Kevin Durant may be the prize, and Dwight Howard an intriguing possibility, but the Celtics aren’t taking any piece of their roster for granted.

To that end, they plan to offer qualifying offers to big men Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. Per Steve Bulpett of the Herald:

Kevin Durant may be the prize, and Dwight Howard an intriguing possibility, but the Celtics aren’t taking any piece of their roster for granted.

To that end, they plan to offer qualifying offers to big men Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. Per Steve Bulpett of the Herald:

Qualifying offers must be made by Thursday, and extending them allows the Celtics to match any offer sheet Zeller and/or Sullinger sign in restricted free agency. Otherwise, they would’ve become unrestricted free agents.

Sullinger’s offer will be for $4,433,683, while Zeller’s one-year offer is for $3,695,169, according to the Herald.

Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds this year, though he was ineffective against the Hawks in the playoffs. Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds, falling out of Brad Stevens’ rotation at times.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Mar 10, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Hawks 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics reportedly will target Hawks forward Al Horford in free agency. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

Assuming the Celtics don’t land Kevin Durant, they’re going to need to shift their focus to signing other key free agents to improve their roster.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will target Al Horford when free agency officially begins July 1, and will be one of many teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Nets and Wizards, interested in the nine-year pro. (A Thursday report indicated the Thunder also plan to make a push for him.)

If the Celtics don’t land Durant or Horford, what kind of players do they need?

“We need good players,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last Friday as the team introduced five of its six draft picks in Waltham.

Brad Stevens was more specific.

“The biggest needs as we look at it are continuing to grow ourselves on the offensive end and what we decide to do with regard to protecting the rim,” the coach said.

There are a handful of players available who could help in scoring and rim protection, which could push the Celtics into contending with the champion Cavaliers.

However, the most talented players come with an expensive price tag. The Celtics will have to weigh their options and target the players who are worth the big bucks, while also looking to at second- and third-tier options who offer plenty of upside.

Here are four free agents the Celtics could sign this summer.

AL HORFORD
2015-16: 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Horford sits atop the list — his ability to stretch the floor on offense and defend opposing big men makes him a great fit in Boston. His leadership qualities will be beneficial for this young Celtics team — along with his experience. Horford, who turned 30 earlier this month, is also consistent — while his 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last season aren’t numbers that are going to amaze you, his dependability will make a big impact. He would give the Celtics their first consistent scoring big man since Kevin Garnett. And much like Garnett was for the Celtics, Horford is a great pick-and-roll guy who can knock down shots and score in the post. He is a max guy, but is one of the exceptional players of this free agency class who deserves a contract worth over $20 million annually. Placing an All-Star like Horford alongside Isaiah Thomas would bring this Celtics team to the second round of the playoffs, with potential to go beyond.  It would be a huge step toward contenting with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.

NICOLAS BATUM
2015-16: 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists

Prying Batum out of Charlotte won’t be easy — the Hornets reportedly have made re-signing Batum their top priority this summer — however, the Celtics should target the veteran shooter because he would flourish in a Celtics uniform. At 6-foot-8, he’s a versatile scorer who can knock down 3-pointers, score off the dribble and defend the perimeter. Along with Avery Bradley’s shooting, Batum’s ability would create space for players like Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, who have no problem scoring when they drive to the hoop. He’s also a good passer — making him a great piece to add to Stevens’ up-tempo offense — and an all-around great offensive weapon who would fit in nicely.

EVAN TURNER
2015-16: 10.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists 

If the Celtics strike out in trying to sign Durant and/or Batum, would it be a terrible idea if they focused their attention on bringing back Evan Turner? It’s no secret that Stevens values what Turner brings to his team — hustle on both ends of the court, coupled with a great locker room presence. In two seasons, his effort, mid-range scoring and underrated defense has turned him into a fan favorite in Boston, where he transformed into one of the league’s best sixth men last season. Sure, he’s not an excellent 3-point shooter, but Turner proved to be a secondary playmaker, and after July 1 he will be pursued as a Plan B option for a few NBA teams looking for help at the wing position or in the backcourt. Turner already has expressed how much he adores the Celtics, but with this new NBA salary cap, it may take at least $10 million to keep him around. In this new era, that’s money well spent.

IAN MAHINMI
2015-16: 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

He’s the least-flashiest name on this list, but Mahinmi provides plenty of upside for a 29-year-old defensive big man who is coming off the best season of his career. In his first starting role, he averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and a block a night for the Pacers — so he’s not a double-double guy, per say, but his contribution up front helped the Pacers lead the league in fewest points allowed last season. He’s one of the best affordable big men available, and with centers like Hassan Whiteside and Bismack Biyombo on the verge of signing max deals — Mahinmi is the Celtics’ biggest bang-for-your-buck center available.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

If you’re a Celtics fan, your attention should be on what unfolds in the Hamptons Saturday.

It is in this Long Island vacation spot that, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celts will be meeting with free agent Kevin Durant in attempt to convince the forward that Boston is the place to be for the 2016-17 season.

If you’re a Celtics fan, your attention should be on what unfolds in the Hamptons Saturday.

It is in this Long Island vacation spot that, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celts will be meeting with free agent Kevin Durant in attempt to convince the forward that Boston is the place to be for the 2016-17 season.

According to ESPN.com, Durant is expected to meet with Oklahoma City Thursday before heading to the Hamptons, where he will meet with five clubs. The whirlwind of get-togethers start Friday when the 27-year-old All-Star will talk with both the Warriors and Clippers.

Saturday morning, Durant is scheduled to meet with the Spurs before his Celtics talk later in the day. He will finish up his meetings Sunday, hosting the Heat.

NBA free agents can’t sign new contracts until July 7.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics will reportedly get a meeting with free agent center Dwight Howard and apparently the team has a good shot at landing him.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard

The Celtics will reportedly get a meeting with free agent center Dwight Howard and apparently the team has a good shot at landing him.

According to Bovada, the Celtics have the best odds of landing Howard at 10/11 odds. The Hawks have the next highest odds at 3/2, followed by the Rockets at 10/1 and then the field at 5/2.

Howard opted out of a $23.2 million player option with Houston for next year, thus making him a free agent.

The 30-year-old averaged 13.7 points a game with 11.8 rebounds in 71 games with the Rockets last season.

For more Celtics news, visit weei.com/celtics.

 

 

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list. 

Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday.