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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
C's mailbag: Rummaging for role players

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

Those growing impatient with the Celtics' lack of impact moves this offseason are probably a little extra fidgety this week as the NBA offseason downshifts from the craziness of the first 10 days of the signing period.

Boston made a flurry of moves at the onset of free agency, agreeing to deals with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal. Last week, it added Nate Robinson to the mix.

Now the team is in wait-and-see mode, both in terms of which players it can lure for veteran minimums (something that might not be dictated until those free agents figure out if they can haul in anything more than that on the open market) and what the Celtics will be able to do with Rasheed Wallace.

You want answers, and we'll do our best to give you some.

Hot Topics | Young Guns | Get This Guy | Best of the Rest

Hot Topics

The most common questions or themes in this week's mailbag.

Q: What do you think of signing Josh Boone and re-signing Marquis Daniels? What are the Celtics going to do with Sheed's contract? I'm scared about this talk from Pierce that Sheed should come back. What do you think of trading Sheed's contract to Houston for Shane Battier? -- Chris (Burlington, Vt.)

A: Let's tackle your thoughts one at a time:

Josh Boone
Josh Boone could be a Shelden Williams-like bench player with better rebounding skills.

Boone: As our good friend Zach Lowe of CelticsHub points out, Boone might be the best remaining rebounder among the free agents. What's more, he's likely to come cheap, and he has a history with new Celtics top assistant Lawrence Frank in New Jersey. While Boone's offensive game is cringe worthy at times, I think having him as your Shelden Williams-like fourth or fifth big with a focus on defense and rebounding wouldn't be a bad thing.

Daniels: Tuesday, I made the case that another go-around with Daniels might be a worthwhile gamble. There's a lot of potential there, and with a defined role, I think Daniels could finally be the steal everyone thought he would be last year. It could also blow up in Boston's face all over again, but the reasonable price tag would make me consider a return encounter.

Wallace: While we're left in the dark about Wallace's intentions, the Celtics must have some inclination. If they've just put a muzzle on Wallace and his agent until they facilitate a deal, then they're sitting pretty. If Wallace truly hasn't made up his mind, things likely won't come to a head until Ainge finds a potential trade partner. Again, the market is going to have to play out a bit more before we get that answer, but it's likely that Boston is targeting a big and/or a wing in any potential deal.

Battier: I think it's a perfect fit, and Houston certainly seems like a team that's going to be eager to shed money as the Rockets climb over the luxury tax threshold. Battier has the intangibles that teams really like (and an expiring contract that teams really, really like), so it's hard to gauge Houston's willingness to move him. You'd have to believe one of its wings will be on the market for the right price.

Q: Any chance the Celtics try and get Tracy McGrady or Allen Iverson for an offensive spark in the wing position? -- Jake (Seattle)

A: My initial inclination was flat-out to say, "No." While I think you're more likely to see the Celtics make a run at someone like Shaquille O'Neal over these two, I can understand fans' fascination with wanting to bring them in. The Boston bench is surely thin at this point, and it seems foolish to sneeze at proven NBA talent. At the end of the day, it's probably not worth the headaches hoping that McGrady or Iverson can rekindle the glory of their heydays. Remember, most of these attempts end in a fizzle (see Stephon Marbury).

Young Guns

While the Celtics peruse the free-agent market with the veteran minimum to offer, here's a look at the freshest faces on the team.

Q: Weren't you going to discuss the players from the summer league and give them evaluations or talk about their chances of making the roster? -- Mark (Astoria, N.Y.)

A: Thanks for the reminder. Let's do that now, looking at the youngest players on Boston's roster.

Tony Gaffney
Tony Gaffney's not the solution to Tony Allen's departure, but he should have the chance to earn a spot at the end of the Boston roster.

Q: Should the Celtics give Tony Gaffney a chance or sign a free agent? Should Avery Bradley back up Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson back up Ray Allen? -- Nick (Portland, Maine)

A: Gaffney's not the solution to Tony Allen's departure, but I do think he'll have the chance to earn a spot at the end of the Boston roster. There's a reason he stuck around with the Lakers so long last fall (a final cut in training camp). I think Gaffney has the potential to win a job at Boston's camp this year. Even if he's a 14th or 15th guy, he's a nice player to have in emergency situations (and in practice). In the summer league, he guarded the opposing team's best player, and I think that's an underrated portion of his game.

I like the idea of bringing Bradley along slowly; remember that he is just 19 years old. I am interested to see how the Celtics utilize him through camp and the preseason. Will he be thrust right into the fire as a backup to Rondo, allowing Robinson to play off the ball more? Or will Robinson be given more reps to earn that backup role at the point? That probably won't be decided until camp.

Q: Given the way that playing time has been distributed for newly drafted players over the past few years (Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, Lester Hudson), do you believe the likes of Bradley and Luke Harangody (if signed) will have the chance to prove themselves during meaningful minutes rather than having their skills evaluated during garbage time, especially considering the apparent lack of depth at both of these players' positions this season? -- Derek (Portland, Maine)

A: Boston's current lack of depth certainly suggests that these players could get immediate time, or at least more than Walker, Giddens and Hudson were afforded. With Bradley, remember that he's a much higher pick (19th overall) than any of those mentioned. Even if brought along slowly, bigger things are expected of him than, say, second-round choices like Hudson and Walker (or even Giddens, a 30th pick overall). Harangody, as a four-year college player, should be able to step in and at least not be overwhelmed at this level. He's going to get every opportunity to show he deserves a Brian Scalabrine-like role.

