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5 best free agent signings in Boston Celtics history

  • CLUTCH Summary: Few NBA franchises can rival the historical greatness of the Boston Celtics.
  • While people can point to obviously great signing like Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, even less known gems like Dana Barros have helped the Celtics reach great heights.
  • Still, given the lack of turnover at the top of the roster up until the modern era of the league, you won’t find my great signings in the franchise’s history prior to the late 1990s. 

The Boston Celtics are unquestionably one of the most storied franchises in the entire NBA. Having won 17 NBA titles, the C’s still hold the league’s record for the franchise with the most championships under their belt. The Celtics have history, and this very same legacy continues to this very day.

Nevertheless, it might be hard to believe that despite their glorious past, Boston does not exactly pop out as one of the most prime free-agent destinations today.

Well, let’s clarify that.

The Celtics are indeed a big market team, and they still hold a stronger draw when compared to other smaller market sides. However, the likes of the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers still come out on top when it comes to sexier landing spots for prospective free agents.

This got us thinking: who are actually the best free-agent signings the Celtics have had in the 73 years of their franchise? After doing a bit of research and reviewing a multitude of Celtics news, we have come up with Boston’s five best free-agent acquisitions, and we’re happy to share our curated list with you down below (Kemba Walker will make this list shortly, but first we’ll let him get on the court).

Dana Barros

Dana Barros, a 5-foot-11 combo guard, signed with the Celtics as a free agent in 1995. Perhaps the most significant thing about this coup is that Boston was able to acquire a player that was in his prime. Barros was coming out of his one and only All-Star year, and he was even awarded as the league’s Most Improved Player in his standout campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics lured the Boston, Massachusetts native into signing a lucrative long-term deal, which happened to be one of the most significant signings for the team following the Larry Bird era. Unfortunately for both parties, Barros would never be able to find the form he once had during that memorable year with the Sixers.

After averaging 13.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 0.7 steals in his first year with the Celtics, it was all downhill from there for the former 16th overall pick. Five years later, Boston would part ways with Barros, trading him away as part of a complex four-team deal.

Xavier McDaniel

Speaking of the Larry Bird era, Xavier McDaniel was signed by the Celtics shortly after Bird’s retirement in 1992. The 6-foot-7 forward was seen as a potential replacement for the Boston legend, but honestly, everyone knew that there was no replacing Larry Bird.

McDaniel was already 29 when the Celtics signed him, and at that point, he was already past his prime. McDaniel peaked pretty early in his career, having been named an All-Star (his one and only selection) during only his third year in the league. Nevertheless, while he may no longer have been the offensive juggernaut he once was during his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, McDaniel helped transition the Celtics into their next era following the end of the unforgettable Bird years.

McDaniel spent three years in Boston, averaging 11.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.5 blocks per contest.

Al Horford

Much like Barros, the Celtics got their hands on Al Horford while he was at the peak of his career. In 2016, a 30-year-old Horford signed with Boston after back-to-back All-Star campaigns with the Atlanta Hawks. He was considered as one of the best big men in the league at that point, and this served as an absolute coup for the Celtics.

Another important thing to note is that the Horford signing served as a milestone for the organization. The team had struggled to sign a big name over the previous years, and by acquiring such a notable player like Horford, this opened the door for the Celtics, and surely gave their reputation a bit of a boost in this era.

The former third-overall pick spent three productive years in Boston, putting up 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 31.0 minutes per contest. In the 2019 offseason, Horford signed with the Sixers as an unrestricted free agent on a four-year, $109 million deal.

James Posey

While James Posey will not stand out as one of the most important players in Boston’s history, he still deserves a spot on this list. This is simply because he was a pivotal piece in the Celtics’ historic championship run in the 2007-08 season.

The 6-foot-8 forward was signed by the team the very same summer they acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (via separate trade deals), and while he may not have been a top-biller, Posey filled the role of the team’s sixth man to perfection. Oh, and they signed him on a veteran’s minimum deal, so talk about a bargain.

In his single championship-winning year with the Celtics, Posey averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.0 steals in 24.6 minutes off the bench.

Gordon Hayward

Another player the Celtics snagged in his prime is Gordon Hayward, who signed with Boston coming off of an All-Star campaign with the Utah Jazz in the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out, as the 6-foot-8 forward only managed five minutes in his first-ever game in a Celtics uniform before suffering a horrific season-ending leg injury.

Hayward has not been the same since, and in his first full season with Boston last year, the former ninth overall pick was a shadow of his former self, averaging only 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 0.9 steals in 25.9 minutes per game.

Hayward opted out of his contract with the Celtics in the 2020 offseason, signing with the Charlotte Hornets for a massive four-year $128 million deal.

The former All-Star’s departure allowed for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to fully emerge as the Celtics’ top gunners, while Kemba Walker, who still provides big games from time to time, is relegated to being the team’s No.3 option.