Monday, July 30, 2007

Talking Celtics

It should have been a sleepy Monday morning in NBA land, as the Kobe stuff has totally dissipated, the ref scandal is still looming large enough to cast a pall over any actual roster moves, and the U.S. national team has closed up shop until mid August. I mean, at the end of last week, the biggest stories dealt with Juan Carlos Navarro's eventual destination and whether the Heat might want Rafer Alston. Not exactly the stuff of a PTI lead in.

But now the KG-to-Boston rumors are popping up again, which means we might be in for a fun day of refreshing web pages and reading flimsy speculation. Personally, I usually just check True Hoop 10 times a day to get the needed info (seriously, all anyone needs from ESPN to follow hoops these days is ESPN news and Henry's blog), which is how I first heard about the renewed talks and also where I learned that there is a version of the deal that doesn't involve Al Jefferson.

A few thoughts:

Ray Allen in Retrospect. First, I realize that I was in the minority in regard to the Ray Allen trade. It probably didn't make much sense to many people to mortgage the future for an aging All-Star when the roster couldn't make a run at the Finals. And certainly Danny Ainge had made enough bad moves and course corrections in the past five years to eliminate any benefit of the doubt. That said, for some reason, I was quite sure that there would be more to come from the Celtics. Even after the trade they still had future picks, some young talent (Gerald Green always seems to excite people who haven't seen him play defense), and Theo Ratliff's expiring contract. Not to mention the ultimate trade chip in Al Jefferson. So to think they were "stuck" with Pierce and Allen and a bunch of kids was ridiculous. You certainly couldn't assume that Ainge would put the whole thing together, but their dealings were clearly incomplete.

KG Rumors. Now there are reports that Boston might have a shot at KG in a variety of deals both with and without Jefferson. Obviously, Boston fans are hoping for the latter and I've even heard some C's fans say that they would rather keep Jefferson than get Garnett. Which is crazy.

Jefferson is a good young player who put up great numbers last year. I enjoyed a great deal of success in my fantasy leagues thanks to him. However, before people start saying he's better than Dwight Howard or untouchable, it is important to remember the issue of context. Jefferson had been an underachiever and a guy who couldn't quite "get it" right up until the moment that Pierce went down with an injury and Boston decided to tank the season last year. So all of a sudden Big Al is running around with a bunch of rookies and playing glorified summer league games. I'm not saying he didn't improve, but I am saying that all that improvement came in pretty carefree circumstances. It wasn't exactly Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals whenever he stepped on the floor.

Not only that, but Jefferson is a mediocre defender at best. He doesn't do a particularly good job of denying post position and he always seems a step slow with his help defense. For a team that defends the paint like they are allergic to it, Jefferson isn't exactly the guy you want anchoring the interior.

KG on the other hand has done his thing in every imaginable situation. He's come up big in the playoffs, he's played through injuries, he's dominated international play and All-Star games. There isn't a scenario out there that I could imagine throwing him for a loop. So you can actually pencil in his numbers as opposed to projecting some garbage time stats and then crossing your fingers, as you would have to do with Jefferson. Not only that, but KG answers all of Boston's questions on the defensive end. He would be a dramatic upgrade over Jefferson on that end of the floor and a guy who can help teach a player like Kendrick Perkins. Much like when Greg Maddux joins a pitching staff, you are basically getting both a player and a coach for your younger guys.

All of that explains why I think Boston should pull the trigger on a KG deal even if it includes Jefferson. I think Jefferson is becoming overvalued right now and since Boston has mortgaged their future for "right now" anyway, there is no need to cling to a young guy who might take a step backward right when you need him to become an elite post player.

If I'm the Celtics, I hang on to those future first round picks and offer up a package of Jefferson, Green, Telfair, and Ratliff's expiring deal (a package Minnesota should happily take, by the way) and move forward with the goal of winning the NBA Finals.

Eventual Celtics Roster. How would such a roster look at that point?

Well, the deal outlined above would enable Boston to retain promising young point guard Rajon Rondo, recovering stopper Tony Allen, Perkins, and capable young bigs in Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis. Having only Gabe Pruitt has a backup point guard is a problem, but every team in the East has holes. Besides, Boston can still use its midlevel to round out the roster.

(And if there is any way they could possibly do it, Boston should try to trade for Toronto backup Jose Calderon. Maybe, just maybe, the Raptors undervalue him and would give him up. Maybe.)

Here is the roster I see taking care of business in the East next year:

PG - Rajon Rondo
SG - Ray Allen
SF - Paul Pierce
PF - Kevin Garnett
C - Kendrick Perkins
B - Tony Allen
B - Ryan Gomes
B - Big Baby Davis
B - Leon Powe

I honestly think that team is in the NBA Finals next year.



Anonymous said...

wait up dude, with the addition of kg n ray ray, ur future pick means nth now, future pick to lure away jose?!?! wut kind of weed r u smoking?

Ryan said...

Adam - I'm a huge fan of your blog but there's no way that the Raptors are parting with Jose for a future pick. He's part of their core and BC will pay him as much as he can next summer to keep him on the Raptors roster for years to come.

Adam Hoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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