With the “true” point guard market running low on vigor and talent, Danny Ainge pulled off another sleeper move that has undoubtedly capped the Celtics’ roster overhaul. When Boston waived Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas yesterday, most assumed it was to retain the likes of Kris Joseph and Fab Melo on the bench throughout the 2012-13 season. Not so much.
Rumors were swirling around one of the remaining top free agents, Leandro Barbosa, a former NBA Sixth Man of the Year and a viable scoring option for the Toronto team he played with for most of last season. It had been said that Barbosa would not sign for the veteran-minimum or for a non-contender. One out of two ain’t bad.
Barbosa signed with the Celtics today for the vet-min and the team will only have to pay $854,389 of his contract [the league will pay the rest, about $200,000].
Don’t be fooled by two sides of the coin with Barbosa. First things first, Miami and Los Angeles fans will tell you that this doesn’t make Boston better at all. But, in all fairness, it does. Barbosa may not be the double-digit scorer that he was in Phoenix when he played with Steve Nash, and that’s just the reality. When playing next to a pass-first point guard, Barbosa was a big part of the Suns’ offense posting 18.1 points per game in the 2006-07 season. He has since fallen off in regard to scoring, but the Celtics are not Toronto or Indiana.
While Heat and Lakers fans bemoan the move, as Celtics fans, we have to be honest with ourselves, too. Does Barbosa fill that point guard void? Nope. But, that wasn’t the reason for this move. Doc wants Jason Terry to be a shooting guard, that’s where his three-point frenzy flourishes. Doc wants Courtney Lee to lead the team during fast breaks and beat every person on the opposing team down the floor. Barbosa won’t be asked to constantly pass or constantly score as his skills lend themselves to play alongside the moving-without-the-ball guards in Lee and Terry. He’s a “hybrid” guard, if you will. Not quite an adept passer or unstoppable scorer, but a jack of both trades opposing defenses have to pay attention to.
Matchup wise, Boston has two main concerns: Miami and the Lakers. I hate typing that over and over.
Against Miami, Boston now has a flurry of options to defend and exhaust Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen. Miami’s only matchup supremacy is LeBron James. Control the pace of the game, go toe-to-toe in offensive production, lockdown the paint [Miami has no bigs of worth], and the Celtics look good [on paper] against the Heat.
When it comes to the Lakers, I think the Celtics should feel much better than the media portrays. Is their lineup ridiculous? Yes. Are they the best three-headed unit in the game now…meh, Miami is probably better still. Are they unbeatable? Not at all. Boston has depth in both the front and backcourt now. While Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Darko Milicic, and Jason Collins do not compare to Dwight Howard on an individual basis, being able to limit Howard’s effectiveness will make the Lakers of this season look more like last year’s squad. They’ve always had scoring punch from the backcourt, so, that’s nothing new. Is Steve Nash really going to be the answer to all of their point guard issues after trading away the aging Derek Fisher? For 30 minutes, definitely, but the Lakers’ second-unit looks dudley.
Another fantastic thing to note when discussing the Barbosa signing is the price of this Celtic team. The deepest in recent memory, these Celtics might as well be two starting rotations.
Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley [when he returns], Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger [yup, he’s going to start], and Kevin Garnett
Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa/Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Darko Milicic.
I leave you with two [really big] numbers:
12,485,189 and 20,114,000
The first is how much our two-guard position will cost this year and the second is how much Wade and Allen will make.
Good move, Cs. Now, let’s win a preseason game just for fun.
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