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Celtics’ free agent options at backup point guard

07.15.11 at 6:21 pm ET

We’€™re two weeks into the NBA lockout, but that doesn’€™t mean we can’€™t examine which free agents will be available to the Celtics for the (fingers crossed) 2011-12 season once commissioner David Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter hash out their differences. We have already profiled the C’€™s biggest needs — at center and shooting guard — so we move to a less pressing but critical position: Backup Point Guards.

The Celtics started and finished the 2010-11 season with three additional players capable of playing the point guard position behind All-Star starter Rajon Rondo on the 15-man roster: Delonte West, Avery Bradley, Nate Robinson (before trade) and Carlos Arroyo (after trade). Only Rondo and Bradley remain, so it stands to reason that the Celtics will sign at least one more floor general.

The C’€™s targets depend on how confident they are in Bradley and how cheaply they can find a reliable backup (or third-string). As we’€™ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Kevin Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’€™Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and Jeff Green is due at least another $5.91 million this offseason.

Signed through 2014-15, Rondo has cemented himself as the franchise’s foundation, and Bradley — under their control until his restricted free agency in 2014-15 — is slotted as the backup of the future. As a result, the C’€™s ideally would seek a veteran pure point guard and/or a capable combo guard who wouldn’t completely destroy their chances should Rondo’€™s injury issues persist and Bradley prove ill-prepared for big minutes. Arroyo and West fit those descriptions, but one might be too expensive and the other could sign overseas during the lockout.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at backup point guard, separating the current free agent players into five categories ‘€¦


These NBA veterans have all proven at some point in their careers that they are capable of contributing big minutes to playoff teams. But, like Robinson, vertically challenged players have their limitations on both ends of the floor and might be more suited for a backup role ‘€¦


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (81 games): 20.6 MIN, 9.5 PTS, 3.9 AST, 2.0 REB, 43.9 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 84.7 FT%
  • Why? He might look like a jockey, but the 6-foot (yeah right) Barea provides energy off the bench, scores in bunches and runs the offense in the starter’€™s absence, demonstrating such as a key contributor to the Mavericks’€™ title run. Plus, the Northeastern University product has Boston ties.
  • Why not? Unless they didn’€™t watch the NBA playoffs, GMs noticed Barea’€™s production, too. That generally translates into someone paying way too much for a guy whose limitations are clear.


  • Status: Restricted ($3 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (59 games): 21.8 MIN, 10.7 PTS, 3.9 AST, 1.3 REB, 37.5 FG%, 29.7 3P%, 88.6 FT%
  • Why? Brooks averaged 19.6 points on 43.2 percent shooting and 5.3 assists in 2009-10, capturing the NBA’€™s Most Improved honor as one of example of underrated Rockets collected by GM Daryl Morey on a team that appeared ready to establish itself as a playoff regular.
  • Why not? There’€™s a reason the Rockets traded Brooks to the Suns for Goran Dragic. He’€™s never seen a shot he didn’€™t like, which is strange, because he’€™s never met a coach he liked. Besides, Brooks recently told CBS Sports that ‘€œall signs point to me going back to Phoenix.’€


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (41 games): 18.9 MIN, 5.4 PTS, 3.4 AST, 2.0 REB, 38.6 FG%, 18.8 3P%, 72.9 FT%
  • Why? There are reasons (speed, ball-handling and court vision) that Ford was a top-10 pick in the 2003 NBA draft ahead of point guards like Mo Williams, Luke Ridnour and Steve Blake. And he’€™s still a 28-year-old whose career-high season averages are 14.9 points, 7.9 assists and 4.3 boards.
  • Why not? Other than the fact that Ford has missed 30 or more games in three of his past four seasons? Well, he’€™s not a great defender, doesn’€™t (can’€™t?) go left and makes me-first decisions.


As we noted in the piece on free agent shooting guards, there can only be one Delonte West (as evidenced by this demand for doughnuts), and he’€™s probably the best available and most realistic option for a guy who can spell Rondo or play alongside him while defending both guard positions. If the Celtics can’€™t re-sign the injury-prone West, these guys are worth a look ‘€¦


