Thursday, January 20, 2005

Green Machine

It seems like the time is ripe to check in on another team. Let’s hope I can offer some better insight as opposed to last week when I went over the Blazers. Ruben Patterson has been productive as we predicted, but it’s amazing how even without three top forwards, Theo Ratliff has been worthless. I finally cut bait. And I feel bad for those of you who picked him up after he saw 40 minutes the other night, only for him to play a single minute yesterday. Those are the breaks.

The Celtics have managed to get into first place in the Atlantic Division on the strength of their sterling 18-20 record. But the team is playing well lately, winning three of four, and even though they go on the road for their next three, with games at New Jersey, Atlanta and Charlotte, they stand a decent chance of getting to the .500 mark soon. Danny Ainge has come under plenty of fire since he took the reigns a couple years ago, but it looks like things might be on the right track. But then again, playing in that division, my 7th grade Montgomery County Rec League team might do some damage. We were a juggernaut, I tell ya. Sean Rump, Jerry Brown, Gilmore Thompson, Brad Blondes, our vicious 1-3-1 trapping zone. A team for the ages. Anyway, back to the Celts…

After the 2001-2002 season, it looked like Paul Pierce was on his way to becoming one of the top players in the league, averaging 26 ppg with nearly 7 rpg while leading his team to within two wins of the NBA finals. But it’s been all downhill from there for Pierce. All you have to do is look at his stats to see the obvious decline. His scoring continues to decline, but the rest of his game is basically the same as last year. The big thing going for him is that by taking his FGA from 18.7 per game to 15.9 per game, he’s boosted his FG% almost three points to 43%. I’m sure his owners would gladly sacrifice a bucket a game for the non-crippling FG%. Another thing working in Pierce’s favor is his durability. He’s only 20th on the Player Rater by totals, but because he’s yet to miss a game (and has missed just five in the past five years), he’s ranked 12th overall. Still, Pierce certainly doesn’t look like a first-round talent anymore. Pierce makes a good trade target due to his relative health, but you have to worry that his FG% will drop back down to closer to 40%.

It looks like time might be running out on Raef Lafrentz. He’s been a solid if not spectacular contributor this year, managing to play in all but one game, even though he’s been limited to 27 mpg. For those of you thinking he would go back to hitting 1.5 3pg to go with 3bpg ... well, I hope no one was actually thinking he would do that. Getting almost a three per game from your center slot to go with a healthy 7.5 boards and 48% shooting was good enough to put him at #63 on the Player Rater, meaning he has value as a starter in every league. But January has not been kind to Raef. He’s shooting just 43%, seeing fewer minutes, grabbing fewer boards and blocking fewer shots. His knees may be starting to give out, and with some fresh-legged youngsters ready to see more time on the court, it would certainly be advisable to see what you can get for Raef now, while you can get something.

There are worse players you could fill your roster with than Ricky Davis – and his 74 ranking on the Rater proves that – but he’s just not a player I love. On the plus side, he’s not someone who will hurt your percentages, and other than rebounds, he doesn’t really hurt you anywhere. Of course, he doesn’t help anywhere, either. He’s similar to Tayshaun Prince in that regard, but at least Tayshaun is a decent source of blocks from the SF position, whereas from the same position Ricky gives you only slightly above average steals and below averages 3s and assists. And of course, he comes off the bench. He still sees 32 mpg, but that’s just not quite enough to do damage. Since he went to the bench there have been six games where he saw at least 35 minutes. In those six games his averages are: 20/3.7/3.3 with 1.7 steals and 1 three. That little extra bump in points, steals and 3s shows what he could do with that extra time, but unless Doc Rivers yanks Jiri Welsch from the starting lineup, Davis is going to be one of those borderline guys.

OK, he’s the big buzz guy this week, so let’s check out Al Jefferson. It certainly doesn’t hurt him that Sports Guy raves about him semi-regularly. Before we get to the good, let’s talk about the bad. 1) The guy has foul problems. Big time foul problems. He’s averaging 2.7 fouls per game in only 16 mpg. In his nine January games where he’s seen 19 mpg, those fouls are up to 3.7. Even if a situation presents itself, it’s going to be hard for him to stay on the court for 30+ minutes if he’s always fighting foul trouble. 2) He’s not a great free throw shooter. He’s not horrible, mind you, and he’s gotten better each month, but if he ever does get serious PT he’s going to get to the line a lot, and even 65% will do some serious harm. 3) He’s a black hole in assists. He has a whopping 10 on the year, bringing to mind Amare Stoudemire’s rookie season. He is a PF, so it’s not like you’re looking to him for assists, but even if he got to start it’s hard to see him getting much more than 1.5 per game.

Jefferson is averaging an absolutely ridiculous 7.9 rpg in just 19 minutes in January, and has been shooting around 53% all year. If we take his January numbers and average them out to 32 mpg, we get: 14.8/13.3/1.0 with 1.7 blocks. Very nice, but let’s not get carried away and look at the big picture: absolutely nothing in assists or 3s, a below average FT%, negligible steals. He should average 20ppg sometime soon, but I don’t see it happening this year. That means, at best, he’s a three-category player, and he won’t average 13 boards a game. If you’re in need of a big man, then go for it – especially with Raef on borrowed time and the guy below being the biggest stiff in the world – but don’t expect any miracles from here on out.

My FBB cohort has had Mark Blount in his starting lineup the entire year. I finally staged an intervention today and I think he’s finally been removed. It’s about time. If you look at his numbers, they’re extremely similar to last year’s, but that’s when you have to remember that he saw next to no time in the first half and just blew up in the second half. Players that have been better than Blount in the last 30 days: DerMarr Johnson, Gordan Giricek, John Salmons, Eric Snow. And there are 172 others. Last night’s game was certainly the low point, where he didn’t manage a single point or rebound in 22 minutes, in a game where his team snapped the red-hot Bulls’ 7-game winning streak. That’s not good. With all the injuries around the league, there’s a good chance there’s someone out there that can help your team far more than Blount for the next few weeks. It’s time to let go.


Blogger Biggs said...

A Celtics fan here. What a frustrating team to watch. What's there plan? I don't think anyone knows. Like a bad fantasy team, they appear to be grabbing at players who are "exciting" on offense. And Mark Blount. Oh boy. The Sports Guy is right, what a horrible signing. Absolutely no intensity this year. I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere with Danny Ainge – this year or in the future.

8:01 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Believe me, as a Wizards fan, I feel your pain. The Celts have lots of nice pieces, but I worry about Pierce there. Even though they are in first now, I get the feeling a Vince-type less-is-more trade could work for them soon.

11:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home