|2012-13 Celtics free agent options at point guard||07.02.12 at 12:18 pm ET|
Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joined NBA free agency over the weekend. While Kevin Garnett became the first to announce his plans to re-sign, everyone from Ray Allen to Greg Stiemsma can still leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap (an estimated $58 million). We’re finishing up our examination of the C’s free agent options at each position with point guards (Also see: Centers, shooting guards, power forwards and small forwards).
Rajon Rondo makes this job a little easier. The Celtics point guard averaged 42.6 minutes in the playoffs, cementing himself as one of the game’s great floor generals, so forget about guys like Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson and Jason Kidd. All of them will be looking for starting roles, with the possible exception of Kidd, who seems settled in Dallas even if the Mavericks lure Williams.
Still, Avery Bradley‘s move to the two last season left C’s coach Doc Rivers with Keyon Dooling and E’Twaun Moore as his primary backup point guards. So, while Bradley could still spell Rondo at times and both Dooling and Moore remain options — the former for the veteran minimum as a free agent and the latter for his $0.76 million non-guaranteed contract — the Celtics could make an upgrade at the position.
The Celtics now have five players under guaranteed contracts in 2012-13 for roughly $45.8 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Garnett, approximately $11.3M; Rondo, $11.0M; Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M) as well as $2.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Pending decisions on or by Allen, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Wilcox, Ryan Hollins, Dooling and Stiemsma, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from zero to $10 million to spend in free agency.
As a result, expect the Celtics to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Almost nobody is out of their league. 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 three categories.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, with or without Rondo||05.01.12 at 12:37 pm ET|
In the wake of Rondo’s suspension for Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta (7:30 p.m., NBA TV), perhaps a look at how other Celtics performed in the point guard’s 13-game absence this season will answer that question.
For starters, we’ll examine how the void left by Rondo affects the other … um … well … the starters.
|Irish Coffee: When will Celtics develop a scorer?||02.29.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
Whether it’s Gerald Green‘s glorious return to the NBA, the sight of Semih Erden facing them as a starting center or the team’s woeful offensive production, a number of factors led me to this question: When is the last time Celtics president Danny Ainge or coach Doc Rivers has either drafted or developed a scorer?
Clearly, Rajon Rondo is the best player cultivated under the Ainge-Rivers regime, but I don’t think anybody would argue Rondo has markedly improved in the scoring department. His scoring averages per 36 minutes in his rookie season (9.9 points) and last season (10.3) are nearly identical, and we all know about that jump shot.
The best scorer drafted by Ainge has to be Al Jefferson, but even his 36-minute averages didn’t improve much under Rivers, crawling from 16.3 as a rookie to 17.2 in his final Celtics season. Not until he was traded to the Timberwolves did those averages climb into the 20s. Of course Ainge and Rivers deserve credit for molding Big Al into bait to land Kevin Garnett, but the fact remains Jefferson made a leap offensively once he left the Celtics.
The same goes for Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe and Bill Walker, all of whose 36-minute scoring averages barely budged in either direction on the Celtics, and then saw those numbers rise once they left Boston.
|Getting the point: Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore||02.01.12 at 1:13 am ET|
When Rajon Rondo went down with a sprained right wrist late in the third quarter against the Raptors, those that have been predicting the Celtics‘ imminent demise sensed the end creeping ever closer. How would the Celtics survive without their only true shot-creator and undoubtedly their best player this season?
Amazingly, the Celtics have not only survived, they’ve prospered, winning five of seven games to reach the .500 mark and rattling off their three most impressive wins of the season: beating the Magic twice and the Pacers on a second night of a back-to-back.
The most obvious reason for their success has been the reinvigorated play of Paul Pierce. After dropping 20 points on the Cavs in a tighter-than-it-needed-to-be-but-still-a-win performance on Thursday, Pierce has scored 155 points in the seven games without Rondo and also has 52 assists. Pierce has taken over the playmaker role and his game returned from the lockout ether at just the right time.
Offensively, the Celtics have been winning games almost in spite of Rondo’s replacements at the point: Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore. The young guards often bring the ball up the floor and make the first pass, but it’s been either Pierce or Kevin Garnett in the high post who then initiate the offensive sets. That formula has worked well enough for the Celtics who have generally played to their offensive efficiency of 98.9 points per 100 possessions.
Bradley and Moore have also had their moments offensively. Over the last four games, Moore has made 11-of-18 shots and gone 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Moore has been steady, if unspectacular, at the point with 10 assists and eight turnovers and has quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff, as well as his teammates.
Like Moore, Bradley has mostly kept his turnovers down. Eleven of his 15 turnovers during this stretch of games came in two contests. Limiting turnovers is no small thing for a team that has struggled mightily throughout the season in that regard.
Bradley has had success scoring at the rim where he’s shooting 64 percent. Against the Cavs, Bradley was able to duck in for layups and also had a strong move working across the lane. He has the athleticism to finish inside and is starting to figure out that he can’t bull-rush taller defenders. Where Bradley has struggled is with his jump shot. He’s made just 10-of-28 shots from 16-23 feet this season and is just 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
|Fast Break: The Truth sets Celtics free||01.22.12 at 3:37 pm ET|
The Celtics have been waiting for Paul Pierce to arrive, and the captain delivered on Sunday afternoon in a 100-94 road win over the Wizards. Pierce scored 34 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists and looked like the Pierce of old, as opposed to an old version of Paul Pierce.
