Eight realistic targets for Celtics to consider in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There’s a pretty high bar for success in Boston.
That explains why, after the Celtics’ best season in over a decade, the conversation has immediately turned to how Brad Stevens and his staff can improve the roster after falling to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Boston’s to-do list isn’t long; every regular rotation player is under contract through at least the 2022-23 season, and Stevens recently suggested that he prefers to add auxiliary pieces rather than break up the core.
The Celtics have clear needs, however. Stevens highlighted bench scoring and playmaking as areas of focus on the free agent and trade markets, while head coach Ime Udoka appears to have a veteran scorer on his wish list.
Since the C’s are already over the luxury tax, don’t expect them to sign a big-name free agent making north of $20 million. But they do have the $6.39 million taxpayer midlevel exception at their disposal, and there are a few intriguing names who might be willing to come to Boston on such a deal.
Here are eight players the Celtics could realistically target with the $6.39 million MLE when NBA free agency begins on Thursday, June 30.
1. T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers
Height, weight:6-foot-8, 220 pounds
*2019-20 stats: 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 53.6 percent FG, 40.3 percent 3PT
*Missed 68 games in 2020-21 and all of 2021-22 due to a stress fracture in his left foot
Warren has played just four games in the last two seasons, so this would be a gamble. But he was an absolute stud before his injury, earning All-Bubble First Team honors in 2020 after averaging 31 points over the Pacers’ eight games in Orlando.
Warren is the best pure scorer on this list and could be a floor-spacing weapon on Boston’s second unit … assuming he can return to his pre-injury level.
2. Otto Porter Jr., Golden State Warriors
Height, weight:6-foot-8, 198 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 46.4 percent FG, 37.0 percent 3PT
Stevens had a front-row seat when Porter hit 56.3 percent of his 3-pointers against the Celtics in the Finals. While that was an aberration, the nine-year veteran does a lot of things well and is a very good defender who would fit the mold of the stabilizing veteran presence that Udoka covets.
If Porter doesn’t re-sign with the champs, the Celtics should come calling.
3. Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets
Height, weight:6-foot-4, 200 pounds
2021-22 stats: 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 50.3 percent FG, 40.4 percent 3PT
Udoka worked with Brown as a Nets assistant coach during the 2020-21 season, so he’s well aware that the Boston native is a strong defender with a quality 3-point shot.
Brown played well against his hometown team in the first round of the playoffs, and his two-way prowess would make him a nice complement to Marcus Smart and Derrick White in the backcourt.
4. Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
Height, weight:6-foot-1, 180 pounds
2021-22 stats: 11.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 40.8 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT
Speaking of Udoka connections… Mills and Udoka go way back, having spent seven seasons together on the Spurs (2012 to 2019) when Udoka was an assistant in San Antonio.
Mills might be past his prime, but he’s still a solid facilitator and an above-average shooter who doesn’t turn the ball over and has a championship on his résumé.
5. Gary Harris, Orlando Magic
Height, weight:6-foot-4, 210 pounds
2021-22 stats: 11.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 43.4 percent FG, 38.4 percent 3PT
Much like Brown, Harris is a solid two-way combo guard who scored a career-high 36 points against the Celtics back in 2017. He’d probably welcome a move to Boston after spending the last season and a half on the bottom-dwelling Orlando Magic.
6. Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies
Height, weight:6-foot-9, 230 pounds
2021-22 stats: 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 44.6 percent FG, 33.0 percent 3PT
Anderson also has a history with Udoka, having spent his first four seasons in San Antonio. He’s not the best outside shooter but is an above-average facilitator who would fit nicely as a stretch four on Boston’s second unit.
MassLive’s Brian Robb reported last summer that the Celtics have had their eye on Anderson for “quite some time,” so they’re apparently familiar with his skill set.
7. Isaiah Hartenstein, Los Angeles Clippers
Height, weight:7-foot, 250 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 62.6 percent FG, 46.7 percent 3PT
Hartenstein isn’t a household name, but don’t sleep on the 7-foot big man, who is coming off a career season in which he developed an impressive 3-point shot (14 for 30 from beyond the arc).
Hartenstein is a very good facilitator for his size and could ease the burden on Robert Williams and Al Horford in the frontcourt if the C’s view him as an upgrade over Daniel Theis.
8. Nicolas Batum, Los Angeles Clippers
Height, weight:6-foot-8, 230 pounds
2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 46.3 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT
We’re obligated to include Batum, who reportedly is expected to draw “strong interest” from Boston and a handful of other teams in free agency.
As a versatile 3-and-D player who can guard multiple positions and space the floor, Batum would be a natural fit on the Celtics’ second unit.
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