Monday, July 6, 2009

Lester Hudson More Than Mr. Irrelevant?

The Orlando Summer League is underway and it makes me long for the days of the Shaws Pro Summer League at Umass Boston where the likes of Kedrick Brown, Brandon Hunter and Donny Marshall (what a Celtics connection!) were ready to put their upside on display. The Celtics crushed their former NBA D-League partner, the Utah Jazz, 87-56 with a few bright spots.

I will admit that I did not watch the games (which are streaming live on the Orlando site), but by all accounts (Click here for David B. Thorpe's live Tweets), so far, and judging on the box score it appears the Celtics might have found yet another 2nd round steal this time in the form of Lester Hudson. The 6-3 guard might be ready to step in and replace Stephon Marbury as Rajon Rondo's backup although reports are surfacing that Danny Ainge is interested in the one and only Tyronn Lue (for the love of God why)?

I was excited to see what former lottery picks Michael Sweetney and Danny Ainge's boyfriend Robert Swift would do but neither put up decent numbers and this picture from Steve Boyle says it all. If the Celtics do land Grant Hill with the bi-annual exception at $1.9 million they would likely be unwilling to match any teams offer for Glen Big Baby Davis, which means the Celtics would be looking in-house to their youngsters or hoping to find a diamond in the rough in the form of a rehab project like a Sweetney/Swift or an aging vet, hello Tyronn Lue.

After all the hype surrounding last year's first round pick, J.R. Giddens offseason workout it seems as if Bill Walker is still ahead of him on the depth chart and Ainge continues to hint that the two of them are competing for one spot. Gabe Pruitt might finally get a chance to earn a spot in the rotation, but he showed flashes last Summer League and last pre-season before his OUI and failure to hit a shot dereailed his season. Hudson seems to be physically and mentally the most mature player on the Summer League roster and I just have a feeling that he's hungry to prove that his Division 1 quadruple-double was no fluke.

My favorite player on the roster is Chris Lofton who will find a spot eventually in the NBA and put up a solid night of shooting tonight, however, it seems unlikely for him to stick with the Celtics since Eddie House opted into his contract for this upcoming season. Former Nevada standout Nick Fazekas also might find a spot in the NBA and if the C's don't re-sign Big Baby then Fazekas could have a shot to catch on here in Boston.

Celtics take on the host Magic tomorrow afternoon.

Boston...Where 'Sheed Happens

Is Boston ready for Rasheed Wallace to bring his trademark pre-game dance to the Garden where it will put to shame Eddie House's pre-game handshakes?

According to 'Sheed's agent the 34-year-old forward is committed to signing with the Celtics, which likely means a reserve role.  The Globe is reporting that it will be a two year deal for the full Mid-Level exception roughly $5.6 million and $5.8 million.

Wallace will add much-needed depth to the Celtics frontcourt this upcoming season. Instead of having undersized power forwards such as Leon Powe or Big Baby Davis fill in at center and power forward now 'Sheed will be able to fill in for Perkins and KG. Not only will 'Sheed allow Doc to rest KG a little more than normal during the regular season, but he should also give the Celtics some flexibility with the lineup at the end of games. Much like in 2007-2008 where Posey would be on the court during crunch time 'Sheed could fill that same void.

The Celtics are now rumored to be after veteran forward Grant Hill, but all they can offer is the bi-annual exception which comes in around $1.9 million. Hill played for that same amount last season in Phoenix, and hopefully the chance of winning a title is enough to lure him to Boston. If the Celtics can sign Hill it would create one of the more talented benches in basketball adding Hill's versatility and high field goal percentage to Eddie House and 'Sheed's shooting ability from deep. You'd have to think that with House, Wallace and Hill under contract Ainge would probably not match any offers for Big Baby and would likely look to the veteran minimum with one of the Summer League invites (Robert Swift, Michael Sweetney or Chris Lofton) or look in-house until the February trade deadline. At the trade deadline Ainge will be hard-at-work shopping the expiring deals of un-talented players such as Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine with the hopes of turning those into a solid rotational player to a team looking to shed salary in time for the free agent class of 2010.

At this point heading into the 2009-2010 season it looks as if the Cavs and the Celtics have improved their rosters, but I'm not sold on Orlando at all. Essentially they landed Vince Carter at the expense of Hedo, Courtney Lee and Gortat which is a big price to pay in depth and talent for an aging and overpaid player with a history of losing. 

I think Ainge's approach has been smart so far this offseason where he has gone after veterans who can contribute in a reserve role by adding to our starting five and not taking away any of those pieces. Plus the contracts have been just right. House is under contract for just this upcoming season, 'Sheed is allegedly signing a two year deal and the Celtics are doing everything they can to win now while also balancing future salary cap flexibility to allow them to rebuild on the fly as Allen, Pierce and KG get older. As opposed to the insane contract Posey wanted the Celtics to sign him to last offseason, 'Sheed's is much more modest and will not harm the Celtics moving forward.

