The Celtics need to improve their interior defense and make smart draft choices to become a serious contender, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com opines. Comparing Boston’s current situation with the Warriors’ rise to prominence, Blakely believes the club needs to make a free agent signing that helps establish its identity, much like Golden State did two years ago when it locked up defensive-minded swingman Andre Iguodala. The Celtics could pin their hopes on Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger becoming better defenders but they could also sign a proven interior defender in free agency this summer, Blakely continues. They also must continue to build through the draft as the Warriors did with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, who have all outperformed their draft positions, Blakely points out. The Celtics’ lottery pick last season, Marcus Smart, has the potential to make a much bigger impact and he will be tutored this summer by assistant coach Darren Erman, who helped develop Thompson as a Warriors assistant, Blakely adds.
In other news around the Atlantic Division:
- Paul Pierce would be just the type of veteran leader the Celtics need for their youth-laden roster, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com. Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Cavaliers might have played out differently if they had a confident, seasoned veteran like Pierce to give them guidance and confidence, Forsberg asserts. Some fans in Boston have wondered if Pierce might eventually return to the place where he started his career and won a championship in 2008, Forsberg continues. Pierce has made a major impact for the Wizards during this postseason and could get mid-level range offers if he leaves approximately $5.54MM on the table and opts out of his contract this summer, Forsberg adds.
- Nets center Brook Lopez might be wise to seek two-year offers with an opt-out clause for a third season if he goes on the free agent market this summer, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com speculates (All four Twitter links). Lopez, who holds a player option on the final year of his contract this summer worth approximately $16.74MM, would then be eligible to return to free agency in the summer of 2017 when the salary cap is projected to reach $108MM, Mazzeo continues. That would not only protect him financially in case of an injury, it would maximize his value since the cap is expected to drop to $100MM the following season, Mazzeo adds.