With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Centers. 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.

Considering Faverani and Anthony are the only true centers on the roster, the Celtics should have every free agent 5 on their radar. Last year’s second-round pick, Colton Iverson, who played in Turkey this past season, is another option, but the C’s need a legitimate rim protector if they have any hope of making the playoffs this winter.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.

THE ROBERT PARISH HONORARIES

Not only are the C’s lacking a starting 5 of any note, we’re now going on Year 4 in the search to replace Kendrick Perkins – and even he was more myth than Celtics legend. The current free agent crop, as usual, offers few realistic solutions in the paint, only stressing the importance of finding a rim protector at all costs.

Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe

RICH MAN: GREG MONROE

Status: Restricted

2013-14: 2,690 min, 15.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 53.1 TS%, 18.1 PER

Why? The 6-foot-11, 253-pound southpaw has been a reliable force in the middle since entering the league in 2010, playing all but three games in his career.

Why not? As sound as he’s been, Monroe’s not an All-Star. Still, in order to pry him from the Pistons, it would take a max deal, and Detroit still might match it.

COMMON MAN: MARCIN GORTAT

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 2,655 min, 13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 bpg, 56.8 TS%, 17.6 PER

Why? The C’s interest in Gortat dates back to his days in Phoenix, and the Polish Hammer arguably enjoyed the best season of his career for the Wizards this past winter. The interest also appears to be me mutual.

Why not? The Wiz are intent on keeping Gortat, and he’ll also be linked to every team in need of a center (Miami?). Past his 30th birthday, he made $7.7 million last season and should make even more this winter.

POOR MAN: SPENCER HAWES

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 2,470 min, 13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 bpg, 55.4 TS%, 15.7 PER

Why? Hawes shot 41.6 percent on 308 3-point attempts for the 76ers and Cavaliers in 2013-14, bringing a floor spreading element that Celtics coach Brad Stevens covets. The 7-footer also had his best year on the boards.

Why not? If it’s rim protection you seek, Hawes isn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neal in the paint. While he brings an attractive offensive element, he’s a big body who doesn’t exactly play like one opposite physical centers.

HOMELESS MEN: Channing Frye (2,312 min, 11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 55.5 TS%, 13.2 PER); Chris Andersen (1,396 min, 6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 68.3 TS%, 18.5 PER); Jermaine O’Neal (883 min, 7.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 57.0 TS%, 15.3 PER); Chris Kaman (736 min, 10.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 bpg); Emeka Okafor (2,052 min, 9.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 bpg, 49.6 TS%, 15.8 PER).

THE JOEL ANTHONYS

If finding a starting center is so difficult, just imagine how hard it is to find a legitimate backup. Hence, Anthony’s $3.8 million salary. The Celtics have spent the past several seasons forcing natural 4′s into the 5 spot, but perhaps they’d be better suited investing in a less expensive 7-footer, whatever the risk.

Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum

RICH MAN: ANDREW BYNUM

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 516 min, 8.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 bpg, 45.6 TS%, 15.2 PER

Why? There’s a reason the Cavaliers and Pacers have taken a risk on Bynum despite his apparent apathy: He’s a 26-year-old who once averaged 19 and 12.

Why not? He missed an entire season in Philly (knee), got traded from Cleveland (immaturity) and sat out Indiana’s final 11 games (knee). Need we say more?

COMMON MAN: GREG STIEMSMA

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,007 min, 2.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 58.4 TS%, 9.7 PER

Why? After his surprising run with the Celtics in 2011-12, Ainge would have gladly brought the 7-foot shot blocker back for another season had the Timberwolves not offered a contract the C’s couldn’t possibly match.

Why not? Even in Boston, Stiemsma battled nagging injuries, and a strained MCL cost him 27 games for the Pelicans this season. He’s been waived by Minnesota and New Orleans in the span of nine months.

POOR MAN: GREG ODEN

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 212 min, 2.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 56.7 TS%, 12.4 PER

Why? In much the same way teams still hand over millions to Bynum, it’s hard not to hold out hope the former No. 1 overall pick will reach his potential if he can stay on the floor. And he’s still only 26.

Why not? The 7-footer spent three seasons sitting with a series of knee injuries, and he averaged just 9.2 minutes over 23 appearances for a Heat team that desperately could’ve used a healthy Oden’s services this past season.

HOMELESS MEN: Gustavo Ayon (429 min, 4.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 50.5 TS%, 12.9 PER); Lavoy Allen (1,072 min, 4.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 47.0 TS%, 12.5 PER).

THE VITOR FAVERANIS

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 Faverani or any available center at the league minimum. Thanks, but no thanks.

