Selected with the final pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Erden showed up in Boston just long enough to get his picture snapped alongside fellow draftees J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, then promptly returned to his native Turkey with limited expectations of whether we'd even see him stateside again.
But after two more years of overseas seasoning, the 24-year-old Erden is headed back to America in hopes of helping Boston win a world title like the one it earned just a short time before he was drafted. So what can we expect from Erden this season?
Role with the 2010-11 Celtics:: At the start of the year, particularly with Kendrick Perkins sidelined following offseason knee surgery, Erden could see small doses of minutes, particularly in the preseason and lopsided regular-season games. The addition of Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal limit what the Celtics need Erden to do in his rookie campaign and that should help him slowly shape his game. He'll fill a Shelden Williams-like role as emergency big and injuries will dictate just how much floor time he receives.
Best-case scenario: Erden is coming off a strong showing at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, where he helped host Turkey to a silver medal (falling to the U.S. in the championship game was Turkey's only loss). That exposure to NBA talent could help Erden prepare for actual game competition this season. But what would benefit him most is non-pressure situations as he gets acclimated to playing on this side of the pond and any contributions he provides is a bonus this season.
Worst-case scenario: While there's hope peculating from a limited sampling in both the Celtics' summer league in Orlando and the FIBA World Championships, Erden is clearly a very raw player. He needs some seasoning and it might take game reps to provide that (though practicing against the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal certainly won't hurt, either). Given that he has a two-year guaranteed contract (albeit at low money), Boston's biggest fear has to be that Erden shows an inability to adapt to the NBA game and his struggles leave him yearning to return to Turkey.
Delivery of Flowers
The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers released his first solo disc entitled, "Flamingo" on Tuesday. We're utilizing song titles (and lyrics) to help break down the player in focus each day. Today's track: "On the Floor."
"On the Floor" is where Erden would like to be this season, but it's more likely, particularly late in the season once Perkins returns and proves he's at 100-percent health, that Erden will be seen less and less on the floor (unless it's the floor of the Maine Red Claws, Boston's affiliate in the NBA Development League).
When the lights go down in the city, getting real low / Settling in my room, I'm unnoticed
The song's opening lyrics paint a good picture of Erden's rookie campaign. He could go largely unnoticed this year, despite the spotlight that should engulf the Celtics throughout a 2010-11 season that already boasts lofty expectations.
While shuttling Erden to Maine would offer game reps, he might have already proven he can play at the NBA level and it might benefit him more to be around this team, battling this beefed up frontcourt each day in practice. Regardless, there's still points of his game to hone and shape, so it wouldn't be surprising if, particularly with a surplus of big men, the Celtics look to get him game action in the NBDL. A two-year fully-guaranteed contract helps ensure he'll stick around for a while, but the Celtics may have eyes towards utilizing him more in future seasons.