Pierce hanging up the green and gold?
By Justin McGrail
The elephant in the room for the Boston Celtics this offseason is what to do with forward Paul Pierce.
Pierce is owed $15.33 million next year, which will be his 15th season in the NBA. Rumors around the NBA (and even Pierce himself) say many don’t believe the Celtics will bring him back for the final year of his contract. The Celtics can either trade Pierce or buy out his contract for $5 million.
Pierce’s exit could also mean the end for Kevin Garnett, who is owed $11.5 million this season and $12 million next season. If The Truth and The Big Ticket do leave the C’s, then the team will have a lot of flexibility in signing marquee free agents.
Here are a few players the Celtics could target through free agency if they shed Pierce and Garnett’s contracts (all teams listed are the teams where the players are currently under contract):
Josh Smith – forward, Atlanta Hawks: Smith has played his entire career in Atlanta and was talked about in potential trades with the Celtics during the regular season. The only problem with Smith is that he might be too expensive for Boston.
Andre Iguodala – guard, Denver Nuggets: Celtics fans should recognize Iguodala from his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he spent the first seven years of his career before being traded to Denver this past offseason. Iguodala does have the option of staying with the Nuggets next season, but a stellar playoff performance could equal a big payday for the shooting guard.
David West – forward, Indiana Pacers: The Celtics courted West in the 2011-2012 offseason but were outbid by the Pacers. If Indiana goes deeper in the playoffs, the Pacers would be more inclined to keep West as to not ruin team chemistry.
Dwight Howard – center, Los Angeles Lakers: Physically, Howard is a player the Celtics need. He’s a big body that can block shots and play interior defense. The drama surrounding his trade from Orlando to the Lakers and the encompassing circus that was his regular season could be the reason he doesn’t sign with Boston.
Andrew Bynum – center, Philadelphia 76ers: Bynum is another seven-footer that the Celtics would love to have but, again, there are numerous red flags. Those red flags would be his knees. Bynum hasn’t played a single game this year and in his previous six seasons with the Lakers, he played a full season only once.
Al Jefferson – center, Utah Jazz: This seems the most likely free agent replacement for Pierce. Jefferson was drafted and developed by the Celtics before being part of the mega trade that landed the Celtics Kevin Garnett.
Any of these players would look great in green. Danny Ainge is a creative GM and might opt to rebuild through the draft and trades rather than spend the money on these big name free agents.