NBA free agency: Some players Celtics could target with mid-level exception

BOSTON — The NBA free agent frenzy is set to tip off Thursday night when players and teams can start to agree to deals. While the Celtics aren’t expected to be major players in the hysteria, they do have some work to do and will be actively trying to bolster the team’s bench.

Brad Stevens has his offseason wish list, which includes adding some more shooting and scoring off the bench, another ball-handler, and some more depth in the frontcourt. His best avenue to add an impact player is the $17.1 TPE at his disposal, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be able to use it before it expires in mid-July.

As far as free agency goes, Boston will have the taxpayer mid-level exception to offer up, which is worth $6.4 million. That payday may not be very attractive, but joining a contender and having a shot at a ring certainly will be for some veterans out there.

Here are a few potential targets for the Celtics with their MLE:

Patty Mills: The veteran sharpshooter opted out of the final year of his deal with the Nets. He could still return to Brooklyn, but Boston should make a pitch to the 33-year-old.

Mills can knock down threes and handle the ball. He has plenty of playoff experience from his days with the Spurs, and he also has a great relationship with Ime Udoka. 

Mills struggled in the second half last season, likely tired after he played a lot more than he’s used to due to Kyrie Irving’s inability to play in home games. But he would be a solid addition to the Boston bench and check off a couple of boxes on Stevens’ wish list.

Gary Harris Jr.: Harris has been stuck in Orlando the last two seasons and is probably hungry to join a wining team. The 27-year-old had lost his three-point shot touch a bit recently, but appeared to get it back last season by hitting 38.4 percent from downtown. Harris is a little undersized at 6-foot-4, but he would add depth on the wing and could help Boston’s cause of preserving Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown during the regular season.

He’s also an excellent defender who can guard multiple positions, and would fit right into Boston’s defensive system. 

T.J. Warren: He’s already been linked to the Celtics, and Warren is a great scorer when healthy. But health is the biggest issue with the 28-year-old.

Warren has played in just four games over the last two seasons due to foot injuries. Expecting a lot out of him would be a big gamble for Boston.

But the last time we saw Warren play a full season, he averaged a career-best 19.8 points per game for the Pacers in 2019-20, and he went wild in the NBA bubble. A career 51 percent shooter, Warren may be worth the risk.

Bruce Brown: If the Nets move on from Brown for whatever reason, the Celtics should try to bring him home. He’s a versatile — and tough — defender and shot 40 percent from three last season. 

Victor Oladipo: Another player with some injury concerns, but Oladipo was an absolute pest against the Celtics during the Eastern Conference Finals. He can get cooking in a hurry off the bench.

Oladipo has played just 41 games over the last two season, and saw action in only eight regular season games for the Heat last year. He struggled from deep in the playoffs, but shot 42 percent from downtown in the regular season. He also gave Miami 10.6 points per game off the bench in the postseason.

Donte DiVincenzo: The 25-year-old guard is an unrestricted free agent after the Kings opted not to give him a qualifying offer. He had a down year in 2021-22, averaging just 7.2 points off 33 percent shooting (and only 28 percent from three) in his 17 games with the Bucks. But the redhead was a lot better in his 25 games with the Kings, putting up 10.3 points off 36 percent shooting overall and 37 percent from downtown. 

He’s a versatile defender though and would be a nice fit off the Boston bench — if he’s willing to take another bench role, something he wasn’t happy about with the Kings. But coming off the bench for a team like the Kings and coming off the bench for a team like the Celtics is night and day.

Otto Porter Jr.: The Celtics may have to use the TPE to upgrade their depth in the frontcourt, but if Porter is available for the MLE then Boston should pounce. He’s not great on defense, but he can space the floor off the bench.

Isaiah Hartenstein: There’s a lot of chatter around the seven-footer after his breakout season with the Clippers, and the Orlando Magic are reportedly setting their sights on the 24-year-old.

Hartenstein averaged 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds last season and hit 63 percent of his 5.4 attempts per game. He would be a great big off the bench and could make some spot starts to give Al Horford and Robert Williams some rest during the regular season.

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