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The Boston Celtics will certainly have some cap space this off season to pursue a couple above average free agents. With the concerns at the center position and the retirement of Shaq, I decided to focus on Nene Hilario for the first of multiple reports of what the Celtics will do this upcoming off season.
The center position is easily the weakest position in the NBA. There are only a handful of good centers in the league and the drop off is significant once you get past the top six or seven. So, to get a guy like Nene Hilario is a great find.
At 6’11″, 250 lbs, Nene has an excellent frame and at age 28 is entering the prime of his career. Over the past three years, Nene has averaged 78 games a season while scoring 14.3 points per game, grabbing 7.7 rebounds per game and shooting 60 percent from the field.
This past season there was no drop-off in Nene’s production. He ranked seventh in scoring amongst centers, 12th in rebounding, first in field goal percentage and sixth in fewest turnovers amongst centers.
The Celtics are an aging team, we all know that. What people may not know is that Kevin Garnett and Jermiane O’Neal are unrestricted free agents after next year. With Glen “Big Baby” Davis already a free agent this year, the Celtics could potentially have no depth up front if they don’t pick someone up soon.
With Shaq’s retirement, there is extra pressure on Danny Ainge to find a long term solution at the center position. Jermaine O’Neal’s knees will not hold up during a full NBA season and with him being a free agent in a year, he may not even be back. So, Nene could and should be the answer. Nene would provide the Celtics with stability at the center position for the next four to five years. His defensive ability is as good if not better than Kendrick Perkins and he is a huge upgrade offensively.
The conventional Celtics fan will want the team to sit tight on the center position. Go after a guy such as Jason Collins for one year and make a big push for Dwight in 2012. While I, like most sports fans, like to dream big, that is one dream that just will never happen. Just a few quick reasons why he would not come to Boston:
So, forget about Dwight Howard. Go after a guy who can help the Celtics win now, will be there in the future and won’t crush your cap. Nene is not the flashy choice, but he is the right choice.
Nene plays hard on every possession. Despite the fact that his career rebounds per game is 6.9, he is still a very good rebounder. If you watch him play, you would swear he averaged 11 rebounds per game.
The Celtics are going to start building this team around Rondo and Jeff Green. One way to make Rondo’s life easier to give him a capable center. Offensively, Nene is one of the most efficient centers in basketball.He is so efficient he led the NBA in field goal percentage this past season. He has excellent footwork and can score with either hand. He commands the ball in the paint and is a good passer for a big man.
If I am a Celtics fan, Nene Hilario is the number one guy I want the Celtics to get this offseason. Pairing Nene up with Kevin Garnett will provide the Celtics with the size that they were lacking in the second half of the season. Not only that, but it will also give the Celtics another scoring option.
Now there is a catch here with Nene. He has an early termination option. Meaning that he is not a free agent unless he wants to leave Denver. This is his final year of his contract and he is slated to make $11.6 million. Now, I am not sure if Nene will pass on all that money especially when the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire. But, if Nene were to leave I would expect the Celtics to put a full court press on Nene and try to get him in green.