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The One Free Agent the Boston Celtics Need to Make a Top Priority

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COMMENTARY | Ever since Kendrick Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics have struggled to find a "pure" center to place next to Kevin Garnett. To his credit, Doc Rivers has done an admirable job at making lineups work without the bruising, physical center that allows Garnett to play a little further away from the rim.

This need is painfully apparent, and shows through the team's lack of rebounding and rim protection. Brandon Bass, who has been one of the primary frontcourt partners for Garnett, plays neither of these roles. Much like KG, Bass prefers to play away from the paint, where he can get his midrange jumpers.

Center has to be a priority for Danny Ainge and the Celtics this offseason. The team is currently strapped for cap space as is, but if Garnett and Paul Pierce retire, they will have some money to spend if the right opportunity presents itself.

Assuming that this cap space is opened up, the team should make center Nikola Pekovic a top priority, who is on schedule to be a free agent this summer.

Pekovic, who has spent his entire three years in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves, is the definition of a bruiser. At 6'11" and 290 pounds, he is considered one of the strongest players in the league. He fits the "old school" description of a center, not the high-flying, floor spreading modern day version.

In Pekovic, the Celtics would have the rebounder they have desperately missed since the Perkins trade. His presence under the rim on both ends of the floor would give Rivers flexibility with his lineups, and Doc could then utilize Jeff Green as a stretch power forward. With the ability to use Green in that role, the floor is now opened up for Rajon Rondo to create and for Avery Bradley to make his cuts. However, a shooting presence at small forward would desperately be needed in replacement of Pierce, again, assuming he retires. Without this, it would be difficult to keep defenses honest and prevent them from packing the paint and forcing perimeter jumpers.

By no means is Nikola Pekovic the flashy name that many fans look for, and his game explains why. He won't make you jump out of your seat with a high flying dunk or a three pointer, but his toughness and presence is something the Celtics so desperately miss. Considering how good their defense has been, it's scary to think how it could improve with a bruiser down low to discourage people from entering the paint.

Not to mention, when was the last time they had anything resembling a post scorer?

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings. Follow him on Twitter here .

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