The Boston Celtics don’t project to be significant players in the upcoming free-agency period.
The Celtics cap space is almost non-existent thanks to multiple extensions inked last year and the addition of Derrick White. However, Boston does have a path to opening up the full mid-level exception (MLE), which they could use to add a valuable veteran to their bench unit.
Sure, the Celtics have looked strong in recent months, and Udoka’s stringent eight-man rotation is paying dividends, but the NBA is unforgiving, especially to teams who rest on their laurels. We also know that Boston requires a reliable shooter off the bench, with enough experience around the league that Udoka will afford them playing time.
According to one NBA executive, who spoke with Heavy.com on the basis of anonymity, the Celtics could be potential suitors for Los Angeles Lakers‘ upcoming free agent Malik Monk.
“Having a big-time shooter off the bench, that is one of the things they’re really missing now and if they can be in a position to have their midlevel intact, then Monk is a guy I would expect them to go after. They are going to have a lot of options, they have trade exceptions, they have Al Horford’s non-guarantee.
But I think they’re hoping when the dust settles they have enough room under the tax to have their midlevel and bring in a guy who fits, age-wise, with their core players. And they’re gonna want a shooter. They were interested in Monk last year. I expect he would be at the top of their list this year, and they would be at the top of his,” The executive said.
Monk Fits Boston’s Needs
It’s easy to forget that Monk is only in his fifth year in the NBA, as it seems like he’s been around forever. Yet, the shooting guard out of Arkansas is just 24-years-old and has improved on his offensive out-put year-on-year since being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2017.
This season, Monk’s first in Los Angeles, the six-foot-three guard is averaging 13.1 points, 2.7 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game on 46.8% shooting from the field and 38.9% from deep on 5.7 attempts per game. Monk has also come off the bench for the Lakers 30 times this season, so we can assume that his volume with the Lakers would be comparable to what he would see in Boston.
Monk is also a reasonable defender and has over 270 games as a starter under his belt, so he could easily step into Boston’s starting five if they were in a pinch. However, there are valid questions about how the fifth-year guard would fit into the Celtics rotation, given that the team has Payton Pritchard and Derrick White coming off the bench.
Boston’s issue is that this year’s free-agent class doesn’t project to be deep, so their options in the mid-level region will be limited. And if Stevens wants to add a player who will earn minutes under Udoka, meaning they can fit into the defensive scheme, Monk is probably one of the Celtics’ better options.
Pritchard Has Earned His Role With The Celtics
Assuming the Celtics did acquire Monk in free agency, Payton Pritchard would be the likely casualty to provide the Kentucky alumn rotation minutes. Sure, Monk has some additional height over Pritchard, but the Celtics second-year guard has done enough to earn his place within the team’s rotation.
Pritchard is arguably the team’s best shooter outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and has improved his playmaking ability and decision-making. Despite Pritchard’s limited size, we’re also seeing that he’s a viable defensive option off the bench due to his tenacity and willingness to dog opposing players.
Unless Boston makes an off-season trade to open up additional minutes at guard, we could see another start to the season where Pritchard is glued to the bench and unable to continue his development. And despite Monk projecting as an excellent fit for the Celtics, limiting the growth of Pritchard might be too high of an asking price.
Of course, Monk has spent some time playing the small forward position when his teams have gone small, and depending on the adjustments Udoka makes to his offense and rotations, that might be the best bet to get White, Pritchard, and Monk all on the floor at the same time – but with the limited defensive upside, it’s highly unlikely.