  • Status: Restricted ($3.8 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (70 games): 31.2 MIN, 15.5 PTS, 5.2 AST, 3.1 REB, 43.9 FG%, 28.9 3P%, 86.6 FT%
  • Why? The Pistons had so much confidence in Stuckey that they traded Chauncey Billups, opening the door (eventually) for the Eastern Washington product to assume the starting point guard duties. While he’€™s no Mr. Big Shot — or even Mr. I Occasionally Hit A Big Shot And Those Are The Ones People Remember So Everyone Calls Me Mr. Big Shot — Stuckey is a legit NBA point guard.
  • Why not? Stuckey isn’€™t just capable of starting in the NBA, he’€™s used to it by now. And 25-year-old starting PGs don’€™t generally seek backup roles. Besides, I don’€™t see the Pistons letting him walk.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (77 games): 21.7 MIN, 8.7 PTS, 1.0 AST, 2.1 REB, 44.3 FG%, 34.8 3P%, 78.0 FT%
  • Why? Believe it or not, Green started all 74 games he appeared in for the Sixers during the 2007-08 season. Since then, his shooting percentages have steadily improved — particularly from 3-point range — while his per-minute assist and rebound numbers also ranked higher in 2010-11.
  • Why not? If the Celtics were interested in a 30-something percent 3-point shooter who’€™s considered a mediocre ball-handler and defender, they probably would’€™ve played Robinson more.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (51 games): 14.2 MIN, 4.2 PTS, 1.6 AST, 1.2 REB, 43.5 FG%, 16.7 3P%, 73.4 FT%
  • Why? Yet to reach the potential he demonstrated as a four-year player at Texas A&M and in an impressive NBA summer league debut, Law is still big enough (6-foot-3) and quick enough to defend NBA guards, and he has steadily improved his production each year — albeit slowly.
  • Why not? The fact the former No. 11 overall pick has played for five teams in four seasons is a bit of a warning sign.’€™s John Hollinger describes Law as a ‘€œpoor shooter who will pass up open J’€™s and appears to have lost confidence.’€ Sound familiar, like Rondo, only infinitely worse?


With only one, two or three years of NBA experience, these guys have shown signs of greater potential but still should be relatively affordable. The question, of course, is whether the Celtics need another project point guard (vs. an established veteran) with Bradley already on the roster ‘€¦


  • Status: Restricted ($1.1 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (70 games): 22.6 MIN, 6.4 PTS, 2.5 AST, 2.1 REB, 39.9 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 87.1 FT%
  • Why? If the Celtics (or anybody) could steal Chalmers from the Heat, it would be a bigger blow to Miami than it would be a benefit to the C’€™s. Considered a 3-point specialist, he hasn’€™t shot better than 36.7 percent from beyond the arc, although he did make 38.1 percent in the 2011 playoffs.
  • Why not? Perhaps allergic to the paint, Chalmers takes 75 percent of his shots from outside of 16 feet, owns a career 1.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and gambles defensively more than an MTI student at the black jack tables.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (62 games): 13.8 MIN, 4.1 PTS, 2.6 AST, 1.1 REB, 40.9 FG%, 20.0 3P%, 90.2 FT%
  • Why? A likable teammate who shares the rock (7.5 assists per 40 minutes), Jeter had a decent rookie season after generating productive seasons in the developmental league and overseas.
  • Why not? His first name is Pooh, and his last name is Jeter. Once you get past that, his 5-foot-11 frame and 3-point percentage offer insight into why he didn’€™t make his NBA debut until age 27.


  • Status: Restricted ($1.2 million qualifying offer)
  • 2010-11 averages (64 games): 12.2 MIN, 5.5 PTS, 1.7 AST, 0.8 REB, 41.2 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 76.6 FT%
  • Why? A positive energetic force, Mills earned a spot on the Blazers late in 2009-10 after averaging 25.6 points (on 50 percent 3-point shooting) and 5.4 assists in the D-League. All signs point to Mills becoming a ‘€œMini Microwave’€ kind of guy, even if he’€™s yet to produce in the NBA.
  • Why not? The fact Portland’€™s points per 100 possessions suffered by 8.4 points with Mills on the floor is not a good sign for a guy who is supposed to provide instant offense (and defends poorly).


Unlike the players above — with the possible exception of Ford — you pretty much know what you’€™re going to get with these guys. Like Arroyo, who remains a possibility, this group of veterans could be relied upon to run the Celtics offense for (short) stretches in Rondo’€™s absence ‘€¦


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (57 games): 15.1 MIN, 7.2 PTS, 2.5 AST, 1.0 REB, 44.3 FG%, 38.0 3P%, 84.1 FT%
  • Why? For a guy who went undrafted, Boykins has figured out a way to play 12 seasons in the NBA, running the floor like a jitterbug and even scoring double-digits off the bench in four consecutive seasons during the middle part of the last decade.
  • Why not? His weaknessesmainly his ability to stop bigger guards and see the floor over them — stem from his 5-foot-5, 135-pound frame (although he can bench a ridiculous 315 pounds).