One interesting note on 'Sheed...he led the NBA in technical fouls last season with 19 and 1 ejection...while Perk was 6th racking up 12 techs and an ejection as well. Plus the C's were known as some of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA and the team will only get more vocal now. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Do the Celtics Need 'Sheed Now that Robert Swift is Here?

The Boston Celtics are already losing ground as the offseason has been filled with big trades and free agent signings. The Celtics so far have drafted Lester Hudson and have made no other additions. Yeah, we'll hopefully have a healthy KG this season but in today's NBA that just is not enough. The Lakers essentially traded Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest (who "hoodalized" ESPN on Thursday) and all they had to pay Artest was the full mid level exception for three years. Where were the Celts on this one? Artest is only 29, knocked down almost 40% of his 3's and is a crazy lockdown defender on the perimeter. The Lakers will probably still be able to find a way to offer Odom and you have to like their chances to repeat. 

Meanwhile here in Boston the Globe is reporting that we can't even find a way to re-sign Marbury. Sure he was pretty ineffective last season but I wonder how he would fit in after an entire training camp and preseason. I think as far as backup PG's go you could do far worse. Maybe the Celtics now turn their attention to someone like Brevin Knight to run the show for the 2nd unit or possibly take their chances with Eddie House (Gabe Pruitt/Lester Hudson) and wait it out until the trade deadline. Knight's numbers have dropped off significantly over the last three seasons, but he might still be a steady enough ball handler for the 2nd unit. While the Celtics don't have much talent on the roster after their starting lineup they do have some contracts that could possibly be moved such as Scalabrine and Tony Allen both of which are in the final year of their contracts. 

The Celtics apparently have gone all in hoping to land Rasheed Wallace and his amazing pre-game dance to compete with Shaq, LeBron and Danny Green in Cleveland.. The offer is reportedly for two years. I had some reservations about bringing in Wallace namely that he will be 35 when the season gets underway and usually in free agency teams try to separate themselves by adding years to the contract, which would kill the Celtics as they try to balance now and the future. A two year deal is perfect limiting the risk of bringing in an aging and combustible player. 

Wallace would be a gigantic upgrade off the bench allowing the Celtics to have a legitimate backup Center/Power forward for the bench considering he's about 5 inches taller than Big Baby. It's scary to think that a talented big man like Wallace only shot 41% from the field last season, however he consistently drained 35% from 3-point range. He also adds much-needed size and Wallace still rebounds (7.4 rebounds/game) and blocks shots (1.3 blocks/game). He also takes care of the ball averaging less than 1 turnover/game. Wallace's outside shooting would give the Celtics some options at the end of games even more so than when the great James Posey was here. In certain situations it would allow the Celtics to go with 'Sheed instead of Perk to space the floor for Rondo and Pierce to get to the hoop. According to reports Wallace wants to be patient and see what other teams are offering. Unfortunately that's not a good sign for the Celtics considering the team sent Ainge, Doc, Wyc along with Pierce, Allen and his good friend KG to try and get the deal done. Wallace will weigh options from Charlotte, Orlando, Cleveland and San Antonio.

If the Celtics can't land 'Sheed I really hope they don't panic, overpay a mediocre player who won't be a huge impact this season and will in the end crush our salary cap moving forward. Sadly that seems to be what's left on the market right now. Talk of giving the full mid level to guys like Anthony Parker, Marquis Daniels and Matt Barnes is nauseating and if free agency doesn't work out well then I guess we can always pray Robert Swift, Mike Sweetney and Nick Fazekas torch the summer league right?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Was Joe Dumars Ever a Good GM?

Why is the NBA offseason so much more exciting than the regular season? While most people could care less about watching a Memphis Grizzlies game it's pretty damn entertaining to watch Chris Wallace wheel and deal. Yes, Zach Randolph will finally mature and become a team player in Memphis. I'm sure he'll be a great mentor for Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo. Hopefully he won't throw a punch at Hasheem Thabeet.

Enough of Chris Wallace (who tried to ruin the Celtics) let's move on to Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons. Dumars led the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference Finals and they even won a title, yet the way he's drafted and made deals it's almost impossible to remember the Pistons were a good team. 

Ok so drafting Darko Milicic did not work out (but at least it led to this) and it's been well-documented, but what is he doing this offseason. Dumars had the PG of the future on his team in Rodney Stuckey so he decided to take a chance and free up cap space. Got rid of Chauncey Billups lengthy contract and took a flier on AI. That worked out so well that AI has no suitors in free agency and Dumars had to fire his head coach just so Richard Hamilton would not demand a trade. 

