Celtics Predicted to Strike Out on Big Man Free Agent

Thomas Bryant, Boston Celtics

Getty Thomas Bryant, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics are on the hunt for a new big man after trading away Daniel Theis as part of the Malcolm Brogdon trade package.

Ime Udoka likes to run a double-big lineup, meaning both the power forward and center are big-men, something which flies in the face of the current pace and space era the NBA finds itself in.

As such, Boston requires a steady rotation of talented, versatile bigs, and Theis’ departure has left them a little short-handed. As such, Thomas Bryant has been rumored to be a potential target for the Celtics, should he be willing to accept a minimum deal for the season.

Unfortunately, according to Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, the Celtics are probably going to miss out on Bryant, as the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in reuniting with their former center this off-season, and could potentially offer him a starting role.

“While the Lakers may not have the contract he desires, they could promise him something no other team could: a starting job. If Anthony Davis doesn’t start at center, Los Angeles has just newly-signed Damian Jones as an option. Veteran Dwight Howard is still a free agent. Bryant could attempt to rehab his value as a starting center in L.A. on a minimum deal and look to cash in next offseason,” Swartz wrote on July 3.

To further complicate the Celtics’ pursuit of Bryant, Brad Turner of the LA Times reported that the Toronto Raptors are also interested in the versatile big-man. However, both the Celtics and Lakers project to be championship contenders next season, and that could have a big impact on any decision the 24-year-old center makes.

Luke Kornet Could Get a Bigger Role

On July 1, the Celtics re-signed Luke Kornet to a two-year deal on the veteran minimum, with the contract being only partially guaranteed – according to a report by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Kornet participated in 12 games for the Celtics last season, averaging 2.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game while shooting 57.1% from the field. However, Udoka likes his players to be defensively versatile, meaning they’re capable of guarding multiple positions, allowing them to consistently switch screening actions. Kornet doesn’t fit that style of defensive prototype and would force Boston to adjust their defensive system to facilitate his presence off the bench.

Still, Kornet is a seven-foot-two rim protector who is also a capable three-point shooter, and his presence within the rotation could give the Celtics a different dimension for the opponents to deal with.

Kelly Olynyk a Proposed Alternative

If Bryant is genuinely interested in a reunion with the Lakers, perhaps Brad Stevens could tempt one of his former centers back to Boston, with big man Kelly Olynyk currently looking like a legitimate big-man target with the Evan Fournier TPE.

According to Conor Roche of Boston.com, the Celtics could be tempted to bring Olynyk back to Boston should they fail to entice Bryant, although the deal would have to be via trade.

“They have reportedly inquired about free-agent center Thomas Bryant. If they’re unable to land him, former Celtic and now Pistons center Kelly Olynyk’s salary fits in the trade exception,” Roche wrote.

However, it does seem unlikely the Celtics will want to push themselves further into the luxury tax, so Olynyk might be a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ option for the front office.

Still, Boston’s $17.2 million trade exception is set to expire on July 18, so time is ticking for Stevens to use it, but given the team’s recent additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, it’s looking increasingly likely we see that exception expire.

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