The other guys

A low-profile signing: Randolph could fill need for Celtics

A low-profile signing: Randolph could fill need for Celtics

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here ... or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of "The Other Guys" who might interest the Celtics: TODAY:  Memphis' Zach Randolph

BOSTON -- For the better part of the last decade, Zach Randolph has been one of the NBA’s best low-post scorers.
 
Now 35 (he’ll be 36 next month), Randolph doesn’t dominate nearly as much as he used to.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


That doesn’t mean the 6-foot-9 big man doesn’t have value.
 
Especially for teams that have had trouble generating points in the paint -- like Boston.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
Last season, the Celtics averaged 41.8 points in the paint per game, which ranked 23rd in the NBA.
 
Randolph played limited minutes (24.5) for the Memphis Grizzlies last year but still managed to generate 8.2 points in the paint per game, which ranked fifth among NBA players who averaged less than 25 minutes per game.
 
Having a player who is so efficient scoring the ball in the post would do wonders for the Celtics, particularly on those nights when the opposing defense forces Boston to play more of a slower, half-court game.
 
Because he has been such a load for years to defend on the block, Randolph has the ability to draw a decent amount of attention. That should open up things for his teammates.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
He’s 35 years old, and let’s face it: There’s not a huge market for big men who have been in the league more than a decade, and don’t qualify as stretch big men. Randolph’s age and style of play will to some degree limit the offers he’s likely to get this summer.
 
Not only is his age a factor, but his ability to defend is another negative. It’s not like Randolph is a bad post defender. But the problem is, more and more teams have stretch bigs, which forces him to play defense further away from the basket.
 
Because of that, often he finds himself having to defend guys driving to the basket or roaming out near the three-point line.
 
But despite his shortcomings, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Memphis who does not love Z-Bo. His infectious brand of hard-working, on-the-grind basketball has made him a fan favorite for years. That, coupled with him still showing signs of being able to contribute some, will make it difficult for the Grizzlies to not seriously consider re-signing him.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
If he’s one of the bigger offseason signings for the Celtics, then things went terribly wrong for Boston. But the big picture remains the same: The Celtics aim to be a little better now than they were yesterday. Adding Randolph addresses their need for another scorer around the basket and a rebounder. But there will be some defensive issues that might limit how much action he would see.
 
PRICE TAG: Two years, $10 million.

Randolph could probably get more money-wise elsewhere, but he just might be willing to take less than his market value for a chance to play for a team that’s advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. But because of his age and his defensive deficiencies, Randolph’s impact for the Celtics would be extremely limited. Still, having a player with his experience, intensity and offensive skills enhances a Boston team that’s striving to be as diverse as possible and, thus, better equipped to handle whatever lineup it faces.

Could James Johnson be an Evan Turner-type for Celtics?

Could James Johnson be an Evan Turner-type for Celtics?

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here ... or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of "The Other Guys" who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Miami's James Johnson. 

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS

BOSTON – You can’t help but be impressed by the way the Miami Heat did a complete 180-degree turn from a horrific 11-30 start to close the second half of the season with a 30-11 record.
 
No player better symbolized Miami’s rise-from-the-ashes more than James Johnson, an NBA journeyman who may have finally found his niche.
 
Looking back at the point-forward role he played for Miami, it in many ways was similar to the lift Boston got from Evan Turner a couple years ago.
 
No disrespect to Johnson, but the Celtics have a number of players that they would prefer to add to the roster instead of the 6-foot-9 Johnson.
 
But the versatility he showed this past season coupled with his overall impact – particularly late in games – make him a player who could add value to the Celtics’ roster if they fall short of their primary free agent targets.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE...
 
Having never made than $4 million in a single season (and that was last season), the cost of adding Johnson to the roster won’t be steep. 
He credits the Heat for helping him get into the best basketball shape of his life. It should pay off in a big way this summer. Knowing how committed he was to his conditioning leading into this past season certainly is looked upon favorably by the Celtics.
 
As we touched on earlier, Johnson does play a decent amount of point-forward for the Heat. But we’ve also seen him slide over and play center at times, too. Because he can essentially play just about every position on the floor, he tends to find mismatches and the Heat did a nice job of taking advantage of exploiting those opportunities.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT...

 
Because of how well things turned out in his first season with the Heat, Johnson, 30, has made it clear that his preference is to return to Miami with a multi-year deal (preferably four years).
 
The Heat enjoyed having Johnson in the fold, but like the Celtics, they too have their sights set on signing players who can make a greater impact on the game; i.e. Gordon Hayward, who is expected to choose between staying in Utah or signing with Boston or Miami.
 
At 30, adding a player at this point in their career who has been primarily a role player, doesn’t seem like an ideal move to make for a Celtics team that has visions of deep playoff runs with superstar-caliber talent leading the way.
 
IN CONCLUSION...
 
He’s a good player who will help someone next season, but don’t look for it to be the Celtics. His versatility will be rewarded by some team, and that team could have been Boston maybe a year or two ago.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Two years, $30 million. He’s a beefier, frontcourt version of ex-Celtic Turne,r who signed a four-year, $70 million contract last summer. Johnson isn’t going to get that kind of money, but he will get a sizeable raise. But that bump in pay coming from the Celtics seems unlikely.

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS

The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.