So the Pistons got rid of Billups (who went on to lead Denver to a deep run in the Western Conference) just to free up cap space to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to five year deals?!?! In the current economy teams have been hesitant to make moves and most guys are finding out that teams are limited in what they can spend. Yet Detroit goes out there and spends money like Jerry West did when Brian Cardinal hit free agency. Here's a quote from the article: "

Grizzlies president Jerry West, who has a reputation for spotting undervalued talent, called Cardinal 'an excellent all-around player.'" Please feel free to insert your own joke here.

How does this work for the Pistons? A disappointing Stuckey at PG, a frustrated Rip at SG (he still might demand a trade unless the Pistons sign Khalid El-Amin), Tayshaun at SF (I'm telling you now Tayshaun will not re-sign with the Pistons after this season and that's why Dumars drafted Austin Daye...), Villanueva at PF and Kwame Brown at Center? Or do the Pistons go small and start Stuckey, Gordon, Rip and play three guards cause that works about as much as closer by committee works. So the Pistons just dropped 5 years $55 million on Gordon to be instant offense off the bench? I mean the guy is good no question about it and he torched the Celtics in the 1st round but I feel like Dumars forgot what won him a title. Where's the defense in that starting lineup other than Prince? On top of that the team will have Gordon light it up off the bench with the likes of Jason Maxiell and Will Bynum oooooooooooooh.

Villanueva's deal I have no issues with. He's 24, very long and just offensively gifted plus he's a force to be reckoned with on Twitter. His deal is also quite reasonable and fills a need for them. Villanueva will now become Detroit's best player with no eyebrows, but hey at least he'll Tweet at halftime.

On a pathetic side note I spent a good 20 minutes talking my buddy Steve on Gchat while we both hit refresh here making jokes about obscure American basketball players currently in Turkey. Keep looking in the top right corner in case you're as pathetic as we are!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lester Hudson Will Make the Celtics

There is every reason to believe that the first ever draft pick from UT-Martin will not hang on with the Celtics who made Lester Hudson (click here for Lester Hudson highlights) the 58th pick in Thursday night's draft. Then again there was every reason in the world to believe that Hudson would never even play college basketball.

Hudson came from a bad neighborhood in Memphis, played only one year of high school hoops and never graduated. Instead of giving in to the life Hudson buckled down and earned his GED and eventually landed with UT-Martin (graduated with a 3.0) a D-1 school in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Hudson's first collegiate game came against the eventual NCAA runner-up Memphis Tigers...Apparently Coach Cal couldn't get someone to take his SAT's for him like he did with Derrick Rose and Robert Dozier. (Here's a great line from Mark Murphy's article in the Boston Herald: “John Calipari told me that if he had had me the previous year, they would have made the Final Four,” Hudson said of the ever-charming Memphis coach.) Hudson dropped 35 on the Tigers and just two games later, became the first player in NCAA Division-I history to accumulate a quadruple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals). A side dad believes Rajon Rondo will pull off the feat in the NBA so maybe now Rondo can learn from someone who's been there. Unless of course he gets traded...

Some other accolades: Hudson earned Ohio Valley Conference player of the year both of his seasons at UT-Martin, he averaged 27.5 points/game good for 2nd in the nation behind the 7th pick Stephen Curry and finally something that might be a good indicator of his talent if you're worried about his level of competition Hudson led the Skyhawks to their first-ever postseason appearance as a Division-I member, an 87-82 loss at Auburn in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. In that game, Hudson capped off his spectacular collegiate career with 33 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists against the SEC school. 

My take...Eddie House will not opt out. He's due almost $3 million this season and in this economy he can't really believe someone will pay him more or give him extra years especially when teams are trying to save money for the next two groups of free agency. 

Hudson will have some competition this summer with former Tennessee star Chris Lofton who can flat out shoot (also was a star in the SEC and has now played professionally for a year in Turkey) as well as players with some NBA and D-League experience Gabe Pruitt and J.R. Giddens. Pruitt is gone as he has been unable to earn any minutes and his DUI last year won't all accounts Giddens doesn't get it defensively and can't seem to hit a jumper which makes him a more athletic version of a poor man's Tony Allen. 

I think Hudson has a good shot to catch on with the Celtics due to his toughness and ability to score on defenders. Also as my buddy Steve said "he's what you get when Rondo married Tony Delk." He's got a wingspan of almost 6'10 and can rebound which helps considering he's nothing more than an undersized shooting guard. Finally his age could help since he seems physically and mentally ready for the grind. Hopefully the C's can let him develop against some tougher talent in the D-League (Welcome to Portland Maine) and continue to track his progress but I see no reason why Lester Hudson can't land a spot on this Celtics squad over the next couple of seasons.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rajon Rondo the New Jay Cutler?

