Boston Celtics’ Ideal Offseason: 3 Key Depth Moves for the NBA Champions

Boston Celtics’ Ideal Offseason: 3 Key Depth Moves for the NBA Champions article feature image

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Pictured: Jayson Tatum.

The Boston Celtics steamrolled through the playoffs and won their first championship since the 2008 season. They enter the offseason as clear favorites to repeat, but there is work to be done on the margins for this squad. 

Check out my ideal offseason for the Celtics, which includes two trades and a potential draft steal.

Improve the Center Rotation

Kristaps Porziņģis and Al Horford form a championship-caliber center duo that fill every need for Boston’s philosophies on both ends of the court. However, Porziņģis is a constant injury risk, while Horford just turned 38-years-old. Reserves Luke Kornet and Xavier Tillman are both unrestricted free agents too, so the front office needs to meaningfully address center depth this offseason.  

Given their lack of cap space and tradable contracts, the 2024 Draft represents Boston’s best chance at upgrading the rotation. Their 30th overall pick is likely too late to snag an impact center though, so trading up will be necessary. 

Celtics receive:

  • 22nd overall

Suns receive:

  • 30th overall
  • 2025 1st via Boston

Milwaukee, New York and Denver are all threats to draft a center, so Boston jumps them for the price of a projected late first-rounder next year. Phoenix benefits by adding future capital, which can be used to add much-needed depth. 

Dayton center DaRon Holmes II is the pick for Boston. In his third college season this past year, he averaged 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. The 21-year-old displayed intriguing range by making 32-of-83 attempts from 3-point territory, or 38.6%. His shooting is perfect for Boston’s 5-out offense, which is when the action begins with all five players behind the arc. 

Holmes is a quality screener with the chops to roll, po, or slip, and he has the ability to run dribble-handoffs and move the ball. That’s ideal for a Celtics team that worships role versatility. 

Defensively, he’s a mobile big with more switchability than most. Holmes was a successful shot-blocker at Dayton, but will that translate to the NBA? Standing slightly under 6’10” with a 7’1” wingspan, concerns about Holmes being a tweener who is too small to play center and not quick enough to play power forward are valid. 

Nonetheless, Boston should buy the productivity and scheme fit, especially since their roster is infested with players who can help on the glass, protect the rim and defend size. In a scaled-down role, Holmes should thrive as the Celtics’ third center, and he may be able to share the court with Porziņģis or Horford too. Plus, the Dayton product could not ask for better stretch-five mentors. 

The Celtics should bring back one of Kornet or Tillman to complete the rotation. They have Bird rights for both, which essentially means they can re-sign them to a larger contract than the minimum despite being over the salary cap. 

Which one though? Tillman is the superior defender, but he’s also a poor free-throw shooter who likely commands a larger contract than Kornet. Keeping 6’8” Tillman with Holmes already on the roster would be an overlap of small centers, so Kornet’s 7’2” frame gives Boston a different look off the bench. Therefore, the Celtics should re-sign Kornet to a small deal and let Tillman walk. 

Fill Out the Depth Chart

After drafting Holmes, Boston utilizes the 55th overall pick to take Cam Spencer. The UConn sharpshooter is 278-for-667 (41.7%) from 3-point range across his extensive college career. He would be a welcome addition to the depth chart because Boston led the NBA in 3-point attempt rate. 

In addition to being a lethal spot-up and off-screen shooter, Spencer can occasionally put the ball on the floor and run pick-and-rolls. The 6’4” guard is ready to contribute on day one and provide injury insurance for Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser. 

The Celtics still need a touch more depth at forward. They are over the second apron though, which blocks them from aggregating players in a trade or taking back more than 110% of salary that they send out (drops to 100% on July 1). Therefore, their best option is to trade Jaden Springer’s $4M salary plus draft capital in exchange for a win-now veteran that makes at most $4.4M next season. That does not leave them with many options. 

Celtics receive: 

  • Torrey Craig

Bulls receive:

  • Jaden Springer
  • Least favorable 2027 2nd via Blazers (protected 31-55) or Pelicans (protected 31-55)
  • 2030 2nd via Celtics

Chicago is a mess at the moment and needs a youth movement. Swapping 33-year-old Torrey Craig for future seconds along with former first-round pick Jaden Springer is the kind of upside move that the Bulls should be aiming for. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics add a veteran forward with playoff experience who hovers around 39% from deep while being a strong rebounder for his 6’5” frame and passable defender. 

It’s certainly not a flashy move, but Craig provides solid forward depth due to his outside shooting and camouflage – he can blend in well on both ends of the court without disrupting flow. 

Craig has a $2.8M player option for the 2025 season, so he would need to opt in before the trade is completed. Essentially, the move needs his approval. It would be Craig’s best chance to win a championship and see minutes during the NBA Finals, which could be a massive selling point. 

Plus, it’s improbable that the veteran receives a considerably heftier offer in free agency, especially since he dealt with injuries last year. When assessing the context, Craig agreeing to the deal seems to be the more likely outcome. 

Future Outlook

The Celtics’ 2025 depth chart would resemble the following after these offseason moves. It’s worth noting that Oshae Brissett has a player option, while Neemias Queta has a team option. These could wind up slightly altering the roster. 

  • Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porziņģis
  • Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Torrey Craig, Al Horford, DaRon Holmes II
  • Cam Spencer, Oshae Brissett, Jordan Walsh, Neemias Queta, Luke Kornet

Overall, Boston brings back its core eight while adding superior reserves in Craig, Holmes and potentially Spencer. They would be the clear favorites to once again win the title. Trading a 2025 first this offseason stings, but the time to capitalize on their window is now. 

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Doug Ziefel
Jul 22, 2024 UTC