Reports revealed a number of players the Celtics eyed in the late stages of free agency last week, including veteran forward TJ Warren, Lamar Stevens, cut from the Cavs earlier this summer, G-League wing Louis King and Glenn Robinson III, who last played in the NBA during the 2020-21 season. The targets reflected a shift in approach from the vast tryouts from last season’s training camp toward more established veterans who can fill more solidified roles like Blake Griffin did last year.
That news of tryouts leaking could indicate the interest lays in the past, but reflects what Boston thinks it needs with two regular roster spots open. The intrigue over the end of roster annually proves less impactful than the fanfare around it would indicate, but Griffin, who the door remains open for, legitimately helped the locker room and front court after signing with Boston last October. Finding innings eaters, specialists, or a competitor to push Sam Hauser for the reserve wing role could provide the roster some value in a low-risk, high-reward contract. That’s something Noah Vonleh, Justin Jackson and the team’s two-way signings couldn’t do one year ago.
Here’s what each player would potentially bring to the Celtics:
TJ Warren, Brooklyn Nets/Phoenix Suns
30 this season, 6-8, 220 lbs, 42 G, 7.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 48.9% FG, 32.8% 3PT, 80% FT, 0.5 TOV
- Entering his 10th season after only playing 46 games over the past three seasons, 2022-23 marking his full return from left foot surgery in 2020 that forced him to miss the entirety of the 2022 season as well. Months before the injury, Warren made First Team All-Bubble with the Pacers by averaging 31.0 PPG over six games. Warren played two seasons with Indiana after five with the Suns, who traded him to the Pacers in 2019 with a second-round pick in exchange for cash.
- The Nets signed Warren to a minimum contract after his four-year, $50 million contract with the Pacers expired last offseason, pairing him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant once he ramped-up for the season on Dec. 2. He scored double-figures on a team that favored isolation and mid-range play, starting 55% from the field, and adding a pair of 20-point outbursts over his first 17 games. Warren can score, but his three-pointer regressed to 33.3% before Brooklyn traded him to Phoenix in the Durant trade on Feb. 9.
- In Phoenix, he appeared in only 16 games, averaging 12 minutes, while his shooting fell to 42.9%. He scored double-figures only twice, and mostly sat for the start of the postseason until later in the second-round Nuggets series, which he finished averaging 4.0 PPG on 6-for-18 shooting. The Suns signed an array of minimum free agents over him, prioritizing shooters over an on-ball scorer who operates inside the arc.
- The Celtics have a need for bench scoring with Malcolm Brogdon’s status uncertain, the team returned to double bigs and traded Grant Williams to Dallas. Warren would still play an off-ball role when and if he played, and considering he’s trying to revive his career, it’s hard to imagine him accepting the bench role Griffin did. Even if he earns similar opportunities to eat innings on rest nights, which he’d excel at most in this group. Warren can probably still manage an efficient 20 points with enough shots and ball time.
- Played with Brogdon in 2020 on the Pacers. Drafted No. 14 overall in 2014 from N.C. State, three picks short of Boston’s selection of James Young.
Lamar Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers
26 this season, 6-6, 230 lbs, 62 G, 5.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 44.8% FG, 31.6% 3PT, 70.2% FT, 0.4 TOV
- Waived by the Spurs after three seasons in Cleveland following the Max Strus sign-and-trade to the Cavs that landed Stevens alongside Cedi Osman in San Antonio. The Cavaliers aggressively pursued wing upgrades after the position emerged as a major weak point following their trade of Lauri Markkanen for Donovan Mitchell. At times, Stevens, more defensive than offensive, played their best minutes at small forward between the team’s star guards and big men. Stevens averaged 10.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per 36 minutes with 0.9 steals in 18 MPG, a slasher who could hit the occasional three.
- Stevens, a Philadelphia native, attended Penn State for four years during my time covering college basketball. He scored 20 points with seven rebounds and four assists in a win over Syracuse at Barclays Center during his senior year, won the 2018 NIT Tournament, made two FirstTeam All-Big Ten before going undrafted in the 2020 class. Stevens emerged in Cleveland after signing a two-way contract.
