The NBA is kind of like a chess game. One team makes a move and another has to make a move to counter it. The Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Miami countered with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Celtics took the Heat to 7 games in the ECF with LeBron and Co playing mostly small ball. The Celtics countered by bringing in Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green to stock up on athletic wings who can shoot and defend.
But, the Heat aren't the only ones that the Celics need to worry about next season. Just as the Celtics took the Heat to 7 games, the Sixers took the Celtics to 7 games in the Semi-Finals. After looking like they were going to have to take a step back to become contenders again, Philly made a big trade that could make them contenders for years to come. They received Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson in trade in exchange for Andre Iguodala. They signed Kwame Brown as a free agent and brought back some young talented players from last season's team. Bynum now replaces Dwight Howard as the best center in the East. They have the capability of putting out a very, very big lineup.
Celtics are up for the next move. They shored up their defense and their wings to counter the Heat. Now, the Celtics need to make a move to counter the one made by the Sixers when they brought in Bynum, who is talking about signing a long term contract with them. They, unlike the Heat will be playing big, rather than small, and the path to the Finals will likely go through the Sixers before it goes through the Heat.
I think the Celtics should bring in another big to match up with the Sixers. The Celtics have Kevin Garnett (7'), Chris Wilcox (6'10"), Jason Collins (7') and Fab Melo (7') at center. Jared Sullinger at 6'9" could play some center when going small, as could Brandon Bass. Kevin Garnett will probably see a lot of time at the 5 again this season, but against a bruiser like Bynum, I just don't see KG wanting to bang with him inside. Wilcox may be able to bang with him but he's not known as a defensive stopper, especially for bigger low post scorers like Bynum.
Danny signed Jason Collins to match up with post players like Bynum and Howard, but Collins is primarily a defensive player and isn't a great rebounder or scorer. Hollinger's player profile has this to say about Collins
A specialist par excellence, Collins may be the most matchup-dependent player in basketball. Against Orlando's Dwight Howard, Collins is worth his weight in gold, because nobody defends Howard better. Collins is big enough to deny Howard prime post position, sound enough to take away his favored driving angles, and savvy enough to bait him into offensive fouls. His ability to single-cover Howard was the single biggest reason the Hawks surprised Orlando in the first round of the playoffs in 2011.
It's possible that Collins will be used just against the teams like Philly that have physical low post centers and his defense against centers like Bynum may be good enough to offset his lack of offense. It's also possible that Danny may look to bring in another center. The pickings are slim, but there are a couple of intriguing possibilities.
Ben Wallace, who is a bit undersized at 6'9", hasn't been resigned by Detroit. The Celtics have been known for rejuvenating players at the end of their career. Wallace is a good defender and good rebounder but has the same limits on offense that Jason Collins has. The rejuvenating thing didn't quite work out for the last Wallace the Celtics signed but you never know.
Kyrylo Fesenko is big. He's 7'1" tall with a 7'4" wingspan and 9'4" standing reach. He's a great defender, but, as with Wallace and Collins, is limited offensively. I thought that But, did I mention that he's BIG? I thought that the Pacers were re-signing him, but can't fine anywhere that they have. Here's Hollinger's take.
The best-kept secret in the NBA right now is Fesenko's monstrous defensive stats. It's not that one or two metrics point out his defensive value; it's that all of them do, without any pointing to the contrary. Last season the Jazz were an eye-popping 11.91 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Fesenko on the floor, and this is not a new trend. The season before it was 8.67; in limited minutes his first two seasons he also had a strong differential. Now for the bad news. Fesenko has been fairly disastrous offensively. He tends to bring balls back into shot-blockers when finishing at the rim, he's a 39.8 percent career foul shooter, he's clumsy, and he has no shooting range or ball skills.
Darko Milicic and the Celtics were linked earlier in the preseason. There was mutual interest but he was looking to make more than the veteran's minimum at the time. He was amnestied and will be making his salary from the Wolves and maybe now that he's had time to think about it, he'll sign for less. Milicic is young and has size at 7' tall. As with every other center out there, there are pros and cons. Here's Hollinger's take
• Left-handed low-post player who likes to shoot lefty hook or spin baseline.
• Poor offensive instincts. Turnover prone and rarely scores at rim.
• Great shot-blocker but defensive effort fluctuates. Poor rebounder for size.
And, perhaps the most intriguing of all is Andre Blatche. Blatche is listed as a power forward, but at 6'11" can certainly play center. Blatche is another amnestied player and because of that, may consider the vet minimum. The biggest question about Blatche is work ethic and character. Those a both questions that would make a team pause before signing him because a character issue could disrupt a good locker room. If work ethic is a question, don't expect KG to mentor him as he could end up like Patrick O'Bryant on KG's ignore list. Here is Hollinger's take:
• Jump-shooting big man miscast as go-to guy. Struggles to create quality looks.
• Good size, but lacks strength. Improved defensive effort. Great hands.
• Struggles with conditioning. Character a question. Will force bad shots.
There are a few other centers out there but not even worth the time to write out a profile for the most part. After looking at the centers at the top of the free agent list, I'm beginning to think that the best move in this chess game is to keep what we have and possibly wait to see if any other players become available at the trade deadline.
By waiting we can see if Sully and Melo can give us anything. We can also see if Wilcox can pick up where he left off and see if KG can play center at the same level he did last season. We can also see how Jason Collins will work out to cover centers like Bynum. Then, Danny can fill in the blanks at the trade deadline. There's bound to be at least one quality center waived or available. It would still be nice to have another quality big to throw into the mix. It's Danny's move and that move may just be to call checkmate and stick with what we have.
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