Cole Aldrich: 330 min, 2.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 62.0 TS%, 19.1 PER
Aron Baynes: 491 min, 3.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 46.7 TS%, 9.7 PER
Andris Biedrins: 45 min, 0.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 41.2 TS%, 2.4 PER
Marcus Camby: 250 min, 1.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 34.2 TS%, 8.6 PER
Jason Collins: 172 min, 1.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 48.5 TS%, 4.1 PER
Aaron Gray: 355 min, 1.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 46.6 TS%, 7.8 PER
Ryan Hollins: 482 min, 2.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 73.0 TS%, 11.9 PER
Bernard James: 146 min, 0.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 50.3 TS%, 8.5 PER
Nazr Mohammed: 562 min, 1.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 44.5 TS%, 10.1 PER

The Celtics simply cannot enter this season with Faverani, Anthony and Iverson manning the middle and have any chance of emerging from the lottery. Obviously, Monroe would be the ideal scenario, but Ainge would have to work a bit of salary cap magic in order to free up enough space to offer him a max contract. And even then the Pistons could match their offer. Gortat and Hawes are also intriguing options, although they’ll have plenty of suitors, too.

In short, the available rim protectors are few and far between, illustrating why the Celtics would have assumed the risk in drafting Joel Embiid had he fallen to sixth in the draft order. Are Bynum and Oden worth the risk? Quite possibly. Otherwise, you’re looking at a 31-year-old Okafor or the return of the Stiemboat as potential upgrades.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

WALTHAM — It was a day for coronation.

Marcus Smart and James Young were formally indoctrinated publicly on a six-seat dais on the team’s practice facility court, five days before they head out on their first basketball excursion as formal members of the most hallowed team in the NBA.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, co-owner Steve Pagliuca and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens introduced first-round picks Smart and Young on Monday at the club’s training facility on Monday, three days after they were chosen sixth and 17th overall, respectively, last Thursday in the NBA draft.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WALTHAM — Danny Ainge doesn’t want Avery Bradley going anywhere.

Whether that means Monday’s qualifying offer from Ainge to the fourth-year NBA guard is enough to make Bradley a permanent fixture in Boston remains to be seen.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

New Celtics guard James Young joined Middays with MFB on Monday afternoon, following his introductory press conference, and the former Kentucky standout said he’s “honored” to have been selected 17th overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

James Young

James Young

New Celtics guard James Young joined Middays with MFB on Monday afternoon, following his introductory press conference, and the former Kentucky standout said he’s “honored” to have been selected 17th overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“I definitely wanted to come here,” Young said. “When I came out here for my last visit, me and coach [Brad Sevens] really had that connection from right there, and Danny [Ainge] was a great guy to talk to. So, this is a place that I definitely wanted to come to.

“When I got my name called I was very surprised and happy. I was just very glad that my parents got to support me. They were very happy with my choice, too. I’m glad that I landed here.”

Young said he thinks he’ll fit in at shooting guard, wing or wherever the team wants him to play.

“I’m very versatile,” he said. “Length definitely helps me. I can shoot the ball very well and come off pick and rolls, definitely a thing that I’ve been working on. But playing the 2 spot is what I’ve been playing a lot. I’m definitely good at playing the 3; that’s what I played this past season, switching off like that. I played the 1 and the 4, too, so we’ll see how that goes.”

A Michigan native who grew up rooting for the Pistons, Young said his game is comparable to that of Rockets guard James Harden, who like Young shoots left-handed.

“I feel like James Harden, his game’s just all-around good,” Young said. “He’s a great left-hander, shoots the ball very well and attacks the basket with aggressiveness, just aggressively attacks the basket. I kind of tried to [model] my game after him, just try to study his game a little bit.”

The 18-year-old said he and fellow first-round pick Marcus Smart have established a fast bond despite never having played with or against each other before.

“I feel like we’re going to connect really well on the court,” he said. “We have that connection off the court, so I definitely feel like on the court. If one of us is having a bad game and can’t get open, we’ll definitely look for each other just to get it going.”

For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford joined Middays with MFB Monday afternoon to discuss his former player, Marcus Smart, who was taken by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.

Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford joined Middays with MFB Monday afternoon to discuss his former player, Marcus Smart, who was taken by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While Smart has been praised for his defense, passing, leadership and ability to drive to the basket, the Texas native was punished this past season for shoving a fan during the closing seconds of Oklahoma State’€™s 65-61 loss against Texas Tech on Feb. 8. Ford said the incident is a non-issue going forward.

“That seems like it has passed. … For a solid week or two, that’€™s all that was being talked about,”€ Ford said. “€œI hated it for the kid. There’€™s no question that he made a mistake and he’€™s the first one that would admit it. … It was just a moment in time –€“ a two- to three-second moment in time — that does not define Marcus whatsoever.”

