The Boston Celtics' depth will be tested right out of the gate this season.
Starting center Robert Williams is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing left knee surgery, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday. The setback means Williams likely will miss at least Boston's regular-season opener and potentially the first one or two weeks.
You could have made the case that the Celtics needed big man depth before Tuesday's news; 6-foot-10 forward Danilo Gallinari is sidelined indefinitely with a torn ACL, leaving just Al Horford, Grant Williams and Luke Kornet in the frontcourt depth chart among players who were on last season's squad.
It's possible the C's see what they have in Kornet or training camp invitee Mfiondu Kabengele -- who impressed during the NBA Summer League -- and stand pat until Williams returns. But given his injury history, Boston definitely could benefit from adding a veteran big man who can act as Time Lord insurance throughout the season.
So, what are their options? The free-agent market for big men isn't robust -- if players aren't signed by now, there's a reason -- but there are a few intriguing names worth discussing.
Dwight Howard (last team: Los Angeles Lakers)
2021-22 stats: 6.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.6 bpg, 61.2 percent FG, 53.3 percent 3PT (60 games)
Howard is well past his prime and averaged just 16.2 minutes per game for the Lakers last season. But the Celtics will need help on the boards, and no active NBA player has more rebounds than Howard. The future Hall of Famer also can still block shots, which would please Ime Udoka as he tries to maintain Boston's defense-first identity.
Howard played on the veteran minimum in L.A. last season and should be willing to do the same for a contending team like the Celtics. The low risk could be worth the medium reward.
LaMarcus Aldridge (Brooklyn Nets)
2021-22 stats: 12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.0 bpg, 55.0 percent FG, 30.4 percent 3PT (47 games)
Aldridge's best days are behind him, and he also lacks Howard's defensive prowess. But he'd provide more of an offensive lift after averaging nearly 13 points in just 22.3 minutes per game off the bench for Brooklyn last season.
The former Spurs star also has a very strong connection with Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, who was Aldridge's teammate on the Portland Trail Blazers and later helped recruit Aldridge to San Antonio as an assistant coach.
Hassan Whiteside (Utah Jazz)
2021-22 stats: 8.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 1.6 bpg, 65.2 percent FG (65 games)
Whiteside's production has dropped precipitously over the past two seasons, and the fact that he doesn't have a job after averaging a double-double with 2.9 blocks per game just three seasons ago is a red flag.
That said, the 7-foot big man can still gobble up rebounds and protect the paint at a decent level -- or at least better than Kornet. The Celtics should at least explore adding Whiteside on a "prove-it" deal.
DeMarcus Cousins (Denver Nuggets)
2021-22 stats: 9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.4 bpg, 46.0 percent FG, 30.3 percent 3PT (48 games)
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention Cousins, a four-time All-Star who has been linked to Boston in the past. Cousins' injury history and defensive limitations don't make him a great fit for the C's, but he's still a good ball-mover who can hit an outside shot or two.