With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Small forwards. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.
The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.
With Green, Wallace, Johnson and Young all under their control for at least the next two seasons, the Celtics seem locked into the position at first glance. Upon closer look, Ainge will surely shop the two years and $18.4 million left on Green’s contract if the youth movement continues, Wallace could be jettisoned, too, Johnson’s contract isn’t guaranteed and Young is just 18 years old. This year’s free agent small forward crop is as good as the shooting guard list is bad, so don’t be surprised if the C’s are linked to every name out there except LeBron James.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.
THE JEFF GREENS
Green at his best can start for a playoff team, as he’s proved throughout his career, but Green isn’t always at his best. Still, $9.2 million is the going rate for an athletic 6-foot-9 forward averaging 17 and five a game, so a trade suitor isn’t out of the question. If that’s the case, the C’s could be serious players on the free agent market.
RICH MAN: CARMELO ANTHONY
2013-14: 2,982 min, 27.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 56.1 TS%, 24.4 PER
Why? One of the game’s 10 best players, Anthony is a volume scorer who would benefit greatly from playing alongside a pass-first point guard like Rondo.
Why not? Not only would the C’s have to get creative in freeing cap space to offer Anthony a max contract, they’d also have to convince him to come to Boston.
COMMON MAN: CHANDLER PARSONS
2013-14: 2,783 min, 16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 56.5 TS%, 15.9 PER
Why? Houston’s second-round pick in 2011, Parsons quickly established himself as a legit third option on the Rockets, but GM Daryl Morey’s own pursuit Melo might make him expendable.
Why not? If the Rockets can’t land Melo, LeBron or both, they’ll do their damnedest to keep Parsons. And if the 26-year-old hits the open market, plenty of other teams will come calling and drive up the price.
POOR MAN: GORDON HAYWARD
2013-14: 2,800 min, 16.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 spg, 52.0 TS%, 16.2 PER
Why? A poor man’s Melo, at least in this sense, is another man’s treasure. Considering Hayward’s relationship with Stevens, a Butler reunion seems too good to be true. The 24-year-old could be the steal of this free agent class.
Why not? The Jazz can still match any offer Hayward receives this summer, so Ainge would either have to give him an offer Utah CAN refuse or lessen the blow for GM Dennis Lindsey with an sign-and-trade offer.
HOMELESS MEN: Luol Deng (2,213 min, 16.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 51.7 TS%, 15.2 PER); Evan Turner (2,457 min, 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 49.8 TS%, 12.4 PER); Shawn Marion (2,409 min, 10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 53.7 TS%, 13.7 PER); Caron Butler (1,419 min, 10.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 51.2 TS%, 12.2 PER); Michael Beasley (831 min, 7.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 55.9 TS%, 16.8 PER).
THE GERALD WALLACES
Saddled with one of the NBA’s worst contracts, the Celtics can either cut Wallace and spread his $20 million cap hit over five seasons (stretch provision) or find another team willing to take on his salary as part of a larger package. Either way, they’d love to dump his deal, and here are a few less expensive options should they succeed.
RICH MAN: PAUL PIERCE
2013-14: 2,098 min, 13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 59.5 TS%, 16.8 PER
Why? In addition to the sentimentality behind bringing back one of the franchise’s greatest players, Pierce can still play and would be invaluable in the locker room.
Why not? Given the news that Kevin Garnett plans to return to the Nets for the final year of his deal, it’s hard to imagine Pierce abandoning KG in Brooklyn.
COMMON MAN: TREVOR ARIZA
2013-14: 2,723 min, 14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 59.0 TS%, 15.8 PER
Why? Ariza is one of those guys whose seemingly been around forever and never ages. He’s 28 and had a career year for a Wizards team that made a surprising run to the conference semis.
Why not? After declining each year since signing a five-year, $34.0 million deal in 2009, Ariza returned to form in a contract season. That’s a red flag, especially when teams are bound to drive up his price again this summer.
POOR MAN: DANNY GRANGER
2013-14: 847 min, 8.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 50.2 TS%, 10.9 PER
Why? Granger has All-Star talent, as he proved in 2009, when he averaged 25.8 points on 58.4 percent true shooting. As recently as two years ago, he produced 18.7 points, which would have led the C’s last season.
Why not? Now past his 30th birthday, Granger hasn’t been able to stay on the floor for two seasons due to reoccurring issues with his left knee. In all likelihood, his days as an impact player are behind him.
HOMELESS MEN: Mike Miller (1,707 min, 7.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 61.9 TS%, 12.5 PER); Marvin Williams (1,674 min, 9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 54.0 TS%, 14.0 PER); C.J. Miles (984 min, 9.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 56.9 TS%, 16.0 PER); Al-Farouq Aminu (2,045 min, 7.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 51.6 TS%, 13.2 PER); P.J. Tucker (2,490 min, 9.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 54.0 TS%, 13.3 PER); Richard Jefferson (2,213 min, 10.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 57.3 TS%, 11.8 PER); Xavier Henry (908 min, 10.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 51.1 TS%, 12.3 PER); Wesley Johnson (2,240 min, 9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg, 52.2 TS%, 11.0 PER); Jordan Hamilton (1,019 min, 6.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 50.7 TS%, 12.7 PER).
THE CHRIS JOHNSONS
Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’t be an upgrade over Johnson or any other available point guard at the league minimum. Thanks, but no thanks.
Rasual Butler: 378 min, 2.7 ppg, 58.5 TS%, 12.2 PER
Dante Cunningham: 1,635 min, 6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.0 apg, 47.4 TS%, 12.6 PER
Chris Douglas-Roberts: 1,016 min, 6.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 58.8 TS%, 12.2 PER
Francisco Garcia: 1,083 min, 5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 52.1 TS%, 9.3 PER
Ryan Gomes: 34 min, 1.2 ppg, 37.5 TS%, 0.2 PER
Josh Howard (D-League): 708 min, 14.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 51.2 TS%, 15.3 PER
Robbie Hummel: 655 min, 3.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 49.2 TS%, 9.6 PER
Stephen Jackson: 107 min, 1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 27.0 TS%, 0.1 PER
Damion James: 50 min, 1.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 30.4 TS%, 4.1 PER
James Jones: 236 min, 4.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 66.6 TS%, 15.4 PER
Rashard Lewis: 971 min, 4.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 53.5 TS%, 10.7 PER
Cartier Martin: 870 min, 5.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 56.2 TS%, 11.0 PER
Darius Miller: 723 min, 4.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 55.0 TS%, 9.0 PER
Andres Nocioni (Europe): 1,411 min, 14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 61.5 TS%, 19.3 PER
Brandon Rush: 418 min, 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 42.8 TS%, 4.1 PER
Chris Singleton: 250 min, 3.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 48.1 TS%, 8.8 PER
James Southerland: 30 min, 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 44.1 TS%, 11.8 PER
Adonis Thomas: 37 min, 2.3 ppg, 48.5 TS%, 7.3 PER
Anthony Tolliver: 1,298 min, 6.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 60.5 TS%, 11.0 PER
Hedo Turkoglu: 392 min, 3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 49.2 TS%, 11.3 PER
Metta World Peace: 388 min, 4.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 46.9 TS%, 11.7 PER
There are a handful of scenarios that could improve the Celtics‘ lot at small forward, and if they can somehow rid themselves of Green and Wallace’s contracts while coming away with Hayward and Pierce in free agency, that would be one heck of an upgrade. LeBron and Melo are pipe dreams, but this scenario gives the Celtics their starting 3 for the foreseeable future and a veteran presence in the locker room who can help mold Young.