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Sports of Boston concludes its free agency preview with a look at the front-court players available.
Last season the Celtics’ went into training camp with four serviceable big men to patrol the middle. Shaquille O’Neal is now retired. Kendrick Perkins is kicking it with his buddies Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Semih Erden is in Cleveland trying to keep Baron Davis away from cheeseburgers. That leaves Boston with Jermaine O’Neal as their only true center.
Last season, O’Neal appeared in just 24 regular season games because of injuries. If the Celtics’ want to challenge for a title once more with the current group of guys, they’re going to need a few more big men to patrol the paint.
Below are a few bruisers that could really help this year’s Celtics team guard the painted area.
Yes, he has a cloud of drama and distractions that come with him, but K-Hump can rebound. Humphries is coming into his prime, has increased his stats and has improved his decision-making every year he’s been in the league. He’s a hustle player who doesn’t back down and attacks the glass on both ends of the floor. Humphries averaged 10 rebounds and a block in 27 minutes a game last year for the Nets. If he can be had for the mid-level, he’s worth it.
Thomas will likely be the oldest player in the NBA this season – just don’t tell him that. Thomas is as tough as they come: an old school power forward/center in the mold of Dale Davis, Charles Oakley, and Dennis Rodman. He hits the glass and he hits opposing players. At 39 years old, Thomas still played a valuable role in Chicago’s remarkable, injury-plagued season last year. When Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah came down with injuries last season, Thomas was able to step in and start 37 games for the Bulls. He plays team defense and he doesn’t back down.
Teltics can’t afford Samuel Dalembert, Tyson Chandler, Nene, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, or Greg Oden. That’s unfortunate, because they really need some size and depth at center. At 7’1″, 280 lbs., Fesenko is huge. And at 24 years old, he is also young. He isn’t going to give you much on offense, but his size makes him an excellent defender. According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, the Utah Jazz were 11.9 points better per 100 possessions on defense with Fesenko on the court last season. With injury-plagued Jermaine O’Neal slotted as the Celtics’ starting center, adding Fesenko for insurance could be a wise move.
If there is one thing Evans can do, its replace the toughness Perkins took with him when he was traded last season. Widely regarded as one of the meanest players in the league, Evans always has his teammates’ backs. He is one of the best rebounders in the league, but also one of the worst offensive players. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports the Celtics have serious interest in Evans. None of the big men available in the Celtics’ price range are perfect, but they could do a lot worse than Evans.
Other Possibilities: Spencer Hawes, Jeff Foster, Aaron Gray, Carl Landry, Alexis Ajinca, Craig Smith, Leon Powe