NBA Free-Agency Rumors: Spurs Forward & Ex-Celtic ‘Under-the-Radar’ Targets

Keita Bates-Diop (right) is a potential Celtics free-agent target

Getty Keita Bates-Diop (right) is a potential Celtics free-agent target

As they prepare to fill out the roster following their major shake-up ahead of the NBA draft—the trade of stalwart guard Marcus Smart for center Kristaps Porzingis in a three-way deal with the Wizards and Grizzlies—the Celtics will need to monitor every dime closely.

That, as has been discussed here, could mean the end of forward Grant Williams’ tenure in Boston, and leave the Celtics with a sizable hole in the rotation. It will also mean Celtics honcho Brad Stevens must find ways to bring in low-cost contributors with his taxpayer’s mid-level exception money, which logs in at $5 million.

One name that has been rattling around the rumor mill in connection with the Celtics: forward Keita Bates-Diop, a solid all-around contributor for the Spurs last season who should be gettable on the cheap.

Another possibility is a return of ex-Celtics forward Javonte Green, who has toiled in Chicago since he was dealt to the Bulls in the 2021 Daniel Theis salary dump.

“There are some guys out there who are under the radar but are going to be really valuable to contenders who need to get it exactly right because they do not have money to spend but they’ve got these big holes left because of the way the new CBA is,” one league executive told Heavy Sports. “KBD is probably at the top of that list, it is still not clear if San Antonio is going to go ahead and try to keep him.

“If you’re Boston, if you’re Miami, even Denver, they have to be thinking about those kind of guys.”

Bates-Diop Revived Career With Spurs

Bates-Diop flamed out in Minnesota after he was a second-round pick in 2018 but was granted a two-way contract by the Spurs before the 2020-21 season. The Spurs signed him to a two-year minimum deal after that, and Bates-Diop began to hit his NBA stride last season.

Playing 67 games, including 42 starts, KBD averaged 9.7 points and was very efficient as a shooter, making 50.8% of his attempts and 39.4% of his 3-pointers. He is an above-average defender who does not shortchange his effort, and at age 27, he is mature without being old.

At 6-foot-8, Bates-Diop can play either forward spot and is capable of handling switches. It might be worthwhile for the Spurs to keep Bates-Diop around, but the team does have other young forwards—Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson—who are among the focal points of the team’s rebuilding efforts.

According to an NBA source, it’s possible that the Spurs, who have ample cap space, could sign KBD and look to flip him later, or use him in in a sign-and-trade deal in the coming week. One of the caveats, though, is that his sterling 3-point shooting last season may not hold up, as Bates-Diop shot just 30.4% from the 3-point line in his first four seasons.

Javonte Green Also an Option

Also of interest is the future of Green, a player the Celtics liked when they signed him from Germany’s Bundesliga in 2019. The Celtics needed to unload salary to avoid the luxury tax in 2021, fueling the team’s decision to part with Green and Theis.

Green is only 6-foot-4 but is capable of guarding shooting guards-through-power forwards because of his defensive IQ and strength. He was not much on the “3” side of a 3-and-D player in his 73 games with the Celtics (he made 29.1%) but he did improve once leaving Boston. In 113 games in Chicago, Green made 36.1% from the arc.

He did undergo knee surgery in January in Chicago and though he did return, he had a rocky recovery and only appeared in four games.

Green, a close friend of Celtics star Jayson Tatum, “would welcome,” a return to the Celtics, a source said.

NBA free agency is set to open on Saturday.

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