Veteran Free Agents the Boston Celtics Can Still Find in NBA's Bargain Bin
Talent-wise, the remaining NBA free agents this summer resemble the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart. A team like the Boston Celtics with limited funds has to sift through the rubble of castoffs and duds to find something everyone else has forgotten.
There is still a large group of professional basketball players out there seeking work and hoping to land on a team before the 2014-15 season gets underway. A decent chunk of that group is made up of veterans who could provide something beyond what they may or may not be still capable of on the floor.
Right now, the Celtics roster features just two players in their 30s, Gerald Wallace and Joel Anthony. Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green can definitely qualify as veterans at this point but still aren't the type of guys who can say they've seen it all and have the type of voice that is wise with years.
As currently situated, Boston isn't going anywhere fast, so adding a veteran presence isn't going to get it over the hump into true contention or anything like that. Rather, this veteran could help head coach Brad Stevens in his second year and take some of the leadership responsibilities off the back of Rondo, who will be trying to re-establish himself as an All-Star in his first fully healthy season in three years.
Boston also has some holes to fill in the rim-protection and perimeter-shooting departments. While unlikely, maybe the Celtics could dust off an older player to help plug those holes.
$5 Movie Bin Comparison: Red
Much like Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and the rest of Red's cast, Nazr Mohammed is a past-his-prime professional who isn't ready to take any shots from the younger guys around him.
Mohammed is a hard-nosed veteran who still has the size and toughness of his youth, with a lot less stamina and overall skill. During the 2013 NBA playoffs, he clearly had enough of LeBron James and wasn't afraid to tangle with the league's best player.
Mohammed isn't going to win many, if any, games for Boston, but as a serious veteran presence on the bench and floor, you could do a lot worse. He is also a Kentucky guy like Rajon Rondo.
While playing just seven minutes per game last season for the Chicago Bulls, Mohammed remained ready and active throughout the full season. He saw time in 80 games for the Bulls, averaging 1.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. Defensively, he is still big, long and tough, three things the Celtics aren't exactly overflowing with in their frontcourt.
Salary-wise, Mohammed could be had for the veteran's minimum. For a veteran of his stature, that will run the Celtics about $1.45 million.
$5 Movie Bin Comparison: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
At his peak, Leandro Barbosa was one of the best NBA players at losing his defender on his way to the rim.
At age 31 and after a 2013 ACL tear, he has lost a lot of that speed. However, he still holds some of that old flame in bursts and could provide instant offense to the Boston Celtics if they are interested in bringing him back.
Barbosa spent 41 games with the Celtics in 2012-13, playing pretty well and showing a few flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, that knee injury cut his year short and forced the Celtics to deal him to the Washington Wizards.
He came back to prove effective for a limited time in a limited role with the Phoenix Suns but broke his hand in early May. If he can stay on the court, Barbosa has something left to prove. While the Celtics are jam-packed in their backcourt, Barbosa brings a slightly different style and much more offense than a lot of their guards can muster.
While Rajon Rondo works to re-establish himself, few players are better than Barbosa at getting to the rim with speed. He could teach Marcus Smart a thing or two.
Salary-wise, Barbosa is over the 10-year veteran threshold and would cost a minimum of $1.45 million to bring in.
$5 Movie Bin Comparison: The Bucket List
As far as older guys realizing they can still do a lot of the things they did when they were younger, Elton Brand definitely qualifies as The Bucket List of NBA free agents.
Well past his 35th birthday, Brand is still a quality role player in the league. He spent 73 games with the Atlanta Hawks last season and proved just that. With starting center Al Horford out for much of the year, Brand saw 19.4 minutes per game, going for 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.
The number to really admire, though, was his 1.2 blocks per game, especially for Boston Celtics fans who have been crying out for rim protection since Kevin Garnett was traded. Tyler Zeller isn't going to do a lot to stop penetrators at their peak, but Brand still stands a chance, even after a decade-and-a-half of NBA games.
Brand made $4 million last season on a one-year deal with Atlanta. The Celtics can't offer that much but do still have some of their mid-level exception, barring Evan Turner's salary, as well as their biannual of close to $2.08 million.
$5 Movie Bin Comparison: Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Emeka Okafor hasn't played basketball in a year. Like George Clooney in the Ocean's Eleven remake, he has been absent from his professional world but is looking to make a comeback.
When he last played in the 2012-13 season, Okafor posted solid averages of 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and one block per game with the Washington Wizards.
After being traded last offseason to the Phoenix Suns, Okafor's contract ran out as he missed the season with a herniated disc injury. That contract was paying him $14 million. The Boston Celtics can offer nowhere near that, and Okafor isn't expecting it. He has lingered on the free-agent market for this long, so it is possible that Boston could scrounge up enough loose change to tempt him with an offer.
He would bring more legitimacy to the Celtics frontcourt, while also injecting some veteran leadership in the form of a man who has seen it all. Okafor was the highly touted second overall pick in 2004 and then an immediate star for losing teams. He has dealt with declining skills and athleticism very well and would suit Boston's needs.
The Celtics have part of their mid-level exception left over after signing Evan Turner to a still unknown contract, as well as their full biannual exception. This late in the summer, it is possible that would be enough to tempt Okafor back to the area where he spent three years at the University of Connecticut.
Also in the Bin
Greg Stiemsma: Role Models
Because if you're white, you're Ben Affleck. Once touted as the next Bill Russell by the Boston Celtics' own Tommy Heinsohn, Greg Stiemsma was waived by the New Orleans Pelicans late last season. Boston knows better than anyone that the 28-year-old can still block shots and would come very cheap.
Ryan Hollins: Jumper
Another former Boston center, Ryan Hollins provides high energy and athleticism to any frontcourt in small doses. He saw time in 61 games last season for the Los Angeles Clippers doing just that. In large doses, Hollins is way too much of a jumping bean and not unlike too much of Hayden Christensen.
Jordan Crawford: The Karate Kid
Nobody got more out of Jordan Crawford than Brad Stevens last season, not unlike Mr. Miyagi and Ralph Macchio. The Celtics had to trade him away to make room for Rajon Rondo's return but can now look at him as more of an insurance policy on a cheap contract. Like Leandro Barbosa, Crawford is capable of providing instant offense off the bench amid a backcourt full of passers and defenders.
John Salmons: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Sorry, mailed that one in. Providing some outside shooting from the small forward spot, John Salmons is a cheap option to back up Jeff Green, while James Young grows in a very limited role or moves to Maine for the season. Salmons hit on 38.8 percent from beyond the arc over 60 games with the Toronto Raptors last season.
Francisco Garcia: Elf
Yeah, tough to ignore this one. Essentially the same as John Salmons, Garcia could provide outside shooting from the wing. He has the length to play small forward, while Young figures it out and Gerald Wallace plays sporadic defensive minutes. Garcia is a career 36.1 percent three-point shooter.