Ford added that Smart, who averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 32.7 minutes a game as a sophomore in 2013-14, will bring a lot of attributes to the parquet floor.

“I think they just loved his competitiveness. Marcus is a winner,”€ Ford said. “€œThere’€™s not many players period that I’ve ever been associated with that is as competitive as he is on a daily basis. He has a motor that just doesn’t quit. … He’s all about giving it everything he’s got and trying to win whatever it is. … Marcus is just a warrior, and I think that’€™s what impressed [Boston] the most.”

Smart put the college basketball world on notice during his freshman season with the Cowboys, averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists en route to being named a first-team All-American by Sporting News and a unanimous selection as Big 12 Player of the Year.

Despite his success and the certainty of being one of the top picks in a weak 2013 draft, Smart chose to spend another season at Oklahoma State — a decision Ford said was made for a multitude of reasons.

“Obviously, he had the option to come out last season,” Ford said. “He would have been probably a top-three pick and everybody was telling him how crazy he was for not coming out because this year’€™s draft was going to be so much tougher and he just kind of laughed it off. … He embraces competition. … There were a lot of reasons he stayed. Yes, one reason was that he wanted to work on his shooting, work on ball handling.

“He really wanted to play the point guard position and it became very natural for him. We made him a point guard. He never really played point guard until he got Oklahoma State and I kind of brought him in and said, ‘€œHey, you are going to be the point guard,’€ and he obviously had an incredible two seasons. More than anything, the reason he stayed is he just wanted another year of college — just the whole experience of being in college.”

While critics have pointed out that Smart has struggled with his outside shooting during his collegiate career (29.9 percent from 3-point range in 2013-14), Ford said that Smart should morph into a capable shooter with more experience in the NBA.

“Marcus has great form, and his percentages are going to go way up, I believe, in the NBA,”€ Ford said. “€œHe took a lot of tough shots for us, there’€™s not doubt about that. A lot of tough shots. Obviously, that is going to affect your shooting percentage greatly. … I think he will be a very good shooter. … Is he going to be a guy that’€™s just going to take a ton of 3′s every single game and just be known for his shooting? I don’€™t know about that. But he will become a very good shooter, because he has great form and technique.”

For more Celtics news, go to the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Power 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.

As currently constituted, the Celtics already have a logjam at power forward with Bass, Sullinger and Olynyk on the roster, but all three of those names will continue to be raised in trade discussions as Ainge straddles the fence between rebuilding and reloading this summer. As the C’s retool the roster, any combination of that trio could need replacing through free agency. Just don’t hold your breath for Chris Bosh or Dirk Nowitzki.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.

THE BRANDON BASSES

An argument could be made Bass was the best player on the Celtics this past season. The 29-year-old certainly was their most consistent, and his expiring $6.9 million contract also makes him a valuable trade asset. Should the C’s lose Bass in landing another star player and need veteran help for a playoff run, these are your guys.

RICH MAN: PAU GASOL

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,884 min, 17.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 bpg, 52.2 TS%, 19.3 PER

Why? There’s no doubt Gasol will make a playoff team more dangerous. He’s still one of the most skilled bigs in the game and has championship pedigree.

Why not? Considering the Knicks, Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets, Warriors and Lakers are all rumored suitors, it’s unlikely the 33-year-old will land in Boston.

COMMON MAN: KRIS HUMPHRIES

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,376 min, 8.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 55.2 TS%, 18.2 PER

Why? Forget all the Kardashian nonsense. Humphries emerged as the unlikeliest of likable characters in the Celtics locker room this past season, providing leadership, professionalism and consistent effort in a tumultuous season.

Why not? There’s little doubt Hump will command less than the $12 million he earned in 2013-14, but the question is how much less. A career double-double per 36 minutes guy, he’d be best suited contributing on a veteran team.

POOR MAN: BORIS DIAW

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,974 min, 9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 57.8 TS%, 14.1 PER

Why? Frankly, Diaw’s playoff production was astounding. Once a key contributor on the seven-seconds-or-less Suns, he’s developed into a difference-making playmaker on a more methodical juggernaut in San Antonio.

Why not? It’s hard to imagine a more perfect fit for the 32-year-old than the Spurs. Having spent two years in Charlotte, he’s probably more prone to sticking with a playoff team, especially with $60 million in career earnings. 

