Gordon Hayward is heading to New England as the latest free agent prize for the Boston Celtics.
While this surly inches Boston closer to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the watered down Eastern Conference, the signing will come at a price that goes a bit beyond the four-year max deal that Hayward is receiving.
Amir Johnson has already signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, Tyler Zeller has been released and the team had to rescind the rights to Kelly Olynyk to remove his cap hold and make him an unrestricted free agent. As Hayward comes in, Boston is losing depth in their frontcourt and they don’t have much money left to bring anyone new in.
If Danny Ainge does hope to add another big man before the summer is over, he has to do it on the cheap end and reach for a guy that’s no on anybody’s radar while hoping for the best possible result. We already know who this guy is; Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger’s career has really taken a turn for the worse since he left the Celtics last summer and signed a one year deal with the Toronto Raptors. He was projected to be their starting power forward but a broken foot suffered in training camp put him on the sidelines for the first few months of the regular season. Toronto finally got him back in a limited role on January 18th but he struggled while trying to work his way back into basketball form. The 2012 first round pick played only 11 games for the Raptors and he scored double-figures just one, just by chace it was part of a 13 point, six rebounder performance at the TD Garden against Boston.
But after those 11 appearances, Toronto shipped him to the Phoenix Suns – along with a second round pick – to get P.J. Tucker and Phoenix wasted no time waiving Sullinger. That really wasn’t anything to read into. When a player gets waived by a bad team following a deadline deal, it’s normally not a reflection on the player but it’s usually because that rebuilding team is committed to their younger player and doesn’t need a depth veteran in a contract year. The Philadelphia 76ers did the exact same thing after they acquired Andrew Bogut at the deadline last year and plenty of contending teams – including the Celtics – lined up to try and sign him.
However, something you can read into is the fact that nobody picked up Sullinger after he was waived. His conditioning has always been questioned and it’s possible that coming off a broken foot he just wasn’t ready to jump into a playoff race with a competitive team while teams out of the playoff picture never really go over the names on waivers, but it should still raise some eyebrows as to why this guy got picked up by nobody.
Brining Sullinger back has some risks attached to it, but you also can’t be too picky. If nobody wants to sign this guy, he’ll be really cheap and that’s just the guy that the Celtics need right now.
All they need out of him is a body in the frontcourt who can give them some reliable minutes each night. When Brad Stevens began starting Gerald Green over Amir Johnson in the playoffs last year, it became clear that this was a team capable of playing “positionless” basketball for entire games and adding guys like Hayward and third overall pick Jayson Tatum only give them more weapons to do this. The only thing Boston would be asking out of Sullinger is about 15 minutes a night to grab some boards and maybe score a few buckets, which isn’t that much to ask a 25-year old who was starting for you when you won 48 games and finished tied for third in the Eastern Conference just two years ago.