5 free agents Celtics could potentially target

Gabby Guerard
June 25, 2019 - 4:57 pm
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With free agency less than a week away, it’s no secret that the Celtics have some holes to fill, given the anticipated departure of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and after trading away Aron Baynes.

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In terms of cap space, the Celtics will have about $25.8 million without Irving and Horford. The team has the potential to increase that number to about $34 million, by renouncing the rights to all its free agents, including Rozier.

In the 2019 NBA Draft, Boston picked up three guards, including Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters, and one forward, Grant Williams. But, there is still work to be done to strengthen what seems to be a very young roster for the 2019-20 season.

Here are five free agents that the Celtics could look to target:

1. Nikola Vucevic, C, Magic

Vucevic is unrestricted free agent who could come in and fill the need for a big immediately. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported during the NBA Draft that the Celtics and Lakers could pursue the All-Star.

Last season with the Magic, the 7-foot center averaged 20.8 points and 12 rebounds per game, both of which were career highs. Vucevic also shot 51.8 percent from the field. 

Vucevic has developed his 3-point game as of late, shooting a career-high 36.4 percent from beyond the arc last season. His ability to pop out could open more opportunities for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to drive to the basket and draw more fouls. Vucevic also brings a deep presence in the paint rebounding, and could help Boston break out in transition more often.

The Magic could offer a five-year deal with the most money, but also have Mohamed Bamba to keep in mind. If the team isn’t willing to offer Vucevic that potential deal, the Celtics could put together a competitive offer, assuming that neither Horford nor Irving re-sign.

2. Malcolm Brogdon, G, Bucks

According to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, there is “building chatter” that the Celtics could target Brogdon.

The 26-year-old guard averaged 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds with the Bucks last season, while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. Brogdon also averaged 3.2 assists and only 1.4 turnovers per game, showing that he can distribute the ball and make plays effectively.

The 6-foot-5 guard uses his size and wingspan to be a defensive threat, and could also fill in the probable opening point guard role, with Irving expected to leave. But to get Brogdon in Boston, it would likely take close to a max offer. 

Although he is a restricted free agent, the Bucks roster will be expensive, including Khris Middleton’s likely max deal. Though unlike Milwaukee with Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as of right now, the Celtics won’t have a big star on the roster. This would give the 26-year-old the opportunity to develop with the young core of the Celtics, into a potential future All-Star himself down the road.

3. Kemba Walker, PG, Hornets

According to New York Times’ Marc Stein, Boston could potentially be in the mix for Hornets free agent Walker.

The three-time All-Star point guard will enter unrestricted free agency for the first time, following his best season so far. In his 2018-19 campaign, the 29-year-old averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Walker would fit into Brad Stevens’ offensive system, in which point guards who can get into the paint or shoot 3-pointers off the pick-and-roll thrive. With Irving anticipated to leave Boston, Walker would be an effective point guard to fill in the hole, bringing valuable experience to a young core of Tatum and Brown.

Charlotte can offer him a supermax contract, but that will leave the Hornets with few options to improve their team, due to the lack of cap space. Though, Walker did say he’d be open to taking less than the supermax if it meant that they could build a stronger team around him for the future. 

But there is one selling point that could draw Walker’s attention: playoff appearances.

Since he was drafted in 20011, the Hornets have only made the playoffs twice, both times losing in the Eastern Conference first round. Meanwhile, the Celtics have competed in all but one year of playoffs in that same timespan.

4. Nikola Mirotic, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Mirotic could be a good fit for the Celtics.

Last season, the 6-foot-10 power forward was shuffled around quite a bit, starting the season with Toronto, then heading to New Orleans, before finally landing in Milwaukee. While adjusting to three different teams over the course of one season can largely impact a player’s stats, Mirotic’s combined averages for the 2018-19 season include 14.5 points and 7.03 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Pelton considers Mirotic to be the top stretch-4 free agent available for less than the max. He also added that if the Bucks can re-sign their starters, Mirotic is likely be considered expendable. This would open the door for the Celtics, in addition to other potential fits such as the Jazz, Pacers, and Kings.

The Celtics could offer just the fresh start that Mirotic might be looking for. After remaining on the bench for Milwaukee’s season-ending loss to the Raptors, and dealing with injuries last season, Mirotic would be stepping into a role that Boston desperately needs to fill. In addition to this opportunity, the 28-year-old would bring five years of NBA experience, which could help guide Boston’s youthful talents.

5. Noah Vonleh, PF, Knicks

The Knicks have made it clear that they are trying to score a pair of max-salaried players, so it is very likely that Vonleh could be picked up by another team. The native New Englander from Haverhill, Mass. has worked out at the Celtics practice facility in previous offseasons.

Vonleh has played for four different teams in just five seasons, including Charlotte, Portland, Chicago, and most recently the Knicks. Last season, the 6-foot-9 power forward averaged 8.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game, all of which were career highs.

Although those numbers aren’t nearly what Boston has been used to from Horford, he would fill the anticipated void. And at just 23-years-old, Vonleh would have the opportunity to continue improving and developing alongside Boston’s young core of Brown and Tatum.

It is also noteworthy that Vonleh only earned $1.6 million last season. Boston could offer him a significant increase in pay, and more playing time, including the possibility of a starting role, depending on how free agency plays out for the Celtics.

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