Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Celtics limited options for backup centers

The Celtics have been busy this offseason building on their NBA Finals run by trading for Malcolm Brogdon and signing Danilo Gallinari.

Team president of basketball operations Brad Stevens says he wanted to add scoring and playmaking off the bench this summer and so far he has accomplished that.

Here's what Boston has done over the past few weeks:

  • Acquired Malcolm Brogdon for Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Daniel Theis and a top-12 protected 2023 first-round pick

  • Signed Danilo Gallinari to a two-year deal using the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception

There are three remaining roster spots available, as the Celtics are still looking to add a backup forward/center with the three-big rotation of Al Horford, Robert Williams and Grant Williams proving they were good enough to push the Golden State Warriors to six games last month.

While both 36-year-old Horford and Robert Williams should play reduced minutes this upcoming 2022-23 campaign, Stevens finding a quality backup at center would be key to preserve the Celtics frontcourt depth during an 82-game season and another likely deep playoff run into June.

With the team's $17.1 million Traded-Player Exception going unused (expired this past Monday), Boston still has a $6.9 million and $5.9 million TPE they can use to acquire a player via trade.

Despite the Celtics being already $19.8 million over the tax-line, there are still some viable options that won't break the bank and or put Boston into even further tax-penalty territory.

Trade Options:

  • Willy Hernangomez - We all remember how his brother Juancho worked out with the Celtics last season, but Willy on the other hand could actually be very useful and cost-effective. Coming off a 2021-22 season in New Orleans where he averaged 9.1 points (52% from the field and 33% from 3) and 6.8 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per contest (58 games) -- this Hernangomez version has an expiring deal worth only $2.4 million with a team option worth $2.6 for the 2023-24 season.

  • Alex Len - A seven-footer who has had a solid nine-year career, Len at 30-years old has been a reliable backup with starter experience with averages of 7.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per contest. The Sacramento Kings could be willing to part with the big man, who is set to make $3.9 million this season.

  • Trey Lyles - Another Kings frontcourt piece that they could be possibly considering dealing, Lyles at 26-years-old had a breakout year this past season between Detroit and Sacramento. He averaged 10.5 points (47.5% from the field and 33.3% from deep) and 5.2 rebounds in 20 minutes per contest, while he's set to be owed $2.6 million in an expiring deal.

  • Naz Reid - This 22-year-old could be seeing less minutes in Minnesota's deep frontcourt this season. After averages of 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game (77), Reid's $1.9 million contract is very moveable and the Celtics should at least inquire about the 6-foot-10 LSU product.

Free Agents:

  • Dwight Howard - As weird as it may seem trying to picture the former four-time Defensive Player of the Year in Celtics green, Howard has been a solid backup over the past few years while also winning a championship in the process. He put up 6.2 points (on mostly dunks) and 5.9 rebounds in 60 games played for the dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers this past season.

  • Harry Giles - Besides Jayson Tatum vying for his best friend to get signed, Giles didn't play in the NBA during the 2021-22 campaign and suffered a season-ending injury while playing for the Agua Caliente Clippers of the G League back in January. This just seems like a low-risk, high-reward type of signing if the 24-year-old is healthy.

  • Trevion Williams -  A 6-foot-9 power forward/center that went undrafted last month out of Perdue, Williams signed with the Celtics Summer League squad where he showed some passing ability for a big man. He averaged 7.4 points on 45.7% from the floor and 6.6 rebounds in four games played in Las Vegas.

  • Cody Zeller - At 6-foot-11, Zeller has nine years of NBA experience and career averages of 8.5 points on 52% from the field and 6.0 rebounds. What you see is what you get and on the cheap if Stevens is looking to save some dough.

Now these names aren't the sexiest, but they won't cost much either, which is exactly what a championship contending roster needs -- who are already a luxury-tax paying team as currently constructed.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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