Summer Forecast: The 15th man?

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
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Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesIs there room on the roster for both Kris Joseph (43) and Dionte Christmas (50)?
The Boston Celtics currently have 16 players under contract for the 2012-13 season, including three non- or partially guaranteed deals belonging to rookie second-round draft pick Kris Joseph and summer standouts Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith.

One of them is a likely candidate to be let go before rosters get trimmed to the 15-man maximum at the start of the regular season. So, barring the addition of other roster hopefuls, we asked our panel of summer forecasters who deserves the final roster spot.

Joseph performed strong enough at summer league to all but assure himself a spot (barring a late-summer splurge on a veteran swingman who might push him in camp). So the decision for the final spot seems to focus on Christmas and Smith.

Do keep in mind that the Celtics could always carry just 14 players, leaving themselves some flexibility, both in terms of an open space on the roster for a potential midseason pick-up, and salary-wise given how they are hard-capped at $74.3 million after using the full value of the midlevel exception on Jason Terry. While the exact terms of Christmas' deal have not been disclosed, salary site ShamSports.com notes that only $25,000 of Smith's two-year deal is guaranteed, meaning he can be let go for minimal cost if he doesn't earn a spot in camp. It's likely that Christmas' deal is of similar structure.

Both players could consider a spot with the now-Celtic-run Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League and leave themselves one injury (and there's been plenty of them in Boston) away from getting a big-league call-up. That is if the pair isn't lured by bigger paydays overseas.

My prediction? Christmas has the inside track after an eyebrow-raising summer in which he showed a lot of versatility. He wasn't even supposed to stay with the Celtics for the Las Vegas portion of the 10-game summer slate, but he stuck around knowing a camp invite could be on the horizon and now he'll get his first real chance to make an NBA roster.

Smith's shooting is enticing when those 3-pointers are falling, but Christmas displayed a well-rounded game and has some additional size that could make him the more attractive option. Smith really has to kick down the door at camp in order to wrestle away a spot, while even Christmas still has a little something to prove in order to encourage the Celtics to carry a 15th body.

Read on for our panel's predictions:


 

Greg Payne, ESPN Boston (Dionte Christmas)


He's built to play the shooting guard spot, but standing 6-foot-5, Christmas could also serve as insurance at the small forward position -- a spot the Celtics don't have a ton of depth at right now. Paul Pierce will start and then Jeff Green's the only experienced backup for that position. Christmas and Courtney Lee are of a similar height and build, and while neither is really meant to play small forward, the C's could resort to a smaller lineup and utilize one of those players in such a role (Boston used Ray Allen at the small forward spot from time to time when he was here). If Christmas shows the same tenacity at training camp that he displayed during summer league, his versatility will complement that and he'll make the final roster.


 

Brian Robb, CelticsHub (Dionte Christmas)


Since Day 1 of summer league, I have been fully aboard the Christmas bandwagon, and I want to cordially invite all members of the Celtics community to join me. The Temple product has honed his game overseas since going undrafted in 2008, working on the skills (defense, ball-handling, consistency) to allow him a shot at the NBA level. He impressed me in Orlando, and even more when I watched him in Las Vegas. The 25-year-old has the size to play multiple positions, is an active defender, and can create his own shot while getting to the rim (something the Celtics have struggled with over the past couple seasons). Top-to-bottom, I thought he was the most complete player on the entire Celtics' summer league roster and, barring injury, I think he is pretty close to a lock to make this team’s roster in October. I’ll go one step further though with this prediction: I fully expect Christmas to break into this team’s rotation if Avery Bradley is sidelined at the start of the season.


 

Jordan Higgs, Celtics Town (Dionte Christmas)


The edge goes to Dionte Christmas, who was head and shoulders above Smith at both ends of the court during summer league. While Smith is a fine player in his own right, Christmas’ defense and versatility make him a considerably safer bet to make the opening-day roster. To be completely honest, Smith almost seemed like an insurance signing, especially given that Christmas was still debating lucrative overseas offers. Once Christmas decided to chase his NBA dream and the Celtics added Keyon Dooling, it became likely that Smith would find himself the odd man out. It’s possible Ainge could find another veteran to round out the rotation, but with the roster already fairly deep, the veteran minimum is probably not going to yield an impact player. Ainge still has the biannual exception available to him, but he's not required to use it and probably won't unless the Celtics can find the right fit. With Ainge likely to stand pat, I see Christmas edging out Smith in camp and making his NBA dreams a reality.


 

Chuck McKenney, Red's Army (Dionte Christmas)


My heart says Dionte Christmas. He's a humble kid with a great last name who has worked his tail off over the past few years. He certainly impressed Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers with his performance in summer league. I always get a chuckle out of the debate over the final roster spots. Christmas, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo will either be in Maine or wearing a suit for most of the season, and that's if they're lucky. If they're not, they'll join the ranks of Lester Hudson, Tony Gaffney, and Chris Johnson. The Celtics also hold the biannual exception, which could be used to lure a veteran in case of injury emergency down the road.


 
Your turn: Who do you think will secure a final roster spot on the 2012-13 Celtics? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
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OTHER LEADERS
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