If basketball were the only part of the equation, if resume-builders like “once slung a guitar case filled with guns over his shoulder,” “battles severe depression” and “may or may not have slept with a teammate’s mother” didn’t count one bit, it would be easy for the Celtics to choose Delonte West instead of Rudy Fernandez. Don’t agree? Hear me out.
West is a better playmaker. He can take the ball to the hoop off the bounce. He’s strong enough to absorb contact and finish at the rim. He’s a much better defender than the Spaniard, and even though he gives up a few inches Delonte is far more rugged when defending bigger players. He can stroke from the outside too. Delonte has hit 37% of his three-point attempts during his career, which is the only area where he really falls behind Fernandez. By one percentage point.
Fernandez cried about his role on the bench. Delonte embraced it. The Celtics would need Rudy to play a backup role with limited minutes, but Nate McMillan told the Oregonian, “Rudy is a team player, and his style of play requires minutes. He’s not a guy who is just going to come down and jack up a shot. He needs to get into a flow, into a rhythm, and that’s not a backup role.” I don’t have any quotes from Mike Brown, but I imagine one would have gone like this: “West doesn’t need to find a rhythm. He often comes into the game and makes his presence felt immediately by changing the game’s pace.”
But character stains don’t just wash away. For all the positives Delonte West brings to the court, for all he does better than Rudy Fernandez from sideline to sideline, there will always be those doubts. Can he keep happy? Can he stay away from legal trouble? Are those rumors really true? Those are doubts that probably won’t go away, no matter how well West plays next year or the year after that.
Yet I still remember West from his Celtics days, as a player meant for a better team. A player meant to find a niche on a contender. Tough. Rugged. Willing to play whatever role the team needed. West’s talents were somewhat wasted on that young Celtics team destined to go nowhere, but they still shined through.
That’s why it’s hard for me to discard West. He’s a better player than Rudy, a better fit for the Celtics on the court. But those red flags just won’t go away. There’s a whole lot of baggage there. And if the past rears its ugly head, West could make whatever team offers him a contract look very bad.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t? If West can somehow move forward from the last two troublesome years? Then some lucky NBA team will soon pick up a versatile winner for a more than reasonable price.