With less than a week to go before free agency the Celtics have to find a way to retool this team to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With that being said I did research on the top ten players the Celtics should target in free agency to fit their system and help this team succeed without Kyrie Irving and Al Horford next year.
Cap Space currently: $25.8 million
Cap Space if Celtics renounce Rozier: $34 million
10. Isaiah Thomas
Age: 30 years old
2018 Stats: 8.1 PPG, 1.9 AST, 1.1 REB, 34.3 FG%, 27.9 3P%, 63.0 FT%
Analysis: Isaiah Thomas has not been the same player since he left the Celtics when he was traded for Kyrie Irving. The fact is he is not the same player. Thomas has only played in 44 games since his hip injury and the production is not there. However Thomas could be a valuable option off the bench for the Celtics as they look to retool and compete. At the moment there are two point guards on the Celtics roster heading into 2019 and both are rookies who will most likely be in Maine for most of the season so IT as a bench piece for cheap money could be a great option as well as a great story.
9. Terry Rozier
Age: 25 years old
2018 Stats: 9.0 PPG, 2.9 AST, 3.9 REB, 38.7 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 78.5 FT%
Analysis: Terry Rozier struggled last year. The question is if you give him the starting point guard spot will he be the 2017-2018 Playoffs Rozier who averaged 16.5 points a game, 5.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game or just another guy who had a good run in the playoffs. Rozier can contribute to a team and he also has shown success in Brad Stevens’s system. Another reason Rozier could be a nice risk to take is he will not be making the money that other players on this list so could Rozier be worth it for 10-15 million.
8. Willie Cauley-Stein
Age: 25 years old
2018 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 8.4 REB, 2.4 AST, 55.6 FG%, 50.0 3P%, 55.1 FT%
Analysis: Another major need for the Celtics is a big man. At the moment the starting center for this team is Robert Williams 111 who is not ready to be a starting center in the NBA. Cauley-Stein could be a great starting piece for the Celtics if they decide to target point guards in free agency. Cauley-Stein is a really good defender averaging 1.2 steals a game last season. Another thing he does well is run the floor and be a high energy piece for the Celts. The negatives with Cauley-Stein is he does not have three-point range and he also struggles from the charity stripe. With this being said obviously Cauley-Stein is not the number one option at center, but if the Celtics target a top point guard then do not be surprised if Willie “Trill” Cauley-Stein is the next center for the Celtics.
7. Patrick Beverley
Age: 30 years old
2018 Stats: 7.6 PPG, 5.0 REB, 3.8 AST, 40.7 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 78.0 FT%
Analysis: Patrick Beverley may not be the long-term solution at point guard for the Boston Celtics, but if the focus is to get a big man then the 30 year old guard can be a great option for a sixth man or starting point guard role heading into this season. Beverley is most known for his defense and I could only imagine a seeing a Smart and Beverley backcourt defensively for stretches. Beverley also has shown he can hit a three-point shot consistently and can be a good system piece for the Celtics. The only question would be cost of Beverley and if the Celtics would rather pay a Terry Rozier at the same price over the older guard.
6. Marcus Morris Sr.
Age: 29 years old
2018 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 6.1 REB, 1.5 AST, 44.7 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 84.4 FT%
Analysis: Marcus Morris Sr. plays a position that is not a big need for the Celtics but Morris showed the ability to succeed in the Brad Stevens system and thus deserves consideration from the Celtics heading into free agency. Morris was called the Celtics most consistent player this year by Brad Stevens and it was shown on the floor as Morris was getting all-star votes earlier in the year. He thrived because he could not only play his natural position of small forward, but also play a significant role as stretch power forward. If Morris departs it could come as a big loss, but with the Celtics having depth at forward it might be a reality that Morris is gone.
5. Julius Randle
Age: 24 years old
2018 Stats: 21.4 PPG, 8.7 REB, 3.1 AST, 52.4 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 73.1 FT%
Analysis:Julius Randle had a breakout year for the Pelicans last year increasing his per game averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. The most important statistic that was increased for Randle however was his three-point percentage which went up 12% this year bringing him from a non-outside threat to a solid perimeter shooter. This is what makes him enticing to the Celtics because Randle can fit at the power forward or even a small ball center role with an outside shot which Brad Stevens enjoys in his system. If the money is right and Randle likes the atmosphere then Randle could be in Celtic green for his prime years in the NBA.
4. Malcolm Brogdon
Age: 26 years old
2018 Stats: 15.6 PPG, 4.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 50.5 FG%, 42.6 3P%, 92.8 FT%
Analysis:Malcolm Brogdon was one of the best shooters in basketball last year joining the 50/40/90 club. Brogdon is a restricted free agent and with Milwaukee in cap trouble needing to sign Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez the door might be open for the Celtics to swoop in and get their next point guard in the restricted free agent market. Brogdon has nice size at the guard position and has shown the ability to run an offense at the NBA level. The questions surrounding Brogdon are what will be the cost for the guard and can he stay healthy long-term. This is an option that the Celtics should look into deeply as Brogdon can complement Tatum and Brown well as a knockdown shooter and as a quality defender.
3. Nikola Vucevic
Age: 28 years old
2018 Stats: 20.8 PPG, 12.0 REB, 3.8 AST, 51.8 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 78.9 FT%
Analysis: Nikola Vucevic is a typical Brad Stevens big man. A player who can space the floor and run in transition when needed. There are numerous reports that the Celtics are interested in the big man who could replace Al Horford for the Celtics. Vucevic does bring more height and rebounding than Horford however he does lack the defensive prowess that Horford brought to the Celtics. The main question is the money the Celtics would be willing to spend on Vucevic and how many years they will give the big man in free agency. If the money is right he could be a top priority for the Celtics come June 30th.
2. Kemba Walker
Age: 29 years old
2018 Stats: 25.6 PPG, 5.9 AST, 4.4 REB, 43.4 FG%, 35.6 3P%, 84.4 FT%
Analysis: Kemba Walker has been on the Celtics radar according to multiple sources. Walker is an all-star caliber player and has continued to improve during his NBA career. Last season was his best by far as he averaged 25.6 points per game and was named the All-NBA Third Team. If the Celtics were to sign Walker it would be a definite sign that they want to compete now and shift their focus again from rebuild to win now. Walker would be a great fit to the Brad Stevens offense and could even be a much better fit than Kyrie Irving was. If Boston is a location Walker wants to go to then it is very possible that Walker could be in Celtic green for now and for the foreseeable future.
1. D’Angelo Russell
Age: 23 years old
2018 Stats: 21.1 PPG, 7.0 APG, 3.9 RPG, 43.4 FG%, 36.9 3P%, 78.0 FT%
Analysis: The top target in free agency for the Celtics should be the all-star point guard from Brooklyn D’Angelo Russell. Russell is an all-around point guard who has shown the ability to score at a high level while also running an offense. The biggest reason why Russell should get consideration over Kemba Walker is age. Russell is 23 years old which is considerably younger than the 29 year old Walker. If Russell were to sign in Boston then the Celtics could have a future big three of Tatum, Brown and Russell. All these stars would be under the age of 23 next season and could hopefully grow together as a unit. The question with Russell is where he wants to go. It has been reported that Russell would prefer to go to the Lakers next season and although Brooklyn has shown interest to sign Kyrie Irving it is unclear if they actually will and if they do not then most likely Russell will be staying in Brooklyn.