Eight realistic goals for Celtics to consider in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There is a pretty high bar for success in Boston.
That explains why, after the Celtics‘ best season in over a decade, the conversation immediately turned to how Brad Stevens and his staff can improve the roster after moving to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Boston’s to-do list isn’t long; any regular rotation player under contract until at least the 2022-23 seasonand Stevens recently suggested that he prefers adding attachments rather than breaking the core.
However, the Celtics have definite needs. Stevens marked bank scores and game modes as areas of focus in the free agent and trade markets, while head coach Ime Udoka seems to have an experienced scorer on his wish list†
Since the C’s are already over the luxury tax, don’t expect them to sign a big free agent making over $20 million. But they do have the $6.39 million taxpayer mid-level exception at their disposal, and there are a few intriguing names who might be willing to come to Boston for such a deal.
Here are eight players who could realistically target the Celtics with the $6.39 million MLE when NBA Free Agency kicks off on Thursday, June 30.
1. TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers
Length weight:6-foot-8, 220 pounds
* 2019-20 stats: 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 53.6 percent FG, 40.3 percent 3PT
* Misses 68 games in 2020-21 and all of 2021-22 due to a stress fracture in his left foot
Warren has only played four games in the past two seasons, so this would be a gamble. But he was a top performer before his injury, earning All-Bubble First Team honors in 2020 after averaging 31 points over the Pacers’ eight games in Orlando.
Warren is the best pure scorer on this list and could be a weapon for Boston’s second unit floor distance… assuming he can return to his pre-injury level.
2. Otto Porter Jr., Golden State Warriors
Length weight:6-foot-8, 198 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 46.4 percent FG, 37.0 percent 3PT
Stevens was on the front row as Porter hit 56.3 percent of his three-pointers against the Celtics in the final. While that was an aberration, the nine-year veteran does a lot of things right and is a very good defender that would fit the mold of the stabilizing veteran presence that Udoka covet.
If Porter doesn’t re-sign with the champions, the Celtics should be calling.
3. Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets
Length weight:6-foot-4, 200 pounds
2021-22 stats: 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 50.3 percent FG, 40.4 percent 3PT
Udoka worked with Brown as an assistant coach for Nets during the 2020-21 season, so he is well aware that the Boston native is a strong defender with a quality 3-point shot.
Brown played well against his home team in the first round of the playoffs, and his two-way ability would make him a nice addition to Marcus Smart and Derrick White in the backcourt.
4. Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
Length weight:6-foot-1, 180 pounds
2021-22 stats: 11.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 40.8 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT
Speaking of Udoka connections… Mills and Udoka go back a long wayafter spending seven seasons together with the Spurs (2012 to 2019) when Udoka was an assistant in San Antonio.
Mills may be past his prime, but he’s still a solid facilitator and an above average shooter who doesn’t turn the ball around and has a championship on his resume.
5. Gary Harris, Orlando Magic
Length weight:6-foot-4, 210 pounds
2021-22 stats: 11.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 43.4 percent FG, 38.4 percent 3PT
Like Brown, Harris is a solid two-way combo guard who scored a career high of 36 points against the Celtics in 2017. Orlando Magic.
6. Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies
Length weight:6-foot-9, 230 pounds
2021-22 stats: 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 44.6 percent FG, 33.0 percent 3PT
Anderson also has a history with Udoka, having spent his first four seasons in San Antonio. He’s not the best shooter from the outside, but he’s an above-average facilitator who would fit just fine as a stretch four on Boston’s second unit.
Brian Robb from MassLive reported last summer that the Celtics have been eyeing Anderson “for quite some time”, so they are apparently familiar with his skills.
7. Isaiah Hartenstein, Los Angeles Clippers
Length weight:7 feet, 250 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 62.6 percent FG, 46.7 percent 3PT
Hartenstein is no household name, but don’t sleep on the 6-foot-tall man, who is heading into a career season in which he developed an impressive 3-point shot (14 for 30 from over the arch).
Hartenstein is a very good facilitator for his size and could lighten the load Robert Williams and Al Horford in the frontcourt when the C’s see him as an upgrade over Daniel Theis.
8. Nicolas Batum, Los Angeles Clippers
Length weight:6-foot-8, 230 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 46.3 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT
We are required to include Batum, which: reportedly expected to draw “strong interest” from Boston and a handful of other teams in free agency.
A versatile 3-and-D player who can guard multiple positions and divide the floor, Batum would be a natural addition to the Celtics’ second unit.