Does this look like an un-coachable malcontent to you? Is this the image we all had of Jay Cutler during his final days in Denver?

According to a recent Boston Globe article Rajon Rondo's (click here to read my take...ok Ric Bucher's take on Rondo being traded) agent is (understandably) upset with Ainge's comments while on WEEI yesterday.

Here are the key comments by Ainge: "Ainge said that Rondo has "got to grow up," and added, "his presence hurt us" against the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He also said that Rondo wasn't a "max contract player," and admitted that Rondo was fined for being tardy to postseason games."
Did Ainge really think this was going to put an end to all of the Rondo trade rumors? If Ainge trades Rondo does this mean that Ricky Davis has a better brain type?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Year of the Point Guard

The point guard position is back in vogue in the NBA. After years of wondering if Harold Miner would be the next Michael Jordan or dubbing Michael Smith (How does he actually have a Wikipedia page?) the next Larry Bird (does it ever get old watching old Larry Bird clips even if it's mixed with Eminem?)...ok ok Keith Van Horn was the next Larry Bird.

Over the last few years point guards have taken the league by storm. Youngsters such as Chris Paul (in case this is Corky Thatcher reading he's pictured on the left), Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose and of course our very own Rajon Rondo plus the grizzled vets who paved the way such as Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd.

Here's the question though, how necessary is it to have a "true" point guard running the show? Currently, there are some teams in the draft who are looking for that answer. Debating whether Stephen Curry or Tyreke Evans can develop into the position or if Ricky Rubio will live up to the hype. Sometimes fans get too attached to a player and focus on how many assists/game a point guard averages. With the recent Rondo rumors swirling it's worth taking a look at the state of the position and realizing it's not necessary to have an elite PG.

Let's take a look at the league's top 20 in assists:

Digging a little deeper into the numbers Jose Calderon appears to be the most efficient point guard in the NBA racking up almost 9 assists/game and even more impressive averaging an assist-to-turnover ration of 4.24/1. However, Toronto was awful this past season and now the team has to make moves based on trying to keep Chris Bosh happy. Chris Paul who seems to be everyone's favorite PG and the reigning assists/game champ this season had his Hornets knocked out in the first round to Denver in only five games. Williams and the Jazz also gone in the first round, granted to the eventual champs, but a very mediocre regular season for the Jazz. On top of that Nash and the Suns couldn't even make the playoffs and now the Suns are looking to blow up their entire roster except for Nash (Sounds like a smart move to build around an aging PG who couldn't win in his prime). 

Bob Ryan has a similar opinion in his recent article on Rondo and the state of the point guard position. I'm of the opinion that the NBA is all about assembling the most talent regardless of the traditional positions. Will Derek Fisher ever be considered an elite point guard? You can't have an all-star at every position but you can certainly trade someone at their peak value in order to bring in even more talent.

Let's take a look at some of the Rondo trade rumors that had casual Celtics fans so upset. 

Rondo and Ray Allen to Detroit for Rip, Prince and Stuckey. Yes please. This trade was straight out of NBA Live and was so lopsided that the Celtics didn't even have the nerve to ask Joe Dumars his thoughts. Yes, the same Joe Dumars who drafted Darko Milicic over Carmelo, Wade and Bosh and again the same Joe Dumars who traded Billups for Iverson...yet most fans could not believe we'd be willing to part with both players. That trade would have given us one of the best defensive front lines in NBA history. I'm not joking! Add a healthy KG to Perk and Tayshaun and how difficult would it be for players to penetrate? Not to mention that Prince would be our 6th man. With a lineup that talented and deep why is it necessary to have a "true" PG and why wouldn't you explore deals that will instantly make you a title contender. Don't forget about the current economic crisis we're facing and the fact that Ray Allen's contract will expire after this season and Rondo is due for a hefty pay raise while the aforementioned players on the Pistons are under contract for 2-4 years. Danny is not stupid and he realizes free agents could care less about signing with the Celtics unless we're competing for a title so getting under the salary cap does nothing to benefit us.

The second rumor is a bit more realistic but again Chris Wallace is not that bad of a GM is he? The alleged deal had us shipping Rondo, Scal and Giddens to Memphis for Conley and Gay who would become the league's most potent 6th man and would add two more young pieces to try and balance winning now and not immediately heading to Lotto land right after.

Ainge clearly knows what it takes to build a winner in today's NBA and now we're waiting to see if he knows how to balance the present and the future without completely blowing things up. As good as Rondo is especially for his age I am not opposed to seeing Ainge trade him for the right price.

My gut tells me that if anyone gets traded it's Allen and that the Celtics will end up with one 1st round pick and multiple 2nd round picks in tomorrow night's draft.