Q: The C's are over the salary cap -- what are the chances that we sign Northeastern's Matt Janning? At 6-foot-4, he provides possible help at the wing. He is an inside/out player who has great hops. Doesn't Art Parakhouski have more potential than Semih Erden? -- Cameron (Greensboro, N.C.)

A: Listen, you won't find this Northeastern alum suggesting the Celtics shouldn't sign a Huskie. Janning does a lot of things well, but there's not one aspect of his game that jumps out as spectacular. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the Celtics usually peg their bench guys with roles they can thrive in. Last year, Tony Allen was a defensive stopper and Glen Davis was an energy guy. Not sure I see a clear-cut role for Janning, but maybe he carves one out for himself in training camp (if that's with the C's or elsewhere).

As for Parakhouski, he was one of the more intriguing players to me entering summer league and did little to distinguish himself. He didn't dominate the glass as much as I thought he would after being the nation's leading rebounder. I think Erden has more potential, and I really l liked his offensive play around the basket when he gained more confidence as the week went on.

Matt Janning
Perhaps Matt Janning from Northeastern could provide help at the wing off the bench for Boston.

Q: Do you think Luke Harangody can keep up the good job into the regular season? -- Adam (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

A: As I mentioned above, he has four years of college experience, and those players tend to have an easier transition than, say, a college freshman who made a quick leap to the pros (yes, Bradley is in that boat). I think Harangody's toughest challenge will be adapting to NBA life at the 4. At 6-foot-8, he's a bit undersized for a power forward, and his rebounding and inside scoring won't translate as easily at the next level (just ask Williams). His perimeter shooting at summer league impressed and that could help him carve out a role on this team.

Get This Guy

Fans play GM and suggest players that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should ink this offseason.

Q: What do you think of Damien Wilkins of the Timberwolves filling TA's spot, because I'm not sure -- assuming the Celtics continue to pursue him -- that Josh Howard would accept a reserve role? -- Noorpaul (Covina, Calif.)

A: Of the potential wings that might be lured at the veteran minimum, I think you could do worse. Maybe uncle Dominique could put in a call to his old friend Doc Rivers. Would Wilkins even come for the minimum? Maybe Ray Allen could get on the phone with his old Seattle teammate and pitch the Celtics, because he'd have to come cheaper than his $3.3 million price tag last season.

Q: Is there any chance the Celtics get J.R. Smith from Denver for Rasheed's contract and a draft pick? -- Matt (Lowell)

A: This is one name that keeps popping up in the 'bag over and over again. I know the Nuggets are over the luxury tax threshold and would seem to be a potential trade partner, but I'm not certain the Nuggets would part with a player that can provide 15-plus points per game off the bench. That's a luxury few teams have and one the Celtics have been yearning for (though they certainly hope Robinson could be that type of guy).

Q: Any chance the Celts bring back Gerald Green? He's played well for the Lakers in the summer league and seems to be playing defense now and is letting the game come to him. He could easily replace TA -- Ian (Newton)

A: Fans love old Celtics players! I think it's good that he's matured and that he's focused on what he needs to do to get back to the NBA, but I'm guessing Green will have to work his way back somewhere other than where his pro career started.

Best of the Rest

The best questions that didn't fit anywhere else in this week's 'bag.

Q: Do you think the East will be similar to the "Wild West" this year -- several teams vying for seeds Nos. 2-6, with the last few games determining playoff seeds? And if so, doesn't it behoove Boston to play like it matters and try to lock up the No. 2 or 3 seed? Bonus: What seed do you think they will be? I know it's way early to tell, but just a ballpark figure would be interesting to see. -- Zain (Los Angeles)

A: No doubt that the East is unlikely to be as top-heavy as last season when you had the big four (Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and Boston) stomping through the first round of the playoffs. The Southeast Division is going to be a war with Miami, Orlando and Atlanta in that conference. Heck, Charlotte was a playoff team and Washington should be improved with John Wall. There's going to be very good teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season, at least in Seeds 1 to 6.

Remember, as long as Boston wins the Atlantic Division, the Celtics cannot be seeded lower than fourth place (assuming they finish with a worse record than a second-place finisher in another division, like they did this year with Atlanta). In fact, that seems like a good possibility again. With Cleveland coming back to Earth with the departure of LeBron James, I think Chicago is the early favorite for the top seed (sorry, Miami, that division is just too tough to guarantee 60 wins). Let's go with this as a pre-pre-preseason prediction for the East:

1. Chicago
2. Miami
3. Boston
4. Orlando
5. Atlanta
6. Milwaukee
7. Cleveland
8. New Jersey

This assumes Cleveland adds some immediate talent to offset the loss of James. Go ahead and mock the New Jersey pick, but in a weak Atlantic Division, someone besides the Celtics has to emerge. New Jersey might be another year away, but I'm not sold on any other squad.

And yes, that projection predicts a possible Big Three vs. the SuperFriends in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Get excited.

Q: Do you have a specific website to look up teams' financial situations? I need a website for teams' cap room and everything so I can do my own homework. -- John (Las Vegas)

A: ShamSports.com is probably the best of the bunch (though HoopsHype also has an indispensable salaries section). For all things collective bargaining agreement, check out Larry Coon's unmatched NBA Salary Cap FAQ. Just remember that, especially in the offseason, there are some holes in the salary charts as official numbers haven't been announced on some deals.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.