtics ended this season tired and thin. With that in mind, adding depth and youth should be the focus of this season’s offseason. Unfortunately, the Celtics don’t have a first-round pick this year, so trades and free agent signings will have to buoy a team that has one or two years left in its championship window without making any major changes.
Here are some unrestricted free agents that have me intrigued:
Trevor Ariza, small forward, Los Angeles Lakers
This one would feel great. Ariza is the type of athletic wing who could ease the load placed on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. He’s only 23, can defend with his length and athleticism, and has hit at a respectable clip from long range of late (an eye-popping 51 percent from three during the playoffs and a more reasonable 34.9, 34.4, and 34.8 percent in January, February, and March, respectively-although he did put up a putrid three-for-16 on three-point attempts in April).
Ariza could be a long-term solution at the small forward spot, and should GM Danny Ainge allow Ray Allen to walk away after next year, Pierce could slide back to the 2 and Ariza could start at the 3. He would provide a decent young core to build around after the Big Three vacate the premises with Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and a re-signed Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
So, what would it take? Look for a full mid-level deal for about four years or so. If the finances work the Celtics could do far worse than weakening the Lakers at the same time as they strengthen their immediate plans for contention and longer-term plans for sustained winning. I’d offer him four years and $20 million and hope he bites. The Lakers likely will end up retaining the talented UCLA product should they consider him vital enough to spend some cash on and/or choose the younger forward over fellow unrestricted free agent Lamar Odomo, but the Celtics should certainly look into it. He would look great in green.
Chris Andersen, forward/center, Denver Nuggets
Andersen has come back from substance-abuse problems that had him out of basketball two years to become a vital cog in one of the four remaining playoff teams. He brings shot-blocking, rebounding, and an incredible look. Add him to the Celtics and you’ve got insurance for next season’s KG-less stint that will surely come, and you’ve added height and defense-i.e. what we were hoping for out of Mikki Moore before he proved to be utterly worthless in the postseason. Andersen is 30, but he should be solid for another few years. He’ll have plenty of suitors, but given the poor economy he might be another mid-level guy. I’d throw a three-year, $15 million deal at him without much hesitation, but I fear Denver will also retain its free agent with a similar deal.
If the "Birdman" could be lured to Boston, he’d make the front court a strength in the way it was when P.J. Brown pushed Big Baby and Leon Powe to unnecessary options off the bench in Boston’s title run last year.
Lindsey Hunter, point guard, Chicago Bulls
This would be a one-year, veteran’s minimum type guy, but he’d be worth it. Hunter can still bring absolute lock-down one-on-one defense in spurts, and could serve as an 8- to 10-minute a game backup to Rajon Rondo. The real benefit would be Hunter’s defensive intensity wearing off on the mercurial future of the franchise, who needs to learn that without KG cleaning up his messes he can’t merely swipe at the ball as his man drives by and retain his standing as an elite defensive point guard. It’s become more and more clear to me that Rondo’s meteoric defensive stats last year came in large part thanks to the system, and that he has the skills but not always the will to dominate his man the way he should. Add Hunter to the mix and that may change.
Here’s perhaps the world’s best basketball writer, ESPN.com’s John Hollinger, on Rondo’s defense: "Though his stats won’t blow you away like they did the past two seasons, I don’t think there’s any real doubt anymore that Rondo is the best defensive point guard in the game. You wish he wouldn’t try to gamble for steals from behind quite so often, but the combination of his quickness and long arms, and Boston’s impeccable defensive schemes, makes him a nightmare opponent for opposing point guards."
Antonio McDyess, forward/center, Detroit Pistons
His name has already been rumored in the local papers at least as a nice match, and I tend to agree. At 34 McDyess should remain a quality option off the bench for another two years. If he would take a short deal for mid-level money, he’d be worth it.
Anthony Parker, shooting guard, Toronto Raptors
I’m not sure how the market will treat him given his age (he’ll turn 34 on June 19), but Candace’s brother can shoot, and he would be a nice addition to the bench, where Tony Allen has proven he won’t be adding the three-point shot to his arsenal of moves any time soon-an arsenal that includes jumping at pump fakes and the worst handle of any guard in the league mixed with an explosive first step.
Rasho Nesterovic, center, Indiana Pacers
He’s always been mediocre, but he’s a true seven-footer, and the Celtics could use height. If he’ll come to Boston for cheap and there aren’t any better options left, he’ll do for a year, two years max.