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (80 games): 19.6 MIN, 4.3 PTS, 3.5 AST, 2.3 REB, 41.0 FG%, 33.6 3P%, 67.1 FT%
  • Why? A 10-year veteran, Watson has averaged at least 3.5 assists per game in the past eight seasons. A two-year Sonics teammate of Ray Allen‘€™s, he also can defend both guard positions.
  • Why not? Watson has also averaged 1.5 turnovers per game in each of the past eight seasons, and his shooting percentages have dipped significantly since he started 73 games in 2007-08. He has played eight career playoff games and hasn’€™t reached the postseason since 2005.


  • Status: Unrestricted
  • 2010-11 averages (27 games): 10.9 MIN, 2.0 PTS, 1.9 AST, 1.1 REB, 32.8 FG%, 26.3 3P%, 0.0 FT%
  • Why? A year before back problems forced White Chocolate to retire (again) and kept him from contributing to the Grizzlies‘€™ playoff run, Williams played 82 games for the Magic in 2009-10 (after his first retirement in 2008), averaging 3.6 assists and recording a 55.5 true shooting percentage.
  • Why not? Williams fired more questionable shots than Billy the Kid, sagged more than Oprah on defense, suffered more injuries than Mr. Glass in ‘€œUnbreakable’€ and penetrated lass than ‘€¦ well, you get the point. When healthy, he’€™s a great third point guard, but he might be done for good.


Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’€™t be much of an upgrade over anybody at the league minimum — or Celtics director of basketball development Tyronn Lue for that matter. Thanks, but no thanks ‘€¦

  • Sebastian Telfair (37 games: 19.2 MIN, 7.2 PTS, 3.0 AST, 1.5 REB, 40.2 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 73.3 FT%)
  • Ben Uzoh (42 games: 10.4 MIN, 3.8 PTS, 1.6 AST, 1.5 REB, 42.4 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 58.9 FT%)
  • Sundiata Gaines (24 games: 12.5 MIN, 4.6 PTS, 1.8 AST, 1.6 REB, 40.0 FG%, 23.7 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
  • Ronnie Price (59 games: 12.2 MIN, 3.3 PTS, 0.9 AST, 1.0 REB, 35.2 FG%, 29.0 3P%, 74.4 FT%)
  • Anthony Carter (33 games: 14.0 MIN, 3.3 PTS, 2.1 AST, 1.5 REB, 42.5 FG%, 30.0 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
  • Chris Quinn (41 games: 7.1 MIN, 2.0 PTS, 1.0 AST, 0.6 REB, 36.3 FG%, 29.7 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
  • Marcus Banks (3 games: 7.3 MIN, 2.0 PTS, 1.0 AST, 0.3 REB, 0.0 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 75.0 FT%)
  • Charlie Bell* (19 games: 9.0 MIN, 1.7 PTS, 0.7 AST, 0.9 REB, 27.9 FG%, 36.1 3P%, 76.9 FT%)
  • Royal Ivey (25 games: 6.2 MIN, 1.6 PTS, 0.3 AST, 0.6 REB, 42.1 FG%, 43.8 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
  • John Lucas (2 games: 5.0 MIN, 1.0 PTS, 0.5 AST, 0.0 REB, 33.3 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 0.9 FT%)

*Early Termination Option ($3.9 million)

I’€™m of the belief that Bradley can assume the backup role behind Rondo and could prove to be the Celtics’€™ most improved player next season. In addition to showing flashes of brilliance in the development league and at the NBA level, he’€™s a potentially elite defender and a willing student of the game on a veteran team. That’€™s a recipe for success in his sophomore campaign.

Should that prove to be the case, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’€™s job gets a lot easier in this regard. If I were Ainge, I’€™d try my damnedest to bring back both West and Arroyo. That would give the Celtics significant depth at the position.

If that doesn’€™t happen — particularly the West re-signing — the options dip significantly, especially considering guys like Barea, Brooks, Stuckey and Chalmers are highly unlikely to end up in Green. That probably leaves Watson and/or Jeter as the best chances to give the C’€™s point guard depth in 2011-12.

Read More: 2011 NBA free agents, Boston Celtics, Carlos Arroyo, Delonte West
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