Despite the Boston Celtics signing Mfiondu Kabengele to a two-way contract, and extending a training camp invite to Noah Vonleh, the team is still in need of an additional big man to help provide competition to Luke Kornet.
Sure, Kabengele could be given an opportunity to impress during the early part of the season, or Vonleh could earn himself a roster spot if he impresses at training camp. But, if the Celtics truly want to ensure their center rotation is deep enough to not be seen as a weak link, they should focus on bringing in a veteran talent.
Luckily, there are numerous veteran centers still available on the free agent market – most notably, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, and Hassan Whiteside. Out of those options, it’s Cousins that projects to be the best fit for how Boston likes to play their basketball, especially if the former all-star can improve upon his career 33.1% three-point shooting.
Cousins is a reliable rebounder and screener, while his ability to punish teams both around the rim and in the mid-range could be enticing for Boston, especially if they’re going to continue running multiple actions off the elbows.
Cousins Brings Veteran Know-How
One of the first things we learned about Udoka last season, is that he prefers to lean on veteran talent, rather than developing some of the younger members of the roster. In fairness, when the expectations on your shoulders are that of an NBA Championship, it makes sense that you would go with the more experienced players at your disposal.
Cousins is an 11-year NBA veteran, and has played on seven different rosters during that time – so he’s no stranger to playing his role and learning new offensive and defensive systems. Since his ACL injury, Cousins has averaged 8.9 points, six rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting 52.4% from two-point range and 32.7% from three.
During his 31 games for the Denver Nuggets last season, Cousins proved himself capable of making an impact off the bench, while also accepting a lesser role at this point in his career. Adding the veteran center would provide Boston with a floor-spacing big that is a capable rebounder, and can use his size to defend the paint as a drop-defender in pick-and-roll coverage – put simply, he makes perfect sense as the team’s third or fourth center in the rotation.
Celtics Holding Open Tryouts in Training Camp
While Cousins is certainly a legitimate prospect for a roster spot, it appears that Brad Stevens is willing to give some younger veterans a chance to return to the NBA – as both Vonleh and Bruno Caboclo have recently found themselves playing for teams around the world.
“As of Tuesday, the Celtics mostly were expected to fill out the rest of the training camp roster with young veterans willing to vie for those spots. Recent additions Noah Vonleh and Bruno Caboclo will be in that group, while last year’s two-way player Brodric Thomas and former Kings draft pick Justin Jackson are viewed as strong candidates to join them, league sources told The Athletic,” King reported in his August 3 article.
However, should none of those younger veterans do enough to convince Udoka and Stevens that they can make an impact when called upon, we could see the Celtics’ front office change course and look to the free agency market to improve their roster. After all, Boston is looking to exact revenge next season following their game six loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals.