I’m okay with Von Wafer.
Doc Rivers said yesterday that, depending on the length of Marquis Daniels’ absence, the team would look into adding another small forward. “We have to get another ‘three’ let’s just be serious,” Rivers told the Boston Globe. But me? I’m okay with Wafer. Not as a star, or even a starter, mind you. But filling Marquis Daniels’ spot, backing up Paul Pierce and playing 19.1 minutes per game? I can dig Wafer in that role.
I’m not going to discuss Wafer’s stats — which, for the most part, aren’t pretty (and get even worse when you look at Wafer’s most commonly-used five-man units, which are all being outscored by their opponent) — because he’s only played 8.1 minutes per game, hardly enough time to develop a rhythm and play up to one’s potential. There’s another reason not to value Wafer’s season-long statistics — he started the season like The Puppy Who Lost His Way (“Whoa, whoa, whoa. The part of the story I don’t like is that the little boy gave up looking for the boy after an hour.”), and has only recently begun to settle into Boston’s system on both ends of the court.
With each passing day, Wafer’s play becomes more solid. He dribbles into the paint now, and I no longer hold my breath for the 30% chance that he’ll do something stupid. I actually trust him with the ball now, and — coming from a guy who once rooted for Stephane Lasme to outlast Wafer for a roster spot — that’s a big step. Wafer takes mostly good shots, and, though his three-point shooting percentage is below The Rajon Rondo Line, actually provides an outside threat that Daniels can’t. Teams need to defend Wafer outside the arc. When Daniels plays, they can sag off him and pray he shoots.
Wafer has even developed his defense to the point where he’s no longer a liability. Nobody’s ever going to compare Wafer to Thabo Sefolosha or Bruce Bowen, but that’s okay. The Celtics don’t expect him to be that type of defender. As long as he can do a decent, energetic job and stay away from any foolish mistakes, Doc Rivers (and I) will be okay with Wafer’s efforts. It’s only if Wafer’s a piece of swiss cheese that his defense becomes a problem, and he hasn’t been swiss cheese since far earlier this season. Of course, Daniels occasionally defends the opposition’s best player, which means Wafer could have to defend those same players. And viewing Wafer trying his hand at stopping Kobe Bryant isn’t exactly my idea of a fun afternoon. But I digress.
I understand Daniels’ value in Boston. He refuses to take bad shots, provides matchup nightmares against smaller opponents (and Kyle Korver), and generally offers a calming presence akin to a nightly glass of wine with dinner. Daniels doesn’t often score in double figures. His stats rarely blow you away. But he’s solid, takes pride in his defense, cuts intelligently to the basket, and — maybe most importantly, his versatility allows him to play three positions. Wafer, on the other hand, could never chip in as a backup point guard. Not in a million years. But with Delonte West poised to make his return shortly, Wafer shouldn’t ever have to.
I’m not saying Wafer as Boston’s only backup small forward represents an ideal situation. Obviously, I’d love it if the Celtics could scoop up a veteran small forward (say, Carmelo Anthony? — just kidding) to spell Pierce. But veteran small forwards aren’t exactly crawling all over the place. The C’s could find a way to trade for Richard Hamilton, sure… but then they’d be saddled by his “$12.65 million in 2012-’13″ contract. They could pick someone up from the D-League, sure… but, well, players are presumably in the D-League for a reason. Also, signing a current free agent (or D-Leaguer) would require waiving someone currently on the roster.
The Celtics don’t have much roster flexibility, and very few assets to use in a trade. But if Von Wafer finds himself in Marquis Daniels’ role for the next month or two, count me in. It’s not perfect, but it works. For the time-being, at least.