The Celtics need a point guard, badly. Right now, they have Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Tremont Waters, and Carsen Edwards in the backcourt. That is a lot of youth, and not a lot of talent.
Boston doesn’t have enough cap space to sign some of the biggest names this offseason, but they will have plenty of space next year. So, the C’s don’t want to spend too much now and ruin their opportunity to hit on a big fish in the future.
With all of that said, the Celtics most likely won’t be in the Kyle Lowry/Mike Conley/Goran Dragic sweepstakes, but there are some enticing free-agent depth guards. Here are three options Boston should target this offseason to alleviate the backcourt problem:
Reggie Jackson: One of the more underrated free agent guards this offseason. Jackson may not be his old self, but he can still score pretty easily. Jackson averaged 10.7 points, 3.1 assists. 2.9 rebounds in 23 minutes per game this season. He also shot 43 percent from three.
He can create for himself, but is also not a needy player that requires to have the ball each possession, which is good because the Celtics don’t need that type of guy. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will garner the most offensive attention, so they just need a solid tertiary scoring option. Jackson can be that.
What is most enticing about Jackson is his defense. According to StatMuse, Jackson had a defensive rating of 113.3 this season. To put that in perspective, Marcus Smart, who is widely believed to be one of the best defensive guards in the entire NBA, had a 113.2 defensive rating.
Wherever he goes, his value has gone up. Jackson is most likely in the $8-10 million range. The Celtics could afford that.
Lou Williams: His name precedes him. The veteran guard has won NBA Sixth Man of the Year three times, and he’s a walking bucket. Williams has been a consistent double-digit scorer throughout his career, and can get others involved, too. Plus, he’s a spark off the bench that can carry the load for the second unit, which the Celtics have lacked in recent years.
The one downside is Williams is getting up there in age, and he is starting to wear down. He was traded from the Clippers to the Hawks this past season and almost retired because of it. It’s unclear if Williams will keep playing or if he wants to move yet again. However, in the $7-9 million range, he is financially attainable for the Celtics.
Elfrid Payton: The Knicks guard isn’t the flashiest of names on the free agency list. Payton is coming off the worst season of his career, but he is still a serviceable point. The 27-year-old is a buy-low type of asset.
Before the 2020-21 season, Payton consistently averaged more than six assists and a steal per game. He is also an above-average rebounder for his size. He didn’t put up gaudy numbers in New York, but he lost minutes due to a busy backcourt.
Payton’s contracts have bounced up and down throughout his career. After this past season, his stock is a little down, so the Celtics could probably sign Payton for a very doable contract in the $5 million range.
Old Popovich Quote Sheds Light On Ime Udoka
Celtics new head coach Ime Udoka has had his name in the mix for coaching vacancies for years, going as far back as a half decade. In a 2015 ESPN story, Kevin Arnovitz named Udoka as a top prospect saying he “probably has a couple more years of seasoning ahead of him, but it’s not long before he hits the interview circuit.”
Arnovitz was spot on with his assessment and also gave us a gem of a quote from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich:
“He exudes a confidence and a comfort in his own skin where people just gravitate to him. He’s a fundamentally sound teacher because he’s comfortable with himself, he knows the material and players read it. Oftentimes, I’ll say, ‘Ime, can you go talk to so-and-so? Go talk to Patty Mills, go talk to Timmy, go talk to Kawhi.’ And he’ll do it better than I would do it – and I’m not blowing smoke.”
Being able to talk to players better than arguably the best coach of all-time is quite high praise. Popovich went on to say: “The only thing I don’t like about him is that he doesn’t drink, so I can’t enjoy a glass of wine with him. He’s really boring at dinner.”
It is a classic line from Popovich, who likes to joke around with the media, but it also shows how serious Udoka is. From everything being reported, the new Celtics head coach is all business and ready to take over his new role.
Celtics Stay Busy Scouting Before NBA Draft
The Celtics don’t own any first-round draft picks this season, after trading away the 16th overall pick in the Kemba Walker trade. Their sole selection comes right in the middle of the second round at No. 45 overall. Despite that, Boston is staying busy leading up to the NBA Draft, according to Chris Grenham.
Just last week, the Celtics worked out and interviewed over a dozen players while also scouting all of the guys at the NBA Combine. Most notably, Florida State’s Scottie Barnes, Virginia’s Sam Hauser, and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert were all in communication with the C’s.
Most of those players are projected to be selected before the Celtics’ second-round pick, but Brad Stevens and company are doing their due diligence. With few future draft assets to offer and not many roster moves imminent, it is doubtful Boston will move up to grab any of those guys.