- Stevens started 14 games early last season, averaging 8.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG on 44.3% FG (34.4% 3PT) over that stretch, Cleveland winning nine of those games. He only played eight minutes in two games during the team’s first round loss to the Knicks. His career night came during a 23-point outbreak against Utah last January. He hit a game-winner against the Hawks in February of his rookie season.
- Stevens fouled Grant Williams during the infamous imma make both play in March, head coach JB Bickerstaff praising his contributions in the win: “There’s no way we win that game without Lamar,” he said. “He set and changed the tone of the physicality, the effort. I know I say this a lot, but I love in this team that they didn’t want to disappoint him. He was giving it his full effort, and they weren’t going to let his effort go wasted. So they figured out a way where they raised their level and out-competed and went out and won the game.”
Louis King, Delaware Blue Coats
24 this season, 6-7, 205 lbs, 32 G, 16.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 46.4% FG, 39.3% 3PT, 75% FT, 2.3 TOV
- Finished his fourth pro season spent mostly in the G-League with the Philadelphia 76ers, who signed him to a two-way contract in December. King began the season with Houston’s affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers. King played alongside Payton Pritchard in his lone college season at Oregon (2018-19), averaging 13.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG while hitting 38.6% of his threes. He went undrafted in 2019. Detroit signed him to a two-way contract before waiving him in December, spending three years in the G-League.
- King suffered a knee injury as a high school senior, entering college as a five-star, top 25 recruit before hand and ankle injuries hampered him there. He’s played 27 NBA games, averaging 4.8 PPG on 41.7% shooting, including 35.1% from three. His profile of high school pedigree and shooting with size fits.
- “Another prospect with tremendous length in this group is Louis King who, at 6’6 in shoes with a 7’0.5 wingspan and a 204-pound frame, could conceivably play either forward position at the college level,” DraftExpress wrote in 2017. “Packing 20 pounds onto his frame over the last 2 years, King could be a valuable combo forward at the college level if his perimeter shot improves.”
- “He can shoot,” Doc Rivers said this season. “He knows how to play. He does. He has a great feel. We know he can shoot and he executed a couple of plays that he had never seen out of a timeout just tells you he has a little bit of feel. I just like his overall game.”
Glenn Robinson III, N/A
- The son of 1994 No. 1 overall pick and two-time all star Glenn ‘Big Dog’ Robinson last played in the NBA during the 2020-21 season and turns 30 this season. He appeared briefly on the Kings roster that year after stints with the 76ers and Warriors in 2020. His career began with the Timberwolves in 2014-15, who selected him No. 40 overall after he played for two seasons at Michigan. He spent three seasons in Indiana.
- He averaged 5.9 PPG and 2.6 RPG across seven NBA seasons, shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.3% on limited three-point attempts. His best run came with the Warriors in 2020, earning extended run on an injured team and posting 11.7 PPG and 4.4 RPG on 48.1% FG (40% 3PT) over a 48 games. Robinson shot well with the Pacers (39.3% 3PT) too.
- Robinson III hasn’t played since 2021, that’s now two seasons ago, and approaching 30 doesn’t have the upside or recent success of other options available here. The Warriors worked out Robinson III too, so this could potentially be an agent favor as Robinson III prepares to play professionally elsewhere. We’ll see.
- Warren wouldn’t turn heads without his NBA Bubble breakout, with a long, complicated recovery clearly from foot surgery clearly diminishing his abilities last season. Shooting swung him toward stardom over a short sample of games, and his larger sample of less success from three doesn’t fit well on a team with numerous ball handlers and scorers ahead of him.
- I’d be all for Stevens, an energy and defensive wing who could provide a change of pace in games where Hauser doesn’t fit.
- As for King, signing him doesn’t feel different than the Jackson signing last year, though his shooting and passing in the G-League last year did look intriguing.
- I’m still in favor of bringing Griffin back with the 14th roster spot and leaving 15 open for buyout and trade options.
- DJ Steward signed this month as a potential third two-way contract.
- Romeo Langford, anyone?
- Kelly Oubre Jr., the biggest name remaining, probably doesn’t fit given his awkward Warriors stint in a similar motion and shooting offense.
- Reports also linked Boston to John Wall and Svi Mykhailiuk earlier this offseason.