Thursday, September 20, 2012
Rapid reaction: Milicic in Boston
By Chris Forsberg
AP Photo/Jim MoneLittle more than a week before the start of training camp, the Boston Celtics have added some depth to their frontcourt by reaching agreement with free agent center Darko Milicic on a one-year, veteran-minimum deal.
Darko Milicic at work for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 27-year-old Milicic, the second overall pick in the 2003 draft (sandwiched comfortably between All-Stars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony), has played for five teams in nine NBA seasons. Last year, he averaged 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 16.3 minutes in 29 appearances for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A handful of thoughts on what his addition means for the Celtics:
* The Celtics now have four legitimate 7-footers on their roster (yes, we're including 6-foot-13 Kevin Garnett in that mix). That gives the team some options off the bench behind Garnett, including defensive-minded Jason Collins and rookie first-round pick Fab Melo. It's likely that 6-foot-10 Chris Wilcox will be the top backup at the center position, but big bodies like Milicic give the team some depth against teams with more size.
* Surrounded by other talented defenders, Milicic won't be a liability. Two seasons ago when he appeared in 69 games for Minnesota, his Synergy Sports defensive numbers were solid (0.824 points per play) and he has an ability to block shots with his size. Offensively, he's more limited, but he did average 8.8 points per game during that 2009-10 season -- albeit in 24.4 minutes per game and it's unlikely he'll see large chunks of floor time in Boston.
* As a veteran-minimum signing, Milicic is a low-risk addition (he'll count for roughly $854,000 on the books with the league picking up the rest of his salary). The Celtics know all too well that you can't have too much size and Milicic provides insurance, particularly if Melo needs a year of development. When Milicic was originally amnestied by Minnesota this summer, the Celtics were interested (and that interest extends back to past offseasons as well), but appeared reluctant to offer anything more than a minimum deal. But with him shunning an overseas payday, Boston seems to have landed Milicic at the right price with its patience.
* Milicic's addition does put a bit of a squeeze on the back end of the roster. Rookie second-round draft pick Kris Joseph and first-year guards Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith were already seemingly competing for two available spots. Unless Boston swallows hard on a veteran with a guaranteed deal, it makes the odds a little longer for the younger players. As we noted yesterday, Christmas' larger guarantee ($236,000), seemingly gives him an edge on Joseph (completely non-guaranteed) and Smith (only $25,000 guaranteed).
* Teams love reclamation projects. Despite Milicic's inability to live up to his draft hype, teams always believe they will be the one squeeze that talent out of the player. Yes, he's still young, but nine NBA seasons suggest he's nothing more than a depth center. Fortunately for Boston, that's all they really need and any ability to maximize his potential is a bonus in this signing. Let's remember that in each of the past two seasons, an unheralded big man has emerged as a decent contributor for the Celtics (Semih Erden, Greg Stiemsma). The Celtics don't want to have to lean on Milicic, but, again, you can't have too many big men in this league.