Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Pick My Ass
It is an interesting point of view, but one based on a strange myopia regarding the amount of talent currently on the roster of the 7th worst team in the league. It seems to indicate that the Celtics are at a point as a franchise where they need to add specific kinds of players, and not just try to improve at every position. It yet again speaks to the ongoing perception that the only team in the league that couldn't string together three wins is "a player away."
This entire "trade the pick" school of thought has its roots in the ongoing myth that the team is building a winner around Paul Pierce, and we have no more need for youthful players because we have young talent in abundance and the wise course would be to develop them as we add veteran talent into the mix. Of course, the kool-aid crew "see no/hear no/speak no" over the fact that this is the same theory which brought us Gary Payton, Dan Dickau and the disastrous re-acquisition of Antoine Walker. With that in mind, here are the two big myths of the Celtics as we enter the draft, and why they are wrongheaded.
Myth # 1 - "We don't need more youth." This is the great kool-aid koan that sums up the semi-articulated threads of "hope for the future" which basically entail this: a healthy Wally Szczerbiak + a rejuvenated Al Jefferson + Delonte the Emergent + Pierce in his prime + Gerald Green as 6th man + a key offseason veteran acquisition = Celtics as playoff team. It sounds nice, but it yet again ignores reality in favor of a punch-drunk "wait till next year" vibe that has infected a fanbase battered by years of abused expectation. Let's take a look at these same factors without the rosy optimism.
- Healthy Wally Szczerbiak – okay, assuming he comes back from a knee injury more effectively than our last injured Ainge trade acquistion (Raef), where does that leave us? The offense may run more smoothly, but we have the worst defensive 2/3 combo in the league with Wally and Pierce, one that will be exploited by quicker backcourts.
- Rejuvenated Al Jefferson – Even at his best, what will this mean? He's still young and he's still raw, and he has trouble staying on the court because of fouls and injury. Best case scenario is we have an immature 12/6 guy coming off the bench who can't play defense, is an adequate-at-best rebounder, and doesn't fit in well with a Pierce dominated offense.
- Delonte the Emergent – as much as I like Delonte, he's destined for the bench. Next season will most likely be one of "how well does Delonte deal with not starting anymore" when we acquire some shithead over-the-hill PG to get Pierce the ball "in his spots."
- Pierce in his Prime – We all liked what we saw with PP this year, but really, what are the chances he even comes close to duplicating this season? If his shot is falling, he's great, if not, he's a ball hog who tries to play 1-on-5. And he's a year older.
- Gerald Green as 6th man – Gerald is a terrific talent, but next year will not be the year he contributes meaningfully to a winning team. He should be given loads of minutes so he can learn-by-doing, but he will necessarily fail and fuck up in this process. Perhaps, more importantly, what are the chances Doc even plays him regular minutes next year?
- Key veteran acquisition – this deserves its own section.
Myth #2 - In the offseason we will make a "Key Veteran Acquisition"
Tell me who this player is. Name me any player we can acquire via trade of the 7th round pick in the draft and spare parts that is going to make any difference. There really isn't any, because problem is that impact PG's and big men ARE NOT AVAILABLE.
Taking a quick look at top 25 NBA assist leaders, who among those are likely to be on the block. Baron Davis? Steve Francis? Okay, fine, but do we really want these guys? Or what about this "veteran PG" who will "mentor Delonte"? Is it worth trading our pick for Speedy Claxton or Anthony Johnson?
Any trade we make for a veteran player of any import is going to be similar to the Wally trade – marginal talent exchanged for some degree of cap relief and improved chemistry. There just is not going to be any kind of epic fleecing, because outside of the Vince Carter trade, they just don't happen anymore.
As for the FA market, unless people truly believe re-acquiring Mike James for many, many millions of dollars is a bold improvement, there really is nothing out there for the taking. In fact, our most likely course of action will probably be to acquire a really shitty/old veteran PG along the lines of a Kevin Ollie or Kenny Anderson, and then have the Celtics PR staff pepper the Globe all year with story pitches about how this guy is "teaching Delonte the ropes" and make grand claims about DW's learning curve and ever prominent role on the team. Remember, Dan Dickau was brought in for exactly the same reason, to be a "proven PG" who could start or come off the bench, depending on the performance of the younger players, and we know how well that worked out.
The point is, there really is no simple, clean move to make with the 7th pick that's worth trading it for mediocre veteran talent. It is simply not worth the risk, and I am hard pressed to understand what the problem is with the 7th worst team in the league stockpiling a young lottery pick type player, even if he can't help you right away. Remember, in the most recent where the Celtics traded away their lottery #1 (1999), they missed the opportunity to draft, among others, Shaun Marion, Andre Miller, Artest, Andre Kirilenko and Corey Maggette. What "veteran acquisition" did the Celtics get in return for passing up on all that talent? Vitaly Potapenko.
For the love of God, keep the fucking pick.