The season is inching closer and closer to finally being underway, which means I’m inching closer and closer to regaining my sanity, stolen annually by the NBA offseason.
Sadly, it also means the Celtics look more and more like a team that will enter the season with no truly reliable backup point guard. Out of the top two choices to win the job, one is a shooting guard and the other a small forward. Yikes.
Can either out-of-position backup PG help the Celtics win ballgames? Let’s take a look.
Eddie House has been Rondo’s primary backup to begin each of the last two years but, each year, the Celtics decide to go a different route when other players have been bought out (first Sam Cassell, then Stephon Marbury). By the end of the playoffs, though, it’s been House getting minutes rather than the new, more highly-regarded PGs.
During the ’08 championship run, Doc Rivers’ switch to House over Cassell was an underrated aspect of the Celtics’ NBA Finals victory. It was Doc’s insertion of Eddie into the lineup that solidified the offense, helping Boston to pull away from LA and win the series in six.
With House on the floor, the C’s offense tends to run smoothly. He hits open shots (and sometimes unopen shots, too), spreads the floor, and never forces passes or penetration.
Despite his lack of elite ball-handling skills or NBA-level quickness, House can run an offense. The only times he truly struggles are against quick, pesky defenders willing to defend him in the full-court – guards like Lindsey Hunter. In the face of such intense pressure, House’s inability to handle the ball as well as other point guards comes back to haunt him, and he sometimes floats passes in an attempt to get rid of the ball more quickly than a true PG would have to.
All in all, the Celtics could do a lot worse than Eddie House, and I feel comfortable with the ball in his hands – unless he’s got a good defender hounding him for the full 94 feet.
Expecting Marquis Daniels to play any more than spot minutes at point guard is, in my eyes, a stretch. I know he’s versatile, and that’s a big reason why I’m excited about the Daniels addition, but he hasn’t played enough point guard in his career for me to feel confident with him there. Daniels has been forced into point guard duty by injuries, and also played a little PG for the experimental Don Nelson, but has never had extended time at the point and has always, admittedly, felt more comfortable at the small forward position.
Marquis’ former coach, Jim O’Brien, had this to say in 2008 (the last time Daniels played point guard) about Daniels at the point guard position…
“Here’s a guy when you think about it was a power forward in college. Now all of a sudden he’s playing point guard at 6-7 out of necessity because we have Jamaal down. I would say he’s never really been able to get into a groove there.”
“I have enormous confidence in his ability to defend. The difference between, as an example, how we are defensively with Travis on the court at the point and Marquis, we’re a much better defensive team right now with Marquis at the point guard spot.”
Clearly, O’Brien did not feel comfortable with Daniels running the helm at offense, but thought he was very good defensively (then again, his example was pretty bad – my twelve year-old brother is a better defender than Travis Diener).
I tend to agree with O’Brien. Daniels will be fine defensively no matter what position he plays but, with his skill set, Marquis is more suited to playing from the wing and slashing to the bucket. I’d rather have him finish plays than begin them.
If the Celtics go into this season with Eddie House and Marquis Daniels as their backup point guards, I’d prefer House (in a close race) to get the nod. Both players are better off playing different positions, but the offense has run efficiently in the past with House manning the PG spot, and I think it would once more if he’s again forced into that role.
Either way, look for Rajon Rondo to play the overwhelming majority of the minutes. He’s young, ever-improving, and poised to take a step to the next level. One could even make the argument that Rondo might be the Celtics’ most important player in ’09-’10.
But we’ll save that argument for another day. For now, let’s just stick to his capable, but out-of-position, backups.