BOSTON — Figuring out what to do with Paul Pierce will be at the top of the Boston Celtics' offseason agenda, for sure.
But if the C's have any realistic visions of re-entering the growing field of title contenders, Danny Ainge and company have to come up big in the free agency derby.
Some of the NBA's best players like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, are available as unrestricted free agents beginning in July.
Short of Photoshopping them into Celtics unis, there's little to no chance they will call the TD Garden home anytime soon.
Still, that won't stop fans from playing the 'what if ..." game or the Celtics front office from looking at all options this summer as they try and re-tool a roster that they are hoping will be better - or at the very least, healthier - than this past season's club that flamed out in the first round of the playoffs.
The C's will be limited as far as what they can do financially to attract free agents, with their best bet to significantly bolster their roster coming through sign-and-trades.
But first things first.
The Celtics must figure out which players they plan to target this summer.
Here are some of players that are likely to be on the Celtics radar this summer.
LONGSHOTS, AT BEST
Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks)
Summary: One of the few upper echelon free agents that the Celtics won't need to do much swooning to get to come to Boston. The problem? He's looking for a max or near-max deal, something the Celtics can't financially do, even if they wanted to. A Pierce-for-Smith trade could work, but this trade would appear to not make a lot of sense for either club. Teams interested in Pierce see him as the missing piece that could get them over the top. The Hawks have too many needs for this trade to make sense from their perspective. And with the C's keeping one eye on improving its financial picture and another on improving the roster, Smith has the talent but whether he's the right fit for what they need, is another matter entirely.
Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz)
Summary: Of all the possible trade possibilities for the Celtics, this is one of the few that makes sense. Utah can lose Jefferson and get nothing in return, or swing a deal for say, Pierce and add a much-needed veteran. The addition of Jefferson would allow Garnett to play more at the power forward position and potentially allow the Celtics to cut his minutes back even further and give him even more pep in his step for the playoffs.
David West (Indiana Pacers)
Summary: The C's made a run at him a couple years ago when he eventually signed with the Pacers, so the interest level is clearly there. West is a player that brings more to the table than points and rebounds. He brings a high level of accountability and professionalism to the floor and inside the locker room, which is why the Pacers will do all they can to keep him in the fold.
O.J. Mayo (Dallas Mavericks)
Summary: Another player the C's were close to acquiring earlier, Mayo put up solid numbers for Dallas (15.3 points, 4.4 assists) but his individual success didn't translate into enough team victories as the Mavs failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Dallas is expected to try and work out and long-term deal for Mayo, who made $4.2 million last season. Boston's best shot at acquiring him would be to work out a sign-and-trade which could involve Courtney Lee or former Maverick Jason Terry.
Chris Kaman (Dallas Mavericks)
Summary: A 7-footer with size and strength, Kaman would be an ideal fit for a Celtics team that desperately needs to add depth at the center position. And while he is sure to take a dip in pay from the $12.2 million he brought in last year, the C's best shot at acquiring him will come through sign-and-trade.
Samuel Dalembert (Milwaukee Bucks)
Summary: At 6-foot-11, Dalembert may have some trouble this season pulling down the kind of money he is used to earning. He made $6.7 million this past season and will certainly be seeking something close to the mid-level which will be worth about $5 million. But coming off a disappointing season with the Bucks with his role steadily declining, he may find himself having to settle for the veteran's minimum which would then make him an ideal target for the Celtics as a backup big man.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Tony Allen (Memphis Grizzlies)
Summary: Yes, things didn't end on the best of terms for Tony Allen and the Boston Celtics. But a reunion isn't totally out of the question. Like most of the deals Boston will consider making, this too would likely have to be a sign-and-trade. T.A. back to Boston for the vet's minimum? Not happening. If the C's and Allen both show a willingness to put the past behind them and try to re-connect, look for Boston to once again dangle the contracts of Lee and Terry.
Jason Collins (Washington Wizards)
Summary: Both Collins and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers made it clear that a return to Boston would be something both sides want. And with money not being an issue (it's hard to imagine any team willing to pay him more than the veteran's minimum), this deal should not take very long to get completed. Collins' recent admission that he is gay will have no bearing on the C's interest in him, which was pretty strong well before his announcement.
Leandro Barbosa (Washington Wizards)
Summary: Coming off a devastating torn ACL injury, it remains to be seen if the 'Brazilian Blur' can regain the quickness that made him such a tough cover for opponents. He has been rehabilitating his injury in Boston, along with Rajon Rondo who is also on the mend from a torn ACL injury. While he is on the C's radar, there are a number of other options the C's will explore before they make a decision on whether to bring him back.