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Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka have a type

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Over the next two weeks on CelticsBlog, we’ll be doing our version of exit interviews for the players, Ime Udoka and Brad Stevens. However, with the draft on Thursday and free agency starting a week later, the NBA has already turned the page on the 2021-2022 season and is looking ahead to next year. For now, it doesn’t look like Boston is going to be a great player in the draft or in free agency, but they’ll continue to look for 2-3 players who can contribute right away. After successful deals to bring in Al Horford and Derrick White last year, Stevens will once again target players who fit Udoka’s now defined system, style and mindset.

Consider what Stevens doled out at the trade deadline last season to bring in Derrick White and Daniel Theis. To bring in White, the Celtics had to pay a heavy price: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, their 2022 first-round pick and a potential pick trade in 2028. Meeting Theis was more of a subtraction sum with Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter, and Bruno Fernando heading to Houston. Of the five players Stevens sent, Richardson fit the Udoka mold the most. The seven-year veteran was a tweener who could play both sides of the ball, not necessarily a great shooter/playmaker/one-on-one defender, but in the great scheme of Boston’s shifty defense and ball movement, a complement and a complement. -play gear. The others were all specialists (read: ball-stopper, a traffic cone on the pick-and-roll) of some kind.

As CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith points out, Stevens has two substantial tools to complement a team that’s already 9-10 deep: a handful of TPEs, including a $17.1 million TPE from Evan Fournier’s signing and trade last summer, and the taxpayer of $6.4 million. mid-level exception. MassLive’s Brian Robb reported yesterday that the owners want to “significantly expand Boston’s payroll” to a team that had a 2-1 lead in the Finals and leads late in the quarters in Games 4 and 5.

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So while Stevens has options and management appears motivated to exhaust them, any addition will have to fit the floor as much as the salary cap. To play Udoka, the key is defense. The Celtics’ defense isn’t the best in the league without every player being able to defend his position. Payton Pritchard doesn’t see minutes in The Finals if he can’t fend off the likes of Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving. Despite a cold streak of 3-point shooting in the later rounds, Grant Williams was still Boston’s first big off the bench because of his interchangeable defense. We’ll preview potential targets here on CelticsBlog as we get closer to free agency on June 30, but as we all start making our wish lists, make sure those players check off Udoka’s.

But as important as D is, the Celtics stumbled in the Finals because of lost the ball lack of offensive firepower. Smith identifies three areas of need: 1) a veteran wing to play alongside Tatum and Brown, 2) another big man and 3) a “pure point guard.” After losing the aforementioned Richardson (and Langford to some degree) in February, the Celtics never regained their wing depth, instead playing big with Grant Williams at small forward or small with a combination of Smart, White and Pritchard on the perimeter. Factoring in Robert Williams’s health and Al Horford’s age, adding a major fall experienced somewhere between necessity and luxury; the smaller TPEs ($6.9 million and $5.9 million) could come in handy during the season if the need arises. The same can be said for the always elusive vet PG. It’s easy to argue that Brown and Tatum could use more catch-and-shoot opportunities and secondary actions to ease their offensive loads, but CP3s don’t grow on trees.

Whether we’re talking about a young player who might be sitting at the end of the bench and commuting between Boston and Maine or a ten-year veteran looking to contribute a chip, finding players who fit into a locker room could prove to be as difficult as trying to build one last summer.

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