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Celtics free agent options at point guard redux

Welcome to Part 3 of this week’s daily post-NBA lockout position-by-position breakdown of free agent options available to the Celtics [1]. We have already profiled the C’€™s biggest needs — at center [2] and shooting guard [3] — 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 handling the point guard position behind two-time All-Star starter Rajon Rondo [4] on the 15-man roster: Delonte West [5], Avery Bradley [6], Nate Robinson [7] (before trade) and Carlos Arroyo [8] (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 [9], $21.2 million; Paul Pierce [10], $15.33 million; Ray Allen [11], $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’€™Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and Jeff Green [12] is due at least another $5.91 million this offseason.

Signed through 2014-15, Rondo cemented himself as the franchise’s foundation (until this week’s rumors [13]), 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 both might be too expensive or require more minutes.

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

THE NATE ROBINSONS

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.

RICH MAN: JOSE JUAN BAREA

POOR MAN: T.J. FORD

THE DELONTE WESTS

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 [17]), 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.

RICH MAN: RODNEY STUCKEY [18]

POOR MAN: WILLIE GREEN

THE AVERY BRADLEYS

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.

RICH MAN: MARIO CHALMERS [20]

THE CARLOS ARROYOS

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.

RICH MAN: EARL BOYKINS [21]

COMMON MAN: EARL WATSON

POOR MAN: JASON WILLIAMS [22]

THE TYRONN LUES

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.

I’€™m of the belief that Bradley can assume the backup role behind Rondo and should prove to be the Celtics’ most improved player next season. In addition to showing flashes of brilliance in the development league [26] and at the NBA level [27], 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, Stuckey and Chalmers are highly unlikely to end up in green. That probably leaves Boykins or Watson as the best chances to give the C’€™s point guard depth in 2011-12.