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Needs For Boston Celtics Ahead Of NBA Free Agency

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics enter an extremely important summer in their rebuild, with the expectations high and the patience waning among faithful green teamers.

After draft night came and went without any fireworks, the hope is Boston can get something done when free agency opens up later this week. But while this summer could be pivotal in their quest to build a title contender, don't expect a quick fix, unless, of course, they can convince the best player available to bring his talents to Boston.

There are a lot of boxes to X off on Boston's needs/Danny Ainge's wish list, which is one messy collection right now. Unless everything falls into place perfectly, all those needs won't be checked off over the next three months. Ainge has a lot on his plate right now, and in a few instances, it may be wise to push away from the table.

Basically, predicting this summer is close to impossible. The possibilities are endless, and in that same breath, those possibilities could come to an end real quick. They could score big on the free agent market, or strike out and walk away with nothing. The same can be said on the trade market, as we all saw happen at last week's draft.

It's one hot mess, but here's what Ainge and the Celtics should set their sights on this summer:

Shooting, Shooting, Shooting

Boston's offensive woes were plentiful in their first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks. They shot just 38.4 percent from the floor, last of all the teams in the postseason, and 27.5 percent from downtown, second-to-last among the title hopefuls.

The loss of Avery Bradley certainly played into that equation, and if you want to take it a step further, a mid-season shoulder injury kept Kelly Olynyk from doing much against Atlanta. But really, what does it say when you're lamenting over the loss of Olynyk, despite the fact he had a hot stretch from beyond the arc leading up to the All-Star break?

It says Boston is in desperate need of some more shooting. Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, a volume threat from long-range, are their best option from deep, and they need some help. Jae Crowder can down some triples, but Boston needs a much more consistent threat after shooting 33.5 percent in the regular season. Only two teams were worse at knocking down threes last year, making this priority No. 1 for Ainge this summer. That's why the pick of Jaylen Brown with the third overall pick, who shot just 29 percent in his only season at Cal, was so darn frustrating.

R.J. Hunter made a name for himself knocking down some big shots in college, but he remains an unknown in the NBA after his rookie season. If the Celtics want some help knocking down shots, it's going to have to come in the form of a free agent or trade acquisition.

Wingin' It

That shooting help may come in the form of a small forward. As much as we all love Crowder (who is signed for four more seasons) and his defensive motor, an offensive forward would work wonders for Brad Stevens.

We don't need to tell you this, but Kevin Durant would be great. Really great. It's a dream Celtics fans have been having since Durant's Thunder came to town and he spoke glowingly about Boston, one that seemed to evaporate when OKC appeared destined for the NBA Finals, and has now resurfaced with the C's one of six teams the free agent will meet with later this week.

But it will likely remain just a dream. Set the expectations low, maybe around 5 percent, so if it does happen they can make another commercial where we remember where we were when the news broke.

Instead, focus on more realistic options such as veteran Jared Dudley (I know, and I'm sorry), who can still stretch the floor at either forward position (albeit a small ball power forward) and would bring a good amount of leadership to the Boston locker room. He too will get a funny amount of money this summer, but it shouldn't reach the massive amounts as other mediocre names out there.

A Rim Protector

News of a Dwight Howard meeting sent most Celtics fans into a delirium on Wednesday. Howard has been a major pain in the backside since being drafted first overall in 2004, and at 30 and with nearly 1,000 NBA games under his belt, most of them spent getting pummeled inside the paint, the wear-and-tear is showing. But he's still one of the better big men out there (read: one of the last of an endangered species in the NBA) and the fact a marquee free agent is showing interest in the Celtics is good news.

It's even better news that he could actually help on the court. The Celtics need a rim protector and someone who pull down rebounds, and Howard can still do both of those. Al Horford is also out there ready to take a lot of money from someone, and the C's have already lined up on that front. Horford would help in getting Kevin Durant to Boston, and if that's the case then the Celtics should be ready to blow him away with one of the two max contracts they can offer.

Let Some Guys Walk

The Celtics need to trim some fat on their roster, and that is in no way a dig against Jared Sullinger. But Sullinger is one of the players Boston will likely let walk this offseason, clearing out the logjam in their frontcourt. He played well to start the season, but was a non-factor when the playoffs rolled around.

You can add Tyler Zeller to that list, who like Sullinger, is a restricted free agent this summer. If the C's want either of them back, they can simply match any offer other teams send their way.

That would let Boston retain Amir Johnson at $12 million for one more season, though he could be easily dumped if Ainge and company know there is a better option in the fold (Johnson's contract becomes guaranteed on July 3).

They also have a tough decision on Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent who is going to get paid a lot of money by someone this offseason. Turner has been solid, great even, as Brad Stevens' Swiss army knife, doing a little bit of everything and more often than not helping the team win. But with Boston at such an important crossroads, Turner is the kind of player they should be upgrading, not spending boatloads of cash on. If he is willing to take a hometown discount to remain in Boston, few will be mad that the Celtics are retaining his services. But his play over the last two seasons will earn him a nice raise from the $3.4 million he was annually earning in Boston, and letting him take that elsewhere may be the smart move in the end.

Patience

It sucks to wait and that "please have patience" talk is one Celtics fans don't want to hear. Again. It's been two years since the ill-fated "fireworks" statement from owner Wyc Grousbeck, and after an underwhelming draft night fans are starting to get antsy.

The C's brass is probably tired of waiting to morph into a title contender too, but they know that patience is key. The one caveat is, if it gets Kevin Durant to Boston, you go all in.

But it would be devastating to the progress the team has made if they replicate what the Detroit Pistons did in 2009 when they gave Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva nearly $100 million. Gordon was past his prime, and Villanueva was never really in his prime. Those contracts handcuffed the Pistons for years, and De-triot basketball is  just getting back into the Eastern Conference conversation with Stan Van Gundy at the helm.

The worst thing the Celtics could do this offseason is use up that cap space on mediocre -- at best -- players. Tons of money is going to be thrown around this summer, and a lot of it is going to players who really don't deserve it (really, does anyone deserve $30+ million a year?). The Celtics can't be one of those teams backing a truckload of cash into Harrison Barnes' driveway. Barnes is a solid player, but that price tag for an extended period of time is going to be more bad than good.

That creates an interesting conundrum with a player like Horford, who would no doubt fill a need in the Boston frontcourt. But it's a risky move to give max money to a 30-year-old with a lot of miles on his body. Horford may be worth it in the short term, but will it hurt them in the long term.

The same can be said on the trade front. On paper, you may want Ainge to ship every asset he's collected over the last five years for a player like Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins or an unknown player who has been made available. If that gets Kevin Durant to Boston, then it's absolutely worth it. If not, well that's up to Ainge to figure out.

If you hate that "wait until next offseason" talk, just remember this: Boston can swap picks with the Nets next season and own their 2018 first rounder, both of which should once again be in the top three -- if not better. Better times are on the horizon, and if the Celtics miss out on the big names on the free agent market, and Ainge isn't willing to part with his stash of future assets just yet, waiting may be the C's best option.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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