The Boston Celtics gained financial flexibility when unloading Kemba Walker’s contract in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this offseason.
They also lost their starting point guard, and their backcourt depth took a hit in the process. So, with NBA free agency set to begin Monday, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Celtics try to add another facilitator to a depth chart headlined by Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard.
And with that, we’ve decided to rundown how nine different point guards could potentially fit with the Celtics. Of note, the players listed include those with player options and others on the restricted free agent market.
Paul, 36, just helped the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals and has a player option worth $44.2 million heading into the upcoming season. It’s probably going to be hard to pass on that amount of money, but even if Paul does, it’s difficult to imagine he joins the Celtics given the financial gymnastics it would require.
It seems rather likely Lowry is headed for a change of scenery after nine seasons with the Toronto Raptors. Lowry, 35, would be a great fit for the Celtics given his veteran leadership and hard-nosed style of basketball, but unless Lowry is much more interested in joining a contender than getting one last payday, he’ll probably be headed somewhere else.
Conley, 33, is fresh off his first NBA All-Star campaign and continues to be productive as both a facilitator and an off-ball guard. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.0 assists per game If Conley, who has made more than $200 million in his 14 seasons, is seeking an opportunity that could land him with a contender and not another high-end contract (he just concluded a five-year, $152 million deal), his arrival in Boston would be a win.
Could the Celtics sign Ball, a restricted free agent, and give them the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks in the 2017 NBA Draft? Ball, 23, certainly fits the facilitator role Boston as a pass-first guard who has shot 39.7 percent from the field in his four-year career. But with scorers like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the C’s don’t need a 25-point-per-game scorer. Perhaps Ball agrees to a short-term contract in hopes of revitalizing his career before he hits his prime?
Schroder reportedly turned down a contract extension with the Lakers that was rumored to be in the neighborhood of four years and more than $80 million. Schroder, 27, may prove to be another who is out of Boston’s price range, but his ability to score (18.9 points on 14.8 field goal attempts in 2019-20) and facilitate (5.8 assists last season) seems like it would be a fit.
The Miami Heat reportedly are interested in bringing back Dragic, 35, at a lower annual price as he currently has a $19.4 million team option. Dragic has been hampered by injuries as he has missed at least 14 games each of the last three seasons. And while Dragic has proved productive when he’s able to stay on the court, it’s hard to imagine Boston bringing in another aging, injury-prone guard, despite the fact his finances may align closer to what they need.
Mills, 32, might be Boston’s best option given its limitations. He’s not the best playmaker on this list, would provide valuable minutes and offer scoring and spacing off the bench. Mills has also been durable, playing 80 or more games in four of the past five 82-game seasons. His veteran leadership and previous connection with Celtics head coach time Udoka make Mills a strong fit.
McConnell, who president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has seen plenty of given he spent six combine seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, was called Boston’s “top target in 2021 free agency” by Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz. And it makes some sense. McConnell, 29, is an energetic defender who is best with the ball in his hands. He’s not as much of a scorer (8.6 points in 26 minutes last season in Indiana) or shooter (31.3 percent from long range on 0.7 attempts per game) but, again, that’s not something the Celtics are in dire need of.
Dinwiddie, who is coming off an ACL injury, has an established relationship with Udoka, a Brooklyn Nets assistant during the 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Dinwiddie has great size and ability to handle the basketball. He opted out of a player option and noted he would re-sign with the Nets if offered a five-year, $125 million deal. That price may be a bit too steep for the Celtics, but if Boston could get the 28-year-old on a shorter-term deal, he could serve as a welcome addition.