HOMELESS MEN: Andray Blatche (1,618 min, 11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 53.2 TS%, 18.8 PER); Drew Gooden (395 min, 8.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 59.1 TS%, 18.4 PER); Elton Brand (1,414 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 apg, 56.1 TS%, 14.0 PER); Glen Davis (1,662 min, 9.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 49.1 TS%, 13.1 PER); Charlie Villanueva (180 min, 4.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 46.9 TS%, 12.7 PER); Udonis Haslem (653 min, 3.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 52.3 TS%, 10.5 PER); Matt Bonner (690 min, 3.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 58.2 TS%, 11.2 PER).

THE JARED SULLINGERS

After back surgery cut his rookie season short, Sullinger returned to play 74 games this past season, showing double-double potential. Conditioning remains a concern, but the 22-year-old has reportedly dedicated his summer to dropping 20 pounds. He too is a valuable trade asset, so this group includes other youthful alternatives.

Josh McRoberts

Josh McRoberts

RICH MAN: JOSH McROBERTS

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 2,360 min, 8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 54.8 TS%, 13.8 PER

Why? At age 27, McBob enjoyed a career year during Charlotte’s surprising run to the playoffs. In terms of skill set, he’s a younger Boris Diaw, only hairier.

Why not? Speaking of long-haired stretch 4′s, Olynyk has shown enough signs to warrant playing time on a young roster over someone like McRoberts.

COMMON MAN: ED DAVIS

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 956 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 54.2 TS%, 15.9 PER

Why? Once considered a prized recruit coming out of high school in 2008, Davis has yet to reach that potential, but his numbers projected over 36 minutes per game (11.9 points, 10.2 rebounds) continue to show signs.

Why not? While he might be worth the gamble for a young team capable of offering big minutes, Davis would be redundant on a rebuilding Celtics team and a downgrade if Ainge goes the reloading route.

POOR MAN: JORDAN HILL

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,500 min, 9.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 57.9 TS%, 19.3 PER

Why? Always a workhorse on the glass, Hill took a step forward offensively at age 25, shooting better than 50 percent from the field for the first time in a five-year career that has seen him in three different jerseys.

Why not? As was the case with most players on the Lakers roster, Hill’s numbers benefited from playing for a terrible team this past season. Besides, the Lakers, Mavericks and Rockets are already rumored to be in pursuit.

HOMELESS MEN: DeJuan Blair (1,214 min, 6.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 55.7 TS%, 17.3 PER); Patrick Patterson (1,533 min, 8.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 53.3 TS%, 14.6 PER); Mike Scott (1,482 min, 9.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 55.9 TS%, 15.3 PER); Jason Smith (830 min, 9.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 49.5 TS%, 12.4 PER); Jeff Adrien (961 min, 6.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 55.3 TS%, 17.4 PER); Kevin Seraphin (578 min, 4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 53.3 TS%, 12.5 PER); Ryan Kelly, restricted (1,312 min, 8.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 54.8 TS%, 12.6 PER); Jan Vesely (776 min, 3.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, 49.8 TS%, 12.7 PER).

THE CHRIS WILCOX HONORARIES

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 Wilcox or any other available power forwards at the league minimum. Thanks, but no thanks.

Trevor Booker: 1,553 min, 6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 56.3 TS%, 15.0 PER
Earl Clark: 768 min, 4.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 46.6 TS%, 9.1 PER
Al Harrington: 511 min, 6.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 50.6 TS%, 9.7 PER
Antawn Jamison: 248 min, 3.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 40.8 TS%, 7.8 PER
Grant Jerrett (D-League): 790 min, 15.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 54.2 TS%, 15.1 PER
James Johnson: 956 min, 7.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 bpg, 55.2 TS%, 18.5 PER
Ivan Johnson (China): 788 min, 26.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.9 spg, 1.9 apg, 59.6 TS%, 32.8 PER
Kenyon Martin: 633 min, 4.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 52.1 TS%, 12.2 PER
Byron Mullens: 414 min, 4.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 54.4 TS%, 12.8 PER
Tyrus Thomas: 360 min, 4.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 41.8 TS%, 9.6 PER
Jeremy Tyler: 398 min, 3.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 53.2 TS%, 13.0 PER
Ekpe Udoh, restricted: 804 min, 3.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 44.0 TS%, 7.6 PER
D.J. White: 10 min, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 TS%, 2.4 PER
Royce White: 9 min, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 TS%, -8.3 PER

Outside of Bosh, Nowitzki and Gasol, believe it or not, there isn’t a true upgrade at power forward available on the free agent market. The likelihood of any of those three players ending up in green is as slim as a Hollywood actress, so don’t be surprised if Bass, Sullinger and Olynyk round out the position once again this winter.

Obviously, a trade could change everything, especially since all three of those Celtics have been rumored in deals for Kevin Love. If the C’s were to be in the market for a backup 4, Humphries offers another in-house solution.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.