Though the Boston Celtics have been looking good on defense, they could use some help in the frontcourt. Kevin Garnett is getting a bit old to handle all of the duties at center, plus he is more of a natural power forward anyway.
Power forward Brandon Bass is talented and plays with passion night after night, but his statistical output is hit or miss and simply isn't worth $20 million over three years.
That said, a theory by Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com could be the right formula to help the Celtics' defense. Rather than rely on Garnett and Bass to carry the team up front, Petraglia's report suggests that Boston GM Danny Ainge pursue Utah Jazz center and former Celtic Al Jefferson.
Jefferson spent the first three years of his career in Boston, averaging 10.3 points, 6.9 boards and a block per game before being sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the trade that brought Garnett to Beantown.
He has since become one of the league's top big men, and is currently averaging 15 points and 11.8 rebounds in Utah. He is also an impending free agent and discussed the upcoming summer with Petraglia, specifically the idea of returning to Boston.
“This is my first home,” he said with a big smile. “This will always be my home away from home. Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again. But right now, like I said, it’s all about taking care of business and finishing out the season right.”
As fun as it would be to see Jefferson in a Celtics uniform again, however, it's not going to happen via free agency. Boston has no cap room and too much money is tied up in Garnett, Bass, Paul Pierce and guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. If team management is to pursue Jefferson, they're going to have to trade for him, and the sooner the better.
Look at this situation from Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey's point of view. Should Jefferson decide to leave Utah via free agency, Lindsey will receive no compensation in return. Just assuming Jefferson will re-sign makes no sense because the Jazz also have two young frontcourt stars in the making in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Favors has performed well in 24.3 minutes per game this season, averaging 9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. The amazing part is that he has done all of that off the bench. In the starting lineup, there's no telling how much damage he could do.
Kanter's production, on the other hand, has not been as dominant. Despite being drafted third overall by Utah in 2011, he has only averaged 13.3 minutes per game and not received much of a chance to show team management what he can do.
He has great size at 6'11", 267 pounds, so it's odd that coach Tyrone Corbin would only give him limited playing time.
That said, with two talented big men waiting in the wings, Lindsey should look to deal Jefferson and get the Jazz some help at a position in which they are severely lacking: guard.
Save for Mo Williams, the Jazz guards' production has been hit-or-miss at best. For players who are supposed to provide decent backcourt scoring, guys like Gordon Hayward and Randy Foye are only averaging a combined 26.1 points per game.
Nothing against the two of them, but Utah needs guards who are going to play with some tenacity and bring a little something more to the table. If their guards could do more than just shoot, that would be ideal.
But that's not the situation in Utah now. Hayward and Foye are shooters. Always have been, always will be, and it's time for a makeover.
That said, it would be worth it for Lindsey and Ainge to engage in some talks for Jefferson. Ideally, the Celtics would shed Bass's contract and, as hard as it would be to trade this young man away, send Jeff Green along to provide a spark either in the lineup or off the bench.
However, those two players are forwards. What about the guards Utah needs?
Well, Celtics fans, let's not forget that Avery Bradley is returning soon and he was incredible over the last month of last season. In April, he averaged 15.1 points per game per game while shooting 52 percent from the field before injuring his shoulder in the playoffs.
Thus, if Ainge could find a way to include Lee and maybe even Leandro Barbosa in the package, then a deal could be made. All that would be left to discuss would be any draft picks Boston would or might include.
Seeing as how Jefferson seems to really enjoy Boston and already has a good relationship with Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers, this is an avenue definitely worth exploring.
Assuming that it happens, Jefferson's presence would give the Celtics a distinct advantage come playoff time, and all because Ainge chose to take a risk on his former big man.