Ex-Celtics Big Signs With Western Conference Contender

Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics

Getty Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Chicago Bulls.

On July 31, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that former Boston Celtics big man Udoka Azubuike has agreed to part ways with Eastern Massachusetts to join on with a Western Conference title favorite.

Per the report, the 23-year-old has come to terms on a two-way contract offer with the Phoenix Suns.

Selected 27 overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft following a four-year stint at Kansas, Azubuike spent the first three years of his career revolving in and out of the rotation with the Utah Jazz’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.

As a result of his fourth-year team option being declined, the center hit the free agency market this summer, where he would be signed to participate on the Celtics Summer League team. He would suit up for five games, posting averages of 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 81.8 percent from the field.

Azubuike heads to Phoenix boasting averages of 3.3 points and 3.3 rebounds on 76.9 percent shooting from the field through 68 total games.

Celtics Centers Deemed Staring Lineup’s ‘Weakest Link’

Despite possessing one of the game’s most well-rounded rosters, there still seems to be some sore spots within the C’s rotation and, when it comes to their starting lineup, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey believes the pivot position is bound to be Boston’s “weakest link.”

“Despite coach Joe Mazzulla’s hesitance to use jumbo, two-big lineups last season, starting Porziņģis and burying one of Horford or Williams as the third-string center feels unlikely. And whichever one starts alongside KP will almost certainly be the weak link in this starting five. But this is one of those situations where the term ‘weak’ is relative.”

“And whichever one starts alongside KP will almost certainly be the weak link in this starting five. But this is one of those situations where the term “weak” is relative. Horford is 37 years old, and Williams has struggled with durability throughout his career, but both are good players who’ll raise the Celtics’ defensive ceiling,” Bailey wrote.

Despite this moniker, both Williams and Horford have proved themselves to be remarkable contributors for Boston throughout their respective tenures. Last season, in specific, they ranked first and fourth, respectively, on the team in net rating out of those who logged 800 or more minutes.

On top of this, Horford also ranked second on the Celtics in offensive rating (118.9) while Williams finished first in defensive rating (105.0)

Celtics Urged to Sign Goran Dragic

With the offseason blockbuster that brought Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics, Joe Mazzulla’s point guard rotation saw a bit of a hit, as Marcus Smart’s addition to the exchange was required to make the deal possible.

As a result, some are suggesting that Brad Stevens and company should look to add some new talents to the position to help strengthen their backcourt heading into the 2023-24 campaign and Sports Illustrated’s Ben Stinar recently suggested Boston should look into adding veteran free agent Goran Dragic.

“They could use more point guard depth on the roster, and they also traded Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this summer. Adding Dragic would give them a true point guard they can rely on as a backup,” Stinar wrote. “He is an excellent passer and would be able to help run the second unit (while also being able to facilitate for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porzingis).”

As Stinar mentioned in his piece, Dragic may no longer be the All-Star talent he was during his prime, but he’s still a quality distributor and efficient long-range shooter who is coming off a 2022-23 season where he posted averages of 6.3 points, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 35.9 percent from distance.

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