The Celtics season is over and it’s time to look ahead to the offseason. There could be a lot of moving pieces as the team looks to recover from a disappointing season. Boston ranked 28th in the league in bench scoring and needs better depth pieces around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Another big money offseason move like Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, or Kemba Walker isn’t likely. The Celtics have the necessary star power to compete with the best teams in the league, but their role players just aren’t good enough. Last year, the signings of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague were supposed to solve some of those problems. They did not. With Brad Stevens at the helm, this summer should be fascinating at the very least. Here are a few names the Celtics can target in free agency:
Since Al Horford left town, the Celtics haven’t had a reliable stretch big to space the floor for the offense. Daniel Theis was a decent three-point shooter, but far from consistent. Kornet has the ability to stretch the floor, but is too much of a liability elsewhere to play during key stretches. Bringing Kelly Olynyk back would fix all of those problems.
He might be a little pricey after a great run in Houston. Olynyk averaged 19.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 4.1 APG in 27 games with the Rockets. If Boston can find a way to bring him back, he could be exactly what the offense needs to elevate to one of the league’s best.
Boston has a lot of youth on the team. Between Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford and Grant Williams, the inexperience on the wing didn’t bode well for the success of the team this season.
The soon-to-be 36-year old Ariza isn’t the key cog he once was on offense or defense, but he provided semi-reliable secondary scoring for the Heat this season. He can still play a bench role for a good team, he just can’t be relied upon as a top-3 option on the wing which the Celtics won’t need him to be with Smart, Brown and Tatum around.
Richardson has had something of an underwhelming season after being traded from Philadelphia to Dallas. He’s averaging his fewest points per game since 2017 and shooting a career-low percentage from three. Still, he’s been a starter on a solid team for pretty much the entire season. Perhaps his shortcomings will result in a cheaper price tag and Boston can buy-low on a three-and-D player preparing to enter his prime.
The Celtics went after Millsap last offseason and were reportedly considered a finalist for his services. Now that Denver has Aaron Gordon in the fold, their interest in bringing Millsap back shouldn’t be as high.
Boston could certainly use his veteran presence and versatile style. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much left in the tank, averaging career-lows or near career-lows across the board. Still, for the veteran minimum, he could provide some leadership and be a mentor for the younger players on the roster while scoring around 6-7 points off the bench on a nightly basis.
Many fans around Boston wanted the team to target Tucker at the trade deadline, but Milwaukee snagged him instead. Tucker is another veteran who can provide the team with many of the same benefits as Millsap and Ariza, but is by far the best defender of the group.
Adding Tucker would allow the Celtics to play more effective small-ball lineups where Tucker can sub in for Grant Williams at center and do a much more serviceable job.
The dream of having Nerlens Noel in a Celtics jersey never dies. After a great season with the Knicks, his value is pretty much as high as it’s been since he left Philadelphia. Perhaps Stevens always wanted to add Noel to his roster, but Ainge wouldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe that’s one of the front office decisions in that past that Ainge hinted at Stevens not agreeing with in his retirement press conference.
If Robert Williams’ injury woes persist, Boston needs someone on the roster who can approximate his role. Noel can’t provide quite the same offense, but his shot-blocking ability was on full display in New York this season. The Celtics might have to move on from Tristan Thompson if they’re able to bring Noel in to open up a spot in the rotation, but Thompson’s salary could ultimately net them another solid rotation piece in return.
Photo: (Elsa – AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez – AP Photo)