While Pierce helped lead the Celtics’ best offensive performance in weeks, the team’s defense was routinely burned in transition by the younger, faster Wizards and a double-digit third quarter lead quickly evaporated. The Celtics were able to hold on down the stretch thanks to Pierce and solid games from Brandon Bass — 13 points and nine rebounds — and Kevin Garnett, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
They were once again without Rajon Rondo, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right wrist. They also lost Ray Allen to a sprained left ankle early in the second quarter. He went back to the locker room and did not return.
The Celtics had lost six of seven games heading into Sunday and are now 6-8. Half of their wins have come against Washington, but they’ll take them any way they can get them right now. They’re back in action on Monday at the Garden against the Magic as Glen Davis makes his return to Boston.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Pierce had his breakout game for the Celtics, doing a little bit of everything. His effect on his teammates was evident by his 10 assists. When the Wizards doubled him off pick and rolls he found Bass for a jumper. He also got Garnett going in the second half with solid pick-and-pop action.
— The Celtics had assists on 13 of 16 makes in the first half and had much better ball movement and spacing than in recent games. That went away in the second half as they relied on Pierce to generate their offense, but it was a positive step.
— Mickael Pietrus had to play big minutes after Allen jammed his left ankle and the veteran swingman played well. He knocked down two 3-pointers, but he also went to the post and drew a foul and put the ball on the floor to create a jump shot. Pietrus also committed two bad fouls in the fourth quarter, but he played well in his first game with major minutes.
— Bass also had a solid game, scoring 13 points to go with nine rebounds. He looked much more comfortable in the Celtics’ sets and had a strong finish going through JaVale McGee.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— Allen began the game making three of his first four shots as the Celtics made a concerted effort to get him off screens. But Allen jammed his left ankle early in the second quarter when he ran around a screen set by the Wizards’ Jan Vesely. There was no contact on the play. Allen went back to the locker room and did not return.
— E’Twaun Moore has had his moments thus far in his rookie season, but so far that hasn’t translated into production. He’s made only one of his last 15 shots. Marquis Daniels has also struggled and beyond Bass and Pietrus, the Celtics bench has yielded few results.
— Avery Bradley remains a work in progress. He took several wild shots and careened into three Wizards on the fast break and got called for a charge. Bradley had six rebounds and seven assists, but he also was 1-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-4 from the free throw line with six turnovers. Wizards guard John Wall had his way with him on the defensive end, scoring 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
|Fast Break: Back to back blues continue||01.14.12 at 9:33 pm ET|
It wasn’t like anyone expected the Celtics to fly out of Indiana on the second night of a back-to-back with a victory, if you needed any more evidence that they have a long way to go, it was provided in a 97-83 loss. It’s also worth noting that the Pacers were also on the second end of a back-to-back.
The starters got off to a much better offensive start, but it was the second unit that couldn’t keep the momentum going and they had nothing left in the second half. Defensively, they let the Pacers control the paint (they allowed 20 offensive rebounds) and they couldn’t keep them off the free throw line.
The one bright spot was Kevin Garnett who had a bounceback game with 21 points and six rebounds and was much more aggressive offensively. Paul Pierce also scored 21 points by getting to the free throw line and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The bench didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the first half and that was the only offense they received from the second unit. Avery Bradley was replaced by rookie E’Twaun Moore after badly bricking a jumpshot.
— Paul George is an impossible cover for Ray Allen. At 6-foot-8, there’s little that Allen can do with him and the Pacers smartly took advantage of that as George went to the free throw line six times in the first half. Pietrus came in and did a solid job defensively.
— Danny Granger is the latest small forward to have a big game on Pierce. He went for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21.
— Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 6-for-17 and finished with just 13 points. Rondo did have nine assists and Allen contributed six rebounds, but Darren Collison and George put up 34 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics steamroll Raptors in preseason||12.21.11 at 10:03 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (17 points, 6 assists) got the preseason Garden party started, Greg Stiemsma (7 points, 5 rebounds) kept it going and E’Twaun Moore (11 points) closed it out in a 81-73 victory against the lowly Raptors finale on Wednesday night.
Heck, C’s fans were even treated to a Michael Sweetney sighting, whose bucket in the waning moments of the fourth quarter brought the house down and signaled closing time on the preseason.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Steamroller: Playing for a roster spot, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Greg Stiemsma turned in what might have been his best performance since leading the Randolph High Rockets to three straight Division 4 Wisconsin state titles. In between, he’s played in renowned basketball hotbeds like South Korea and Sioux Falls, S.D. Wednesday night, Stiemsma totaled all seven of his points in the first half, garnering more applause from the Garden crowd with each bucket. Then again, the Celtics were playing the Raptors … in the preseason.
JO’s D: In limited action, the 33-year-old Jermaine O’Neal let his presence be known. Showing what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying throughout training camp — that his starting center has looked better than ever in green — O’Neal owned the paint on the defensive end, blocking four shots in 11 minutes. Although, O’Neal did leave the game to return to the locker room in the third quarter never to return (with no visible injury).
Rondo’s jumper: Perhaps the most encouraging sign — and the one that could benefit the Celtics the most throughout the season — was not only Rajon Rondo‘s willingness to shoot from the perimeter, drive through the lane looking for his shot and get to the free throw line, but his ability to score in all three aspects of the game. Rondo established himself early and often as the best player on the floor, draining a couple 18-footers, getting to the line six times and totaling 17 points in 22 minutes.