The Boston Celtics improved in the offseason, most notably signing four-time All-Star center Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million deal. Partnered with budding superstars Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, role players Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson, and Kelly Olynk, and 2016 first round pick Jaylen Brown, the team is poised for a strong 2016-17 campaign.
However, the Celtics still have uncertainties surrounding their ability to score consistently. Last season, the team ranked 24th out of 30 teams in field goal percentage (.439) and third to last in three-point shooting percentage (.335) but still finished with the fifth best points per game average (105.7). Thomas feels that if the team decides to pursue upgrades, shooting and scoring should be the main priority.
“Someone who can put the ball in the basket. A knockdown shooter would be what we need,” Thomas said to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “I’m not saying anything against the guys that are on this team right now, because we have a talented group, but I think that is the most important thing we need. We need spacing, because we got a lot of guys that can create and attack the basket, but we definitely need spacing.”
With J.R. Smith – who is currently in a standstill with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a new contract – still available, the Celtics have reportedly monitored the veteran shooter. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported earlier this week that the former Sixth Man of the Year with the New York Knicks is looking for $15 million annually. The Cavaliers have offered $10-$11 million annually and the Celtics reportedly only have $9 million to spare.
So for Smith to leave Cleveland, a team he won an NBA championship with last season, Boston would have to pay the 2013 Sixth Man $15 million to backup the incumbent Avery Bradley.
The Celtics have a lot of decisions to make coming up, including Thomas, who is under contract through the 2017-18 season. If the Celtics – who have already invested a lot in Horford – want to invest in Smith and Thomas, it will be a sign the team is ready to compete for years to come. However, Thomas’ main focus isn’t free agency but hanging an 18th banner at the TD Garden in Boston.
“First and foremost, it is about winning. And bringing the best talent we can to Boston. And trying to hang another banner up here,” Thomas said.