The plan was for Danilo Gallinari to factor into the Celtics' center rotation. Given his height (six-foot-ten), basketball IQ, and leaving much to be desired in terms of foot speed, there was a distinct possibility the pivot proved to be Gallinari's primary position.
Without him, the current roster calls for Boston to primarily rely on short-shifting Al Horford, much like the Celtics do with Jayson Tatum, so the team typically has at least one of its starting big men in the game, just like at least one of Tatum or Jaylen Brown are usually on the floor.
That strategy can work and get carried out in a way that isn't too taxing on Horford or Robert Williams, especially on nights when the center they employ off the bench, which at the moment is most likely Luke Kornet, can provide productive minutes.
However, expect Horford not to play in both halves of back-to-back games. That alone calls for heavily relying on Boston's top option to come off the bench and play the pivot.
Tuesday's news that Robert Williams is undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee is further evidence the Celtics should seek an external upgrade to fortify their rotation at center. Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the expected timeframe for Williams' recovery is four-to-six weeks.
Training camp starts next week, and while the belief is that he'll miss the entirety of that and the preseason, the expectation is he'll return to the lineup early in the regular season.
While that's encouraging news for the Timelord and the Celtics, it doesn't change the fact Boston should get a better insurance policy behind Williams, who hasn't played in more than 61 games in any season in his four-year career.
Earlier this month, I made a case for the Celtics to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Now 37, the six-foot-11 veteran, who made five All-NBA Teams, averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a block per game in 22.3 minutes of floor time in 47 appearances with the Nets last season.
However, Aldridge was not a part of Brooklyn's playoff rotation. Still, he would add more scoring, he's a more natural option to play the pivot defensively than Gallinari would've been, he'll help on the glass, and Boston wouldn't have to part with any players or picks to acquire him.
Any free agent still available comes with flaws, including Aldridge, but players like Aldridge, Blake Griffin, or old pal Tristan Thompson could prove more impactful than Kornet. They also might allow the Celtics to avoid trading Derrick White or Payton Pritchard to make the roster more balanced.
If Boston doesn't budge on the free agent centers available, it can justify getting by with Kornet until Williams returns. While the team can't bank on it, perhaps Kornet will make the most significant leap of his career, providing an internal solution.
There's also the reality that parting with White or Pritchard will presumably allow the Celtics to acquire a better player than any they could sign right now.
Also, Boston has three second-round picks next year, and it's worth seeing if the Celtics can trade two of those to acquire a player like Xavier Tillman, Willy Hernangomez, or Alex Len.
Tillman is a big-bodied center who offers versatility, contributes on both ends, and can stay in the rotation during the playoffs. Hernangomez is coming off a campaign where he produced 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds while logging 16.8 minutes per game. Last season, Len, a former fifth overall pick, generated six points and 4.1 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per contest for the Kings.
There's also a chance taking a patient approach leads to Boston addressing the need to improve its center rotation in the buyout market. The Celtics have a handful of trade exceptions that could come in handy on that front, including TPEs worth $6.9 million (Juancho Hernangomez) and $5.9 million (Dennis Schroder).
It's also a formality that Boston receives a disabled player exception since Gallinari is likely to miss the entirety of the 2022-23 campaign. That DPE will be worth half of his salary, carrying a value of roughly $3.3 million.
The last thing the Celtics want is to place too much strain on Horford or Williams, or to lose one of them to a significant injury after the trade deadline, leaving the team with limited options to atone for not taking a proactive approach.
Teams might want to see how they look in the regular season before making a trade, but Wyc Grousbeck recently conveyed to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, "money is not a consideration whatsoever" and that Brad Stevens "has the green light to spend more."
Boston already projects to have one of the NBA's most expensive payrolls this season. The Celtics roster currently costs roughly $170.1 million and comes with a luxury tax bill of $45.2 million, resulting in a combined payment of $215.3 million. They must sign at least two more players to full-time contracts. Doing so will bring their luxury tax payment to at least $59 million. As a result, their total expenses will exceed $230 million this season.
However, if ownership, the front office, and coaching staff are aligned about a potential free-agent option, bringing in another center to compete with, Kornet primarily, is in the team's best interest.