Ranking the Top Celtics Free Agent Targets: Fan’s Take

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While the Celtics pursue their self-proclaimed priority free agents (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jeff Green), the team will still possess several roles and roster spots this summer. Where there is a fairly wide gap between experienced veterans (Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo) and youngsters (Jared Sullinger, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore), the Celtics will use free agency to find a player who can contribute now and build a more solid bridge to the future.

Boston is one of the few teams in the NBA to begin free agency with adequate salary cap space (approximately $20 million) but have to use much of that to retain Garnett, Allen and Green; leaving little room to make a big splash in the open market.

With the recent news of Jason Terry signing a three-year $15.6 million contract with Boston, there is now fewer dollars at the Celtics disposal. The signing of Terry makes sense as Allen is weighing other offers; giving the team some measure of security. In addition, being under the salary cap, the team was able to use the full exception on a valuable reserve and still retain Ray Allen's "Larry Bird" rights and can sign him to a contract of their choosing regardless of their salary cap flexibility.

To date the Celtics can view their recent activity as a success, as Garnett was the team's number one priority this off-season. The addition of Jeff Green and Jason Terry adds talented depth to a bench that lacked productivity last season. Despite the recent success, more work needs to be done before the team can feel that their roster is built with another title run in mind.

With the available spending money dwindling, the likelihood of going after a restricted free agent is far less; unless the team engages in a sign and trade for an existing player (Brandon Bass, Ray Allen). Beyond Boston's existing free agents, here is a list of available unrestricted players that may be affordable, and could make a solid contribution for the team next season.

OJ Mayo

With Ray Allen possibly seeking greener pastures in Miami or Los Angeles, the Celtics could look to sign Mayo; although there may not be enough money to lure him to Boston. Mayo is an athletic streak shooting guard who can also attack the basket as well as bring some youth and scoring punch to a team in need of an infusion of both. If cap space is not available, the team could look to trade Bass to Memphis in a sign-and-trade deal.

Ersan Ilusaova

If Green and Bass cannot be retained together, Ilyasova could be a good fit. Veteran brings experience and length to Boston, but is likely to draw a lot of interest and his asking price may be too high. Also has bouts of inconsistency which could be of some concern for Boston.

Chris Kaman

Celtics had interest in obtaining Kaman at the waiver wire but was not available. The Celtics' prior interest indicates a possible signing this summer if he can be had at an affordable salary. With a lot of effort in signing other centers like Roy Hibbert and Omar Asik in the opening hours of free agency, Kaman's offensive game both in the paint as well as from mid-range would be in increasing demand from several teams.

Reggie Evans

With rebounding always a concern in Boston, Evans could be brought in for his physical presence and rebounding prowess. His lack of offense would be a liability but could be a huge plus on the boards in Boston; although the Clippers may wish to keep the veteran in L.A.

Jamal Crawford

Crawford is an explosive bench scorer who is comfortable with his role of sixth man. Questionable shot selection is best reflected in his poor field goal percentage; but at time you have to take the good with the bad. With Terry expected to sign with Boston, interest in Crawford would only be if that deal falls through or if the team wishes to replace Allen.

Marcus Camby

Old and often injured, the defensive prowess of Camby will certainly be on Boston's wish list this summer. Camby can protect the rim and add rebounding to a team that is consistently in the lower tier in rebounding. As with other big man acquisitions in recent years, Camby would be an injury risk and may not worth the gamble.

Leandro Barbosa

Versatile and talented guard will likely draw a lot of interest from several teams, including Boston.. More of a scoring guard than point, Barbosa has tormented Boston for several years and could add some bench scoring punch if he could be lured to the Celtics.

J.R. Smith

A defender who can score at will, but also lacks discipline shot selection which can drive coaches crazy. While he would certainly fit a couple of the Celtics' needs, Smith will likely have several suitors seeking to secure his services next season. Since Smith declined the player option to become a free agent, it is unlikely that his asking price will be affordable enough for the Celtics.

Kirk Hinrich

An ideal combo guard off the bench who is still more than capable of being a starter on lesser teams. Hinrich can score, distribute and play defense; all desirable traits the Celtics seek. Given the Hawks' recent fire sale, it is hard to imagine him being in their short of long term plans.

DeShawn Stevenson

Key defender on the Dallas Mavericks' championship team of 2011 could be brought in if Mickael Pietrus departs. Stevenson could fill James Posey / Mickael Pietrus like reserve role in Boston and has three point range to provide swingman perimeter depth.

Marco Belinelli

The Hornets forward is tough to cover when his shots are falling, but struggles on the defensive end. Not likely that the Hornets will let a capable wing scorer depart; and if he does will be for a price higher than the Celtics can likely match.

Nick Young

The 6-7 shooting guard has yet to demonstrate an all-around game, but can shoot from the perimeter and add a little length to the swing-man position. Lacks with consistency but is young and talented enough to be obtained for a deeper bench role and develop this season and beyond.

Gerald Green

A couple of years ago this concept would have been not even a remote possibility, but Green's emergence late in the 2012 season elevates his free agent stock. Freakish athleticism and long range shooting could be beneficial for Boston. Likely to be pursued by New Jersey whom he played well for this season; but is worth kicking the tires.

Delonte West

Third time is a charm, right? West has always been a favorite of Danny Ainge and could easily be on the Celtics' short list of back up combo-guards. If West could only remain healthy he would be a more sought after free agent; but his lengthy injury history would be a red flag for a aging team needing consistent bench production.

Anthony Carter

Stable but limited reserve point guard could be added to give Rondo a rest. Unlike some of the aforementioned players, Carter is a true point guard who can deliver a positive assist-to-turnover ratio; although not much scoring.

Anthony Parker

Where defense is the focus in Boston, Parker certainly fits that bill. Would be a good veteran minimum addition that has some size to defend perimeter wing players and can hit the occasional shot. Parker would be a good upgrade over Marquis Daniels or Sasha Pavlovic.

Yi Jianlian

It has been a few years since this player's name has been mentioned in the same breath as Boston; and a deep breath it must be. This summer presents an opportunity to land a player Danny Ainge initially targeted as a first round selection. Jianlian is an underachieving draft bust, but is a tall, athletic finesse player who does possess some skills that could be utilized at the end of the team's rotation.

Summary

Despite being below the salary cap, the Celtics will have contract commitments with Garnett and Green that could consume a fairly large portion of available funds. With a mid-level exception no longer available, Boston will have to be creative in order to round out the balance of their roster.

The Celtics' roster is slowly taking shape with the following 11 players expected to be in place for next season: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jason Terry, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger, and Kris Joseph.

With that in mind, I would focus on retaining Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma since the Celtics own their rights and work out possible sign-and-trade deal for Brandon Bass. Despite having a career year in 2012 and being a player that I would like to see return, trading Bass will allow Boston to target a position of need that they cannot fill with the small amount of available free agent salary cap space. As more activity occurs on an hourly basis; the longer the remaining spots are filled, the less the team's chances are to build on their contending team.

Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; witnessing five of Boston's 17 championships. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.

Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime

Sources:

Yahoo! Sports: Boston Celtics Home Page

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