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9 possible free agents for Celtics to sign




Celtics

The Celtics can only offer free agents the veteran’s minimum this offseason, but they still have to round out their roster.

Daniel Theis is among several notable centers who will be on the free agent market this summer. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

NBA free agency is upon us.

Just under two weeks after the Celtics won their 18th title in franchise history, prospective free agents can begin negotiating and agreeing to deals with new teams starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

There are a few big fish on the market this offseason. LeBron James reportedly opted out of his contract. Paul George is set to hit free agency. James Harden and Klay Thompson are also among the notable names.

After winning a title, Brad Stevens has already stated that they don’t want to shake up the core of their roster. But even if the Celtics wanted to get in the mix for a big-time free agent, they won’t be able to. Because the Celtics are a second apron team for the luxury tax, they can only offer free agents the veteran’s minimum, which is determined by the number of seasons a player has played in the league.

Even though the Celtics went 64-18 and won a title this past season, there is still some work to do this offseason, even if isn’t much. Kristaps Porzingis will be out for at least the first month of the season after undergoing ankle surgery, so Boston will have to address its depth at center in some regard this offseason.

So, let’s take a look at nine free agents with Celtics ties or who have been previously been linked to the team who could be possible candidates for them to sign this offseason.

Their own free agents

First off, the Celtics have to determine what to do with their own players set to hit the open market.

Boston took care of one order of business on Saturday, reportedly picking up Sam Hauser’s $2.1 million team option for the 2024-25 season. With the move, the Celtics will have their top eight players (in terms of minutes played) under contract next season.

But the Celtics still have a few players who were at the fringe of their rotation last season set to become free agents on Sunday. Big men Luke Kornet and Xavier Tillman Sr. will become unrestricted free agents. Forward Oshae Brissett declined his $2.5 million player option for next season, also making him an unrestricted free agent.

The Celtics have bird rights for Kornet and Tillman, so they aren’t restricted on what they can spend to re-sign them. Boston holds non-bird rights for Brissett, allowing it to offer him 20 percent more than the veteran’s minimum.

All three players could seek opportunities to play elsewhere in order for more playing time. However, Porzingis’s injury will open up some minutes in the frontcourt early on in the season, especially if the Celtics opt to give Al Horford regular rest days.

If the Celtics are able to keep all three of Kornet, Tillman, and Brissett, they’d be pushing close to already having a complete 15-man roster. They’d have 14 players under contract before signing their picks from the 2024 NBA Draft (that number includes center Neeimas Queta, who has a club option for next season). So, re-signing all three would likely make what’s expected to be an already quiet offseason a bit more quiet in Boston.

If the Celtics lose one or multiple players from that group though, they’ll likely have to go on the hunt for a couple of veterans to help round out the roster.

Daniel Theis

If the Celtics lose just one of Kornet or Tillman, a reunion with Theis probably makes the most sense to fill out the depth at center.

Theis is a free agent again after spending most of last season with the Clippers. The Celtics actually had a chance to sign him during the season after the Pacers waived him as he received very little playing time. He opted to go to Los Angeles though, where he averaged 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in 59 games, mostly playing off the bench.

As Theis hits free agency, the German native is seeking a veteran minimum contract but could return to Europe if he doesn’t like his offers, Telesport reported earlier in June.

Jalen Smith

If the Celtics want a younger option to add to their frontcourt with Porzingis shelved, Smith is likely one of the top options.

The 24-year-old and the 10th overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft played better in Indiana than he did in Phoenix after the Pacers acquired him in 2022. He averaged 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this past season, shooting 59.2 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from deep.

Boston reportedly had some interest in Smith ahead of the trade deadline in 2022, so it isn’t unfeasible to think that it could be interested in him again this time around. He declined a $5.4 million player option, which could suggest that he senses he has a strong market. But he also was moved out of the Pacers’ rotation in their run in the Eastern Conference finals, so he also could be looking for a spot where he can get playing time.

Andre Drummond

The two-time All-Star is a free agent again after spending the last two seasons with the Bulls.

Drummond proved he can be valuable in a backup center role during his two seasons in Chicago. He’s averaged 7.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game over the last two seasons, mostly playing off the bench.

Despite his pedigree and status as one of the game’s top rebounders, Drummond has played on a relatively measly salary over the last three seasons, though he’s had a clear path to getting minutes in each stop. Perhaps playing for a contender could entice Drummond.

The Celtics were also interested in trading for the 30-year-old center ahead of this season’s deadline, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported.

Kris Dunn

The Celtics don’t have a pressing need for a guard. But if they want to add one, there is a veteran who was briefly on their roster that’s available in free agency.

Dunn would give the Celtics another strong defensive option at guard. He actually started 32 of the 66 games he played in for the Jazz this past season, averaging a steal over 18.9 minutes per game. He also averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 assists per game.

After controversially passing on Dunn with the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Celtics traded for the Providence product during the 2021 offseason. However, they traded him to the Grizzlies after a month. The Celtics “kicked the tires” on trading for Dunn again ahead of this season’s trade deadline, MassLive’s Brian Robb reported in February.

Gordon Hayward

The Celtics added more wing depth in the draft when they used their first-round pick on Scheierman, but it seems clear that you can never have enough wing players in this day and age.

Hayward, who played for the Celtics from 2017-20, would give Boston some insurance if something unforeseen happened to Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown during the season. He was still productive when he was in Charlotte last season, averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 25 games.

However, Hayward’s time in Oklahoma City was forgettable. He averaged 5.3 points per game with the Thunder in the regular season when they acquired him at the trade deadline. He hardly played in the postseason and didn’t make much of an impact when he did see the floor, scoring zero total points over 46 total minutes. So, the 34-year-old’s value entering free agency probably isn’t significant.

Justin Holiday

What’s better than one Holiday? Two Holidays!

Jokes aside, Jrue Holiday’s older brother is a free agent this offseason. The eldest Holiday was a depth piece along the wing for the Nuggets this past season, averaging four points in 14.9 minutes per game.

Holiday became one of the few players Nuggets coach Mike Malone trusted off the bench during their postseason run. The veteran wing averaged 4.6 points in 16.3 minutes per game in the Nuggets’ second-round series against the Timberwolves as Denver went to Holiday to get more defensive help along the perimeter.

The Nuggets added Holiday on a minimum salary last season. Considering his age and production level last season, he’s probably in-line to receive the minimum again this offseason.

And if you’re wondering if Jrue and Justin Holiday have played together in the NBA before, they have. They were teammates on the 76ers a couple of weeks at the end of the 2012-13 season.





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