Ranking the Worst Free-Agency Signings in Boston Celtics History
It's a tough time for Boston Celtics fans. They can either accept the complete demolition of the franchise they've come to recognize as their own or accept the slow and steady process that rebuilds it. Regardless, it will probably hurt for quite a while.
The first step, as many levels of pain require, is acceptance. Paul Pierce, the captain and highest-scoring member of the franchise, will not be around next season. Kevin Garnett, the emotional leader and defensive catalyst who helped hoist banner No. 17, will also be absent. That's not easy.
But with loss, one must also consider the possibilities of future gains. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has initiated a rebuilding process that will likely eliminate him from popularity contests yet turn his franchise into a possible contender within the next five years.
Nobody likes saying goodbye to his or her team's main players. But holding onto futile hopes can prove much more costly. Celtics Nation knows the perils of clinging to stars (perhaps more than any fanbase), considering it suffered nearly 15 years of mediocre post-Larry Bird basketball.
Ainge would rather retire than develop another abysmal era of basketball in New England. Logistically stacking his assets in order—compiling nine first-round draft picks over the next five years—has been a great start. Now he must avoid repeating Celtics' history and acquiring wasteful free agents.
This list of awful Celtics free-agent acquisitions should serve as a reminder to Ainge during the upcoming crucial years.
5. Rasheed Wallace, PF/C, 2009
Many Celtics fans would place Rasheed Wallace higher on the list of failed free-agent acquisitions, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
For one, he was old and about as reliable as could be demanded, despite his initial three-year contract. He had no business playing substantial minutes in meaningful games, so the failure brought upon by his deal reflects more on the franchise than it does on Wallace as a player.
Ainge, unfortunately, fell into the same spell as his predecessors, mistakenly assuming that former stars could hold their own in the fiercest of postseason competition.
“Sheed” struggled mightily to find an identity with the Celtics during the season, tying his career high of 4.5 fouls per 36 minutes while grabbing an underwhelming 6.6 rebounds (his lowest since 1998-99). Worst of all, he shot 40.9 percent from the floor, the lowest of his career.
Wallace, largely brought on as a veteran force for a run at banner 18, played horrifically in the 2010 playoffs. He finished with 6.1 points on 41.6 percent shooting, with three rebounds and a whopping 3.4 fouls per 17.1 minutes. He couldn't even keep up with his opponents long enough to warrant 20 minutes of play. The Celtics ended up losing in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sheed was paid $6,322,320 for that fateful year, then he and the organization decided to part ways rather than continue what would have been two more years of a contract. Then a 15-year veteran, Wallace said he was leaning toward retirement, so Ainge opted to buy his contract out and waive him.
When asked of the pickups Ainge would look for the next season, he slipped a cold statement in, saying, “We'd love to get another veteran shooter...preferably one under 38.”
Ooh. Sick burn. Too bad he never thought of that precedent before signing a washed-up big man to a championship contender.
4. Troy Murphy, PF, 2011
Troy Murphy's sole existence on this list may simply be to disqualify Rasheed Wallace as the worst power forward acquisition in the history of the Boston Celtics.
Most fans choose to forget Ainge's mere acknowledgement of Murphy as a player in March of 2011—never mind the abysmal 17 games he played with the Celtics.
Ainge never justified why he offered the 6'11", 245-pounder a midseason contract. Sure, the Notre Dame product averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds with the struggling Indiana Pacers in 2009-10. But in the following season with the Nets, just prior to his deal with the Celtics, the New Jersey native averaged just 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds.
As if anyone was surprised, Murphy averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game with Boston while shooting 42 percent from the field.
Hey, at least he makes Sheed look good.
3. Travis Knight, C, 1997
Good lord, this list exposes the debacle of the Celtics' past 20 years of big-man acquisitions. The Rick Pitino era had to be mentioned at some point, folks. What better time to mention Boston's worst-ever coach and GM than with a Travis Knight reference?
Pitino unfortunately saw enough promise in the Connecticut alum to trade Tony Battie for him and then proceeded to offer him a seven-year, $22 million contract. Even Knight didn't know what to think.
“I really have mixed emotions,” the seven-footer said. “I should be elated right now, but I'm not. I feel so much loyalty [to the Lakers].”
In his first season with Boston, Knight averaged 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. He struggled on defense and only shot 44 percent from the field even though the majority of his attempts occurred within four feet of the basket.
Thankfully for the Celtics, Pitino managed to trade Knight back to the Lakers after one season. He won a championship with them during the Shaq-and-Kobe era, then faded into obscurity after a few dismal years with the New York Knicks.
2. Tom Gugliotta, PF, 2004
Maybe we've struck a chord here. The post-Bird, pre-Kevin Garnett era could very easily go down as the worst series of big-man acquisitions in the history of pro basketball.
Nobody ever disputed that Tom Gugliotta was a solid scorer in his heyday. But in 2004, the 6'10”, 240-pounder already had a laundry list of injuries and barely warranted a look from any team in contention.
Boston, however, gave him a chance.
“Googs” scored precisely 26 points and racked up a total of 43 rebounds in 20 games while donning Celtics green. He never reached double digits and topped out at 17 minutes per game.
Boston traded the fallen North Carolina State product to the Atlanta Hawks midway through the season, where he finished his career once and for all.
1. Pervis Ellison, C, 1994
Beginning a long line of terrible big-man acquisitions, Pervis “Never Nervous” Ellison caused resentment among Celtics Nation in no time.
With the still-burdening hangover of the post-Larry Bird era in the Celtics' fogged-up brains, vice president M.L. Carr and GM Jan Volk opted to sign the veteran big man to a six-year deal.
Alongside him, they placed former highlight reel wash-up Dominique Wilkins and lost Croatian power forward Dino Radja. It was a recipe for disaster, even before Ellison's injury woes. The center only played half a season two times during his Celtics' career.
Maybe they saw something special in the former No. 1 pick from the 1989 draft. After all, he showed promise as a shot-blocker and interior presence.
But Ellison never deserved the six-year, $11.55 million deal Boston foolishly offered him. The club paid the price for many years and still seems doomed at the center position to this day.