Celtics

Why the Celtics may be able to land a solid center and still sign Kemba Walker

(Kathyn Riley/Getty Images)

The rumblings around the Celtics targeting Kemba Walker are growing louder and louder in recent days, with one Dallas beat reporter putting Boston No. 1 as the team most likely to land the All-Star, according to his sources.

Bringing aboard Walker would be a huge boost to the Celtics’ backcourt, giving them a superb replacement for Kyrie Irving compared to other potential options. However, there is no question that committing max money to Walker leaves some serious holes in the frontcourt. Al Horford and Aron Baynes were the defensive anchors for this team and the only pieces remaining are inexperienced youth.

Despite this reality, league sources indicate to BostonSportsJournal.com that the Celtics are confident that they will be able to land a steady big (or two) after free agency opens up on July 1 if they do end up securing a commitment from Walker. A closer look at the free agent market indicates why prioritizing a scorer like Walker over a traditional big like Nikola Vucevic with the team’s significant cap room may end up being a wise bet.

Crowded rosters

It’s best to look at this from a big picture perspective when judging the center market and that begins by looking at teams across the association. Here’s a sampling of the center/power forward depth charts from across the league, many of which are very crowded. Others? They are going to need some help, much like Boston.

Atlanta: Len, Plumlee, Spellman, Fernando (No. 34 pick)
Brooklyn: Jarrett Allen 
Charlotte: Zeller, Biyombo, Hernangomez
Chicago: Carter Jr, Felicio, Gafford
Cleveland: Thompson, Zizic, Love, Henson, Nance Jr.
Dallas: Powell, Porzingis (RFA), Kleber (RFA)
Denver: Jokic, Millsap (TO), Plumlee, Hernangomez, Bol
Detroit: Drummond, Griffin, Maker
Golden State: Damian Jones, Alen Smailagic (No. 39 pick)
Houston: Capela, Tucker, Nene
Indiana: Turner, Sabonis, Bitadze
LA Clippers: Harrell, Kabengele (No. 27 pick)
LA Lakers: Davis, Wagner
Memphis: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Miami: Whiteside, Olynyk, Adebayo
Milwaukee: DJ Wilson, Ilyasova
Minnesota: Towns, Dieng
New Orleans: Hayes, Okafor, Wood
New York: Mitchell Robinson
Oklahoma City: Adams, Noel (PO)
Orlando: Mozgov, Bamba, Birch (RFA)
Philadelphia: Embiid, Bolden
Phoenix: Ayton, Baynes
Portland: Nurkic, Leonard, Collins
Sacramento: Giles, Bagley, Bjelica
San Antonio: Poeltl, Aldridge, Samanic
Toronto: Gasol, Siakam, Ibaka, Anunoby
Utah: Gobert, Favors
Washington: Mahinmi, Howard

Based on these setups, it’s fair to put together a list of teams that need bigs on the free agent market to help round out their rotation.

BKN, DAL, GSW, HOU (backup), LAC, LAL, MEM, MIL (tax MLE), NOP, NYK, PHI, SAC

If we look closer, we can hone in on a few teams that will be in search of a starter as free agency begins at the center position. An opportunity will be ripe in Boston at that spot and there will be few teams that can offer a chance at winning along with big minutes in the middle. Here are a few other candidates on that front.

Starting job available at center: DAL, GSW, LAC, LAL, NOP, SAC

Who has money to spend?