Celtics

Could Celtics pursue Zach LaVine in free agency next summer?

Celtics

Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics made several moves this offseason with the goal of maintaining enough financial flexibility to bring in high-priced free-agent talent next summer.

But who could they acquire -- especially if Bradley Beal decides to stay with the Washington Wizards?

Apparently Celtics fans should keep an eye on Zach LaVine. The Chicago Bulls star could be "a potential Celtics free agent target" in 2022 and may be Boston's "No. 1 target" if Beal doesn't pan out, The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reported this weekend.

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Beal still should top Boston's free-agent wish list next summer: He's a close childhood friend of C's star Jayson Tatum and one of the NBA's best scorers. But the three-time All-Star has remained loyal to the Wizards for nine seasons and could opt to run it back with the team that drafted him.

If that's the case, LaVine is an intriguing target for the Celtics. The 26-year-old has blossomed into an elite scorer in Chicago, averaging career highs across the board for the Bulls last season (27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game) while shooting 41.9% from 3-point range.

LaVine also showcased impressive defensive abilities for Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he played with Tatum for a coaching staff that included new Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.

LaVine likely will command a maximum contract in free agency, but he'd still cost less than Beal, who is eligible for to make up to $47 million per year on his next deal compared to just over $37 million per year for LaVine.

 

A trio of Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Beal or LaVine would make the Celtics a serious threat in the Eastern Conference if they can make the financials work. The summer of 2022 is a long way away, though, and the C's face a more immediate challenge of returning to prominence in 2021-22 with a new head coach and a revamped roster.