Points in the Paint 8.07.07
Hey there everyone and welcome to another edition of Points in the Paint, where we promise to not make any trades before their time. This week I talk at length about Kevin Garnett, and whatever else I can think of.
Was it the right move?
The big debate of the last few days has been whether Danny Ainge’s big time play for Kevin Garnett will pay off or not. The believers, of which I am one, have penciled the Celtics in for the Finals based on the strength of their Big Three. The doubters, on the other hand, have pointed to things such as the relative lack of depth the Celtics now suffer from, the injury prone nature of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and the age of all three as reasons to think that the boys in green will make the playoffs, but come up short of the NBA Finals. In my opinion, the naysayers are acting on hypotheticals more than NBA reality. NBA reality is that you need special players to win big, not just a collection of good ones. Well now they have one special player in Garnett and two guys not far behind in Pierce and Allen. That puts them way ahead of darn near everybody in the East. Seriously, if you compare best threes, whose would you take before Boston’s?
• Miami? Shaq, Wade, and Udonis Haslem don’t quite measure up. Haslem wouldn’t even start for some teams. Wade is better then Allen at this point, and Shaq is still formidable in spurts there are way too many games where is just a shell of his former self.
• Detroit? Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and either Tayshaun Prince or Rip Hamilton aren’t better individually or collectively. Would you honestly take any of them before any of the Celtics trio?
• Washington? I love Gilbert, Antawn, and Caron, and would take any of them over Allen at this point but there’s no way I take Antawn over Garnett or Caron over Pierce.
• Cleveland? Other than Lebron, there’s not person on that team I’d take over the Celtic Three.
• Chicago? Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, and Luol Deng……not really.
Now you might say that all those teams are better from four on down than the Celtics, but I’d counter that playoff series aren’t won by players four through twelve. Yes, they contribute and do hit the occasional wide open game winning shot, but they don’t get open for that shot without a big time guy drawing a double team. The Celtics have every attribute you need in a contender: ballhandling, inside scoring, rebounding, outside shooting, and defense. That gives them a leg up everyone else I mentioned. And while you may point to Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins as being not ready for prime time, remember that they would be the starters at point guard and center, respectively, trade or no trade. Perkins doesn’t score much, but that’s no longer a problem. He can now focus on rebounding and defense and leave the offense to others. He can still scrape together ten points from offensive rebounds and wide open layups when his man screws up and runs toward Garnett. Rondo only needs to bring to ball up the floor, hand it to one of the big three, and defend the opposing point guard. He showed last year that he’s more than capable of doing that. They also have Tony Allen, who was playing well before he got hurt last season, newly signed Eddie House, and whoever else they can get for the league minimum. Yes it doesn’t look like much, but come playoff time when they’re using a seven to eight man rotation anyway, having some scrub as your eleventh guy won’t matter much.
Another dig at Ainge is that he gave up too much. I disagree wholeheartedly. Out of the seven guys they gave up, only Al Jefferson was a real player. Gerald Green is from the unlimited but unrealized potential gang, a guy who is destined to show flashes of greatness but never put it all together into a consistent package. Theo Ratliff is a contact dump next summer, as is failed phenom Sebastian Telfair. Ryan Gomes is a good player but not a deal breaker; he’ll probably be leaving Minnesota next summer anyway. They also gave up two first round picks, but only one of those was actually theirs. The other was a pick Minnesota had given them in an earlier trade. The Celtics pick will likely be in the twenties, which means Minnesota will get to take a backup tweener who won’t get to start. Big deal. And as good as Jefferson is, he’ll never be Garnett. I don’t care what any of the cult of potential tell you, it’s not happening. Can he be a consistent 15 point, 10 rebound guy for another eight to ten years? Sure, but that’s not what you anchor a championship team with. Emeka Okafor puts up similar numbers, but do you see anyone touting him as a big deal? Me neither. Jefferson is not a special player, and there will another one like him long before there’s another Kevin Garnett in the league.
Ainge is on the hot seat; four years after taking over he has two first round exits and two lottery seasons under his belt. Not exactly a lot to brag about. He was right in theory to break up the first round and out team that he took over in 2003, even though they’d recently made the conference finals. That team was never going to win the East, let alone an NBA title. It would have stayed in that limbo of making the playoffs every year and going home early for the next four or five seasons, and then faded into Bolivia (thanks, Mike Tyson). And as many of you know, the only way to get out of limbo in the NBA is to luck out and get a special player or sell the farm and get sorry. Ainge chose the latter and sought to reload with promising young players; he brought some pretty good ones, but no one who could make a real difference as far as winning. Yes they would have been better this season and may have actually gotten the eight seed, but what good would that really do? Ainge had to take a shot, so he did. We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t see how you could really want him to do otherwise.
Over before it started
Over on the left coast, the sound weeping and gnashing of teeth could be heard throughout Clipperland at the news that Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles. He’ll be out for the season, which means you can chalk the Clippers up for the lottery again. Brand was simply their most important player; he put up a 20-10 every night and had the best attitude of everyone on the roster. Without him, the Clippers are a group of stat whores who will be looking to get their shots and points, win or lose. Their only other low post threat is Chris Kaman, and he doesn’t have the temperament to go out and dominate even though he has the ability. The competition for the last two playoff spots in the West just got thinner; instead of both L.A. teams, New Orleans, and Golden State fighting for them (with Portland and Sacramento not far behind) we now have (at least on paper) a three team race for the seven and eight seeds next season. They did sign Brevin Knight to help at the point guard spot, but that doesn’t help them much if there isn’t anyone in the post to thrown it to for a sure bucket. There’s no sense in trying to tough it out and win 40 games Clipper fans; you’re better off going into full tank mode and shooting for a higher lottery pick.
OK, the TV schedule is out, and once again I’m outraged. OK, outraged is a bit strong. Perturbed is more like it. I’m mad because we only get two nationally televised games with New Orleans, while the Lakers get 24. New Orleans has one of the brightest young stars in the game right now in Chris Paul, and the league is squandering a chance to get him any exposure by limiting his team to two measly appearances. The Lakers are a borderline playoff team, and while they do have a big star in Kobe, there is a good chance that they will be downright brutal at times. We need more Chris Paul, and we need it now!! Do you really want this guy to be in his seventh or eight year and no one know how good he is?
OK, that’s it for this week. Next week I start looking at how things will be shaping up in the East after the offseason upheaval. Until then!