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Each point guard represented the Eastern Conference in at least five of the previous six NBA All-Star Games. However, after seeing Stevens execute his first deal in a cost-cutting move with Oklahoma City Thunder, the Celtics could be in the market for a point guard at a low-cost with upside.
Here are three options that would make sense for Boston.
Indiana Pacers’ T.J. McConnell
“While chasing someone like Mike Conley or Kyle Lowry in free agency would be nice, the Celtics likely won’t be able to lure them with their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception,” wrote Swartz of Bleacher Report. “The Celtics have to hope this near $6 million amount is enough to land McConnell, one of the NBA’s better passers and defenders at the guard position.”
While facilitating and top-notched defense are certainly a given in someone like McConnell, shooting percentages from his days with the Philadelphia 76ers should also encourage the Celtics front office to put in an offer for the 28-year-old veteran. Throughout 2017-18, McConnell connected on 43.5% of his 3-pointers, per Basketball-Reference, however, his volume in attempts from behind the arc went from 0.8 per game for the Sixers down to 0.4 per game throughout his past two seasons with the Pacers.
T.J. shot 31.3% in 2020-21 while also averaging a career-high 1.9 steals per game, per Basketball-Reference.com — which was second to Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who finished the season as the league’s leader (2.1).
Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne
In the midst of an impressive postseason run with the Phoenix Suns — which was highlighted by a dominating Game 3 performance against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals — Cameron Payne put the NBA world on notice. He erupted for 29 points on 12-of-24 attempts as the Suns edged out a 104-103 win.
Payne, who’s now two-wins shy of an NBA title, could be on the move as he enters free agency and if the Celtics ultimately decide to appoint Marcus Smart their starting point guard for Opening Night, this fall, Cam is a viable option to slot in as a backup. He shot 44% from behind the 3-point arc throughout the regular season while averaging 8.4 points, 3.6 assists, per Basketball-Reference.com.
In lieu of over-bidding for a starter, acquiring Payne could turn out to be the kind of low-risk, high-reward option who falls in line with Stevens tightening the Celtics’ proverbial purse strings.
San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills
In continuing with the Celtics’ hypothetical ‘Smart Plan,’ head coach Ime Udoka’s connection with San Antonio Spurs veteran Patty Mills could lead to Boston inking the 2014 NBA champion guard to a short-term deal. Mills, 32, averaged 10.8 points while shooting at a 41.2% clip from the floor, including 37.5% from behind the arc.
Along with consistent scoring production, Mills’ voice in the Celtics’ locker room could go a long way for Boston, if, of course, Patty’s willing to head East to sign a mid-level deal.