Commentary

Breaking down Celtics' guard logjam

Updated: July 23, 2013, 7:44 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Celtics have a logjam at the shooting guard position, the sort that makes a summer Friday on the Bourne Bridge seem tepid by comparison.

The Celtics essentially have five players -- a third of a 15-man roster -- at the off-guard spot and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hasn't been bashful in admitting that something probably has to give.

[+] EnlargeLee
AP Photo/Genevieve RossThe combination of Courtney Lee's spotty season and his $5.2 million salary could mean he won't last.
The team currently has $16.2 million committed to those five players: Avery Bradley, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford. As the team looks to trim salary and add at other spots of need, it seems inevitable that the Celtics will pour some Drano at the 2 guard. Let's run down the personnel and where the players stand at the moment:

* THE STARTER: Bradley got thrust outside of his comfort zone a bit last season. Coming off double shoulder surgery that caused him to miss the first 30 games of the season while rehabbing, Bradley was forced to handle the ball more when point guard Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. His struggles to facilitate the offense became a bit of a mental hurdle and Bradley's offensive game suffered because of it. While the Celtics hope he can rediscover his perimeter shooting, his defense is a game-changer and the reason he's atop the depth chart. The 22-year-old Bradley is reasonably priced at $2.5 million, though the team must decide soon if he's the shooting guard of the future. Hop HERE for more on Bradley.

* THE VETERAN: One of five players received from the Nets in the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade, Bogans brings a decade of experience at the swingman spot. He is by no means an elite defender (last season he allowed 0.936 points per play, which ranked him in the 17th percentile among all NBA players, according to defensive stats logged by Synergy Sports). But he's a gritty defender who isn't afraid to give a hard foul and will be a good veteran presence for Boston's younger guards. Bogans cashed in by facilitating the Celtics-Nets blockbuster via sign-and-trade and will make $5.1 million next season, but the final two years of his deal are nonguaranteed, which make him a valuable trade asset down the road. Hop HERE for more on Bogans.

* THE YOUNG GUN: While most of the players acquired from the Nets may not be long for Boston (Kris Joseph already was waived), Brooks should get a chance to assert himself. Coming back to the team that drafted him 25th overall in 2011, Brooks is hoping more playing time will help him take his game to another level. He averaged 12.6 points over 29.4 minutes per game as a rookie, then struggled to get off the bench last season. He's never been a particularly efficient scorer, but he'll get a chance to flourish in quality minutes off the Boston bench, so long as he buys in on both ends of the floor. Hop HERE for more on Brooks.

* LIMBOLAND: That leaves Lee and Crawford facing a bit of uncertainty. Let's take them individually.

The 27-year-old Lee was believed to be the heist of the 2012 offseason as Boston worked a creative sign-and-trade package in which it dumped some end-of-the-bench nonguaranteed salaries while signing Lee to mid-level money as part of a four-year contract. Lee arrived with a reputation for "3 and D," but struggled with his 3-point shot and was inconsistent on defense. Late in the season he sprained his ankle and fell out of the rotation, logging just 9.8 minutes per game in four playoff appearances.

In an ideal world, Lee, a popular player among his peers and a hard worker, would get another chance to assert himself in Boston. But the cluttered depth chart and his position-high salary ($5.2 million) leave him in the crosshairs a bit. Despite a down year last season, he's still an attractive option for other teams, which could make him the odd man out if Boston gets an attractive offer that could bring back future assets. For his part, Lee said earlier this month that he's just working hard, hoping to get a chance to redeem himself in Boston.

The Celtics brought in Crawford at February's trade deadline in order to fill a need for an offensive-minded guard in hopes of aiding their late-season push. With Boston ushering in a youth movement, one has to wonder if the 25-year-old is still part of the picture. While he showed better passing skills than expected, his shot selection was as questionable as advertised, and the addition of Brooks makes him a bit superfluous (and more expensive at $2.2 million next season). Crawford was a nonfactor in the postseason and only drew headlines for barking at Carmelo Anthony after a Game 5 DNP.

Now standing on the luxury tax apron, the Celtics have 16 signed players after finalizing deals Monday with undrafted point guard Phil Pressey (a low-cost option to back up Rondo) and Brazilian center Victor Faverani, who brings center size to a power forward-heavy frontcourt. There's also second-round pick Colton Iverson, who could end up overseas if Boston doesn't have roster space for him. The team has only one nonguaranteed deal at the moment in Shavlik Randolph, whose contract becomes fully guaranteed on Aug. 1.

Boston doesn't necessarily have to trim guard depth if it can move a high-priced power forward instead (Kris Humphries or Brandon Bass are the most expensive). But it wouldn't be a surprise to see Crawford included in any move the Celtics make, particularly if they elect to give Lee another shot to establish himself as part of the team's young core.

As Ainge noted last week, "I think everything is in flux. There's some decisions and some choices that we're going to have to make over the next few months."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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