Over the next two weeks in CelticsBlog, we’ll be doing our transcription of exit interviews for the players, Ime Udoka and Brad Stevens. However, with the draft Thursday and free agency starting a week later, the NBA has already turned the page on the 2021-2022 season and looks into next year. For now, it doesn’t look like Boston will be a big player either in the draft or free agency, but they will still be looking for 2-3 players who can contribute immediately. After successful deals to bring in Al Horford and Derrick White last year, Stevens will once again target players who fit Udoka’s now-defining system, style and mindset.
Consider what Stevens dealt with in the trade deadline last season to bring in Derek White and Danielle Theiss. To bring in White, the Celtics had to pay a heavy price: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, their first-round pick in 2022, and a potential trade-off in 2028. Reunification with Thess was an added plus by subtraction with Dennis Schroeder, Ines Kanter, and Bruno Fernando headed to Houston. Of the five players sent by Stevens, Richardson was the closest to the Odoka team. The Vet for seven years was a little player who could play on both sides of the ball—not necessarily a great shooter/playmaker/defender one-on-one, but in the grand scheme of switching Boston’s defense and ball movement, as well as plug-and-play gear. The others were all specialists (read: ball-stopper, pick-up traffic cone) of some sort.
as such Keith Smith of CelticsBlog points this outStevens has two primary tools to supplement a team that’s already 9-10 depth: a handful of TPE, including a $17.1 million TPE signed and traded by Evan Fournier last summer, and an average taxpayer-level exception of $6.4 million. MassLive’s Brian Robb reported yesterday that the property wants it “Big Boston Salary Expansion” For a team that was leading 2-1 in the finals and leading the last quarter in games 4 and 5.
So, while Stevens does have options and management seems motivated to exhaust them, any extras have to match the salary cap. The key to playing is defense for Odoka. Celtics’ defense isn’t the best in the league without every player able to defend their position. Payton Pritchard doesn’t see minutes in the finals if he can’t withstand players like Steve Curry and Kyrie Irving. Despite a cold snap at three-point shooting in subsequent rounds, Grant Williams was still the first major Boston team to sit on the bench due to his convertible defense. We’ll be previewing potential targets here at CelticsBlog as we get closer to free agency on June 30th, but as we all start making our wish lists, make sure these guys check out Udoka.
But despite the importance of D, the Celtics faltered in the Finals due to
rotation Lack of offensive firepower. Smith identifies three areas of need: 1) a vet ward to play alongside Tatum and Brown, 2) another senior, and 3) a “pure point guard.” After the aforementioned Richardson (and somewhat Langford) loss in February, the Celtics did not renew their wing depth and instead either played big with Grant Williams as captain or junior with a mix of Smart, White and Pritchard in the backcourt. Given the health of Robert Williams and the age of Al Horford, the addition of considerable experience is somewhere between necessity and luxury; A smaller TPE ($6.9 million and $5.9 million) can come in handy in season if the need arises. The same can be said for the elusive PG vet. An easy argument to make is that Brown and Tatum could use more pick-and-shoot and secondary movement opportunities to lighten their offensive burden, but CP3 doesn’t grow on trees.
Whether we’re talking about a young player who can sit at the end of the bench and shuttle between Boston and Maine or a ten-year-old vet looking to partake in a chip, finding players who fit into the locker room can prove it. Be as tough as trying to build one last summer.