The 2019 NBA Free Agency period doesn’t officially open until Sunday night. Which is crazy considering it feels as if it’s been taking place since last summer. And what an unnecessarily obnoxious 12 months it has been. But it’s almost over. The sweet release of death is upon us. We will have these answers to unknowable questions within days. And then we can start openly questioning whether or not the Bucks have done enough to keep Giannis for the next two years. Should be fun!
But amidst the Woj Bombs and constant flurry of information zooming across the web, it’s easy to get caught up in it all. I tried to pull my head out of Youtube and take a break from watching Kemba Walker highlights because he hasn’t signed yet. Absolutely nothing is official. When Al Horford was a free agent last time, he had “cut off talks” with the Celtics and was narrowing his decision to be a Thunder or a Wizard. Which, three years later, feels laughable. The League changes almost as fast as these rumors do. And between now and when these guys can physically put pen to paper, guys will be locks with all 30 teams in the League. Simply put: this weekend is going to be unbearable. Can’t wait!
For the Celtics specifically, signing Kemba Walker would be a signal to the rest of the NBA that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Signing a free agent isn’t always just about acquiring the player. There’s more to it than that. And signing Kemba Walker would signify that despite the multiple dumpster fires currently smoldering outside of the Boston Garden that Ainge can still recruit and woo one of the top names on the market should he see fit. Which, in addition to adding an All Star caliber point guard, would be massive for this particular offseason.
Signing Nikola Vucevic is the opposite of that. Solid player, no question about it. But not a guy who’s going to change a culture. Not a guy guaranteed to make much of an impact on a playoff game. Just a guy who is going to go out and get his counting numbers on a nightly basis. A skill that certainly has value and should be rewarded, but not in this situation. Not for that chunk of the salary cap. It just doesn’t make sense. Kyrie to Kemba is a downgrade in terms of talent on the court, but an upgrade to team chemistry. Horford to Vucevic is just a downgrade. Vucevic grabs more rebounds. He’s not as versatile a scorer, you can’t run an offense through him the same, defensively it’s not even close. Signing Vucevic would be purgatory. And he’s a good player, but for that portion of your salary cap you better get a guy who can create offense for himself in a tight game AND sell jerseys. Someone with some panache.
After this Kyrie debacle, a guy like Kemba would reinvigorate a fanbase that longs for the Isaiah Thomas years. I wouldn’t commit hundreds of millions of dollars to someone simply to placate the fans, but it’s an added bonus in this case. Kemba thinks the world is round and already has a built in New England fan base from his days at UConn. There’s logic I can get behind when it comes to considering Kemba Walker, there isn’t as much with Vucevic. Signing Vucevic feels like eating out of boredom. You’re not hungry, you’re just bored on the couch. And right now the Celtics have a surplus of cap space that they weren’t completely anticipating and they cannot afford to spend it trying to keep up with the Joneses. Vooch is better than that, but not by enough to justify it at this stage of their rebuild. Trade for Sabonis if the price is right, sign Robin Lopez or one of the dozen center options which can be had for cheaper.
Speaking of those other options, the Celtics hopes don’t live and die on two players. There’s a ton of directions they can go. These are those directions.
Kevin Durant – Reports came out that Durant is taking another meeting with the Celtics, as he did the last time he was a free agent. Only this time it isn’t just to meet Tom Brady and have Jae Crowder give away the blueprint for beating the Warriors. It’s because of Gordon Hayward. No, really. The word is that Durant is intrigued by the way the Celtics allowed Hayward to rehab over the past two years. Which sorta makes sense when you realize the history of the NBA was forever altered because a front office and coaching staff refused to allow Kawhi Leonard proper rehabilitation of his leg injury. Now, amidst conflicting reports about KD’s feelings towards Golden State’s training staff, and with a year of no basketball ahead of him, all of a sudden rehab and commitment mean more than they did mere months ago. Will he sign with the Boston Celtics? Not a chance. But getting a meeting is interesting enough. Perhaps their reputation around the League isn’t as tarnished as it appears.
Malcolm Brogdon or D’Angelo Russell – The difference between maxing out Kemba and maxing out one of these two, contract wise, is approximately $6 million per year. Should that be the deciding factor in the end, certainly not. They both line up better with the timeline of the young guys still in Boston than Kemba but neither is as good at basketball. Brogdon isn’t the biggest name or the sexiest sell after everything that has happened, but from a basketball point of view he’d be a perfect complement to this roster. D’Angelo is just a younger, not as talented Kyrie. He’ll put up a ton of points wherever he goes and still has plenty of room to improve. He’s also a snitch so those backdoor problems the Celtics had last year will be a thing of the past as he blows the cover off every secret in that locker room. Could be valuable, tough to tell.
Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris – There are plenty of real world solutions to what’s happening with the Celtics. But what I’d prefer is to completely embrace the asinine. And the most asinine is one of the most rare scenarios I’ve ever come across: two sets of twins available in the same offseason. It couldn’t have happened many times throughout the history of the League, and right now is as good a time as any. The Celtics already have an in with Marcus Morris. If they can convince him to bring his brother to town, half the plan is completely. All it would take is getting Brook and Robin on board. Think of the obvious advantages of having four players which can communicate telepathically. The switchability defensively would be top notch as well. They also must play simultaneously to achieve full potency. Like you can’t just toss Mook and RoLo out there and expect it to work. Start the game with your normal five and then sub this terror unit in halfway through the first quarter then coast to the finish line with the insurmountable lead you’ve built with this lineup of doom.
Thaddeus Young – I’ve just always liked Thad Young. He’s a free agent. We need competent players. Idk, feels like a good idea in general for most of the teams in the NBA, especially the Boston Celtics.
Julius Randle – I have a hard time believing Julius Randle is bad. I get why the Lakers moved on from him. I get why the Pelicans are moving on from him. But he’s a young power forward who can score, clean the glass and move the rock. I don’t think he’s reached his peak, as he took a drastic step forward from three point land last year. I do get his defensive issues, the fact that he’s never had a positive net rating in his career, and the rest of his faults. But I don’t know. For a guy with career averages higher than Tobias Harris, I feel like Randle has a bit more value than he’s given credit for. And for a team with infinite possibilities to consider, I don’t see much downside to bringing in Randle on a shorter deal.
DeAndre Jordan – Really depends on price tag. Especially after he denied being bought out to play for a contender so he could experience more of his life playing for the Knicks. Stuff like that feels a smidge red flaggish. But DAJ could be a decent enough mentor for TimeLord. For a year and short money, there are worse options. There are better options, too, but there are certainly also worse options.
Patrick Beverley – Fuck it start Beverley and Smarf and just beat the opposition into submission. There’s no price too high for the amusement that would come from Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart putting opposing guards, forwards, and centers into headlocks routinely. Ball movement on offense would be… interesting! But winning games 47-43 is what we should all aspire to watch in 2020.
Kevon Looney – Looney played tough minutes for the Warriors this offseason and is in prime position to be poached. He displayed a level of toughness battling through an injury which absolutely should have permanently sidelined him but tried his absolute best to hurt an incredibly beleaguered and depleted Warriors roster. It didn’t work, but if I know Boston like I think I do we’d instantly fall in love with a guy in immense pain but not complaining about it. Also, as a basketball player, he’s not bad! The Celtics should sign as many not bad players as the roster limits will allow.
Seth Curry – Seth Curry shot 45% from three last season. Steph Curry shot 43.7%. Those are just the facts of the matter. Do I think Seth Curry is just a starting gig away from becoming one of the best scoring guards in the League? No, I sure don’t. Do I think he can score in bunches on occasion and at worst would be a reasonable bench option? I sure do.
Nerlens Noel – Nerlens really should have signed that offer the Mavericks gave him a few years ago. Boy oh boy should he have signed that contract offer.
Ed Davis – Ed Davis is a professional basketball player. He is well respected around the League, has played for most of the teams, and does everything that is asked of him. Signing Ed Davis would be along the same line of thinking which brought Amir Johnson to Boston. He’d be a tremendous addition to the Celtics locker room and would bring a veteran leadership which is sorely needed.
Steven Adams – Fun fact: if you took the contracts of just Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder – you’d already be over the salary cap! Which isn’t ideal considering you need more than four basketball players for a professional basketball team. Really at no level can you only have four guys and play. So, while the Thunder are already paying the repeater tax for being $40 million above the cap, they may be willing to give Steven Adams away for next to nothing. And while paying him $50 million over the next two seasons doesn’t sound ideal, I don’t think he’s the worst option. It eats up a massive chunk of your remaining cap space but the Adams and Hayward contracts coming off the books simultaneously could open up a ton of interesting options for the Celtics two years down the road. It keeps you semi-competitive leading up to that point and gives you an instant fan favorite. Acquiring Steven Adams shouldn’t be Plan A, but it should be a plan nevertheless.
Clint Capela – Clint Capela is a good young big who can get played off the court in a playoff game on a reasonable contract who finds himself on a team desperately searching for cap space. He wouldn’t be my number one option on the market but I understand why there is a connection being made between his availability and the Boston Celtics.
Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner – At the end of the day, if the Pacers are truly trying to move one of their Bigs this should be Ainge’s main focus. And if the Pacers have similar price tags for these guys, I’d be thrilled with adding Turner. If Sabonis is cheaper, I’d be thrilled to add him to the roster. Either guy would step immediately into the starting lineup and contribute instantly while aligning with the timeline of the younger core. I could see the Pacers not wanting to deal with the Celtics, but if either of these guys are available they’d be ideal pieces to add to the roster.
It’s just important to not get too tied to any of these options. You can’t get your hopes up, you have to always be ready to lose out on your guys. Don’t let Woj or Shams or Haynes or Stein or anyone else get your hopes up reading too deep into certain rumors or reports. You can only get hurt in the long run and it’s better to not emotionally attach yourself to a single guy who went to UConn and already has a fan base set up in the New England region. Especially if you’ve become so emotionally invested as to fill the hole in your spirit left by another point guard who spurned you and left after saying he was staying forever. Whatever you do, don’t do that.