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Let’s assume for a moment that Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all walk back through the proverbial door (as Rick Pitino might say). If this indeed is the case, then Celtics GM, Danny Ainge, will be hard pressed to find ways to improve the Celtics roster given the strict rules of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Currently, the Celtics are right on the cusp of the NBA’s luxury tax threshold, meaning that the only money available to them in free-agency is the $3 million mini-midlevel exception and minimum salary contracts.This means that the Celtics best option to upgrade their roster will be with trades for ‘buy low’ players- Players who have talent but haven’t lived up to their contracts with their current teams.
These players are high-risk, high-reward prospects, but if the Celtics want to let Pierce and Garnett ride into the sunset in green, this may be the only type of move that could propel the team back into contention. Below are four players to keep an eye on:
Bargnani can certainly be had for cheap, basically for free, but the problem is he’s owed over $20 million over the next two seasons. The Raptors new GM has made it know that his first order of business is to try and trade Bargnani. The former number one overall pick struggled mightily last season with his health and efficiency, and seemed to fall out of favor with everyone in the Raptors organization. Bargnani posted career lows in several statistically categories last season and appeared in just 35 games.
Bargnani is just 27 years-old and averaged 20 points per game in the two seasons previous to this past one. At a legit seven feet tall, Bargnani has solid three point range, and from 2010-2012 was getting to line over five times a game. A big man with serious inside-out game is a rare commodity in the NBA, and Bargnani’s talents would be a welcome addition next to Garnett in the paint.
The Timberwolves will part with Williams if they get something for him. A package of Courtney Lee and a future pick might be the best the Wolves are going to get. Williams has struggled to find a role in Minnesota, and the revolving door of injuries the team has faced has made Williams minutes incredibly inconsistent. It’s been a tough situation for a former number two pick in the draft.
All accounts say that Williams is a hard worker. He worked his way from a barely recruited high-school player to the second pick in the NBA draft. Williams shot hasn’t fallen in his first two seasons in the league, but it’s nothing a little hard work can’t fix. Williams combination of size and athleticism makes him the ideal player for NBA small ball. Doc Rivers and the Celtics have always done a good job of resurrecting the careers of versatile forwards (see Jeff Green, James Posey, and Brandon Bass), and Williams certainly fits the mold.
The buy-low of all buy-low options, Cousins possesses all of the talents of a superstar NBA player, but none of the poise. Cousins fought with his coach, the refs, and even opposing announcers last season, and continually found himself suspended by his team and the league all year. Despite his struggles with maturity, Cousins improved his stats across the board and finished with career highs in points, rebounds and field goal percentage. The Kings have tried to unload Cousins for about a year, but haven’t been able to find a package that makes giving up on their big man worth it. If the Celtics offer something like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and a first round pick for Cousins, will the Kings pass?
At, 6’11” 270lbs, Cousins is a legit NBA center, something the Celtics have lacked for several seasons. If we’ve learned anything from this season’s NBA playoffs, it’s that size still matters in professional basketball and players with Cousins size and skill don’t come around very often. If Garnett and Rivers are still with the Celtics next season, a project like Cousins is a real possibility, and one they’d be foolish to pass up. Even if Cousins never reaches his potential as an NBA superstar, he’s one of the few talents out there that’s totally worth the gamble.
I know, crazy, right? Hear me out. Stoudamire is only 30 years old and despite his injury problems the last two seasons, has played over 84 percent of possible games in his career. That’s an incredible number given Stoudamire’s reputation. Additionally, Stoudamire continues to produce offensively and on the glass at very efficient numbers. The sweetener here is what the Knicks might be willing to give up to get out of Stoudamire’s contract. If the Knicks are willing to give up Iman Shumpert or a first round pick to get out from Stoudamire’s contract, then it might be easier for the Celtics to take on the risk.
If the Celtics are trying to prolong the careers of Garnett and Pierce, then rolling the dice on Stoudamire and whatever the Knicks toss in the deal for Jason Terry, Bass, and Lee doesn’t sound too far out of the question. It’s the type of deal the two teams might be both desperate enough to explore. 14 points and seven rebounds a game from Stoudamire for 60 games a year doesn’t sound unreasonable. That, coupled with the possibility of Shumpert’s continued development, might be enough to propel the Celtics back to the conference finals. The Celtics hands are tied to the salary cap, so rolling the dice in a big way may be the only way to justify holding onto Garnett and Pierce for another season or two.