My dream acquisition for the Celtics is a big man who can do the following things (listed in order of priority): hit jump shots and be a net plus of offense for a Pierce-centered second unit that struggles to score at times; play solid defense; and get rebounds.
This is what P.J. Brown brought the C’s last year, at least in the playoffs, when he shot 46.5 percent from the floor and hit huge jumpers down the stretch against the Cavs in Game 7.
The Kings have already waived Mikki Moore (meaning they are on the hook for his $2 million guaranteed next season), and the Thunder are likely to waive Joe Smith. The Celtics and Shaq-less Cavs will likely take a look at both players (especially Smith), according to ESPN and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
The Cavs have about $5.1 million left of their mid-level exception, while the C’s have only $2.4 million left of theirs. Either way, the two leading contenders in the East may be bidding against each other, making it paramount that the Celtics focus all their resources on the right player.
So which is the right player? Or should the Celtics save their money and pursue Stephon Marbury? Let’s discuss, after the jump.
Let’s leave aside Marbury for a minute and discuss the big men. Offensively, these guys are two very different players. Smith is a jump-shooter; Moore gets his points at the rim. Over the last two seasons, about 75 percent of Smith’s shots have been jumpers, compared to about 40 percent for Moore. Neither guy is a lights out jump-shooter; Smith’s made 43 percent of his over the last two years, while Moore’s knocked down about 40 percent. Smith’s figure means more, though, since he shoots so many jumpers; Mikki probably takes them only when he’s wide open, meaning his 40 percent success rate probably isn’t as good as it looks–and it doesn’t look good, anyway.
I want the better jump shooter. Remember, it’s the second unit with Pierce that has the lowest offensive efficiency of any unit that plays meaningful minutes. That unit begs for a big guy who can hit J’s off the pick-and-pop with Pierce.
(Interesting and possibly meaningless note: Smith’s two best recent shooting seasons–’04-05 with the Bucks and last season with Cleveland–came with the two lowest usage rates his career before this season. It could be that he will shoot better in an offense where he isn’t asked to do anything but hit open jumpers instead of forcing some up).
There’s also a perception, I think, that Moore is a better rebounder and shot-blocker than Smith. He’s not. Their per-minute numbers and defensive rebounding percentages are similar (see here and here), and Smith actually grabs a higher percentage of available offensive boards.
I’ve sort of buried the lead here, but there are two other huge red flags sticking out of Mikki Moore. First, he’s a turnover machine, and the Celtics are already at the bottom of the league in turnover rate. Moore coughs the ball up about 16 percent of the time he tries to do something with it. Smith, on the other hand, takes care of the ball (5.8 percent turnover rate this year), and he’s taking better care of it as he gets older.
That leads to my second concern about Moore: He’s getting worse really, really fast. Moore was a productive player just two seasons ago with the Nets. He shot 60 percent from the floor (including 55 percent on jumpers!), had a PER (14.8) around the league average and did a passable job guarding centers.
He’s fallen apart over the last two seasons in Sacto. Opposing power forwards put up a 15.9 PER against him last year, and they are torching him (18.1 PER) this season. He’s spent more time guarding centers this year, and the bigs are putting up a PER over 21 right in his face.
Smith’s defense isn’t spectacular, but he’s been steadily holding power forwards to league average stats for the last few seasons.
And that’s what I want from a potential C’s back-up big man: steadiness. Glen Davis doesn’t have it in any phase of the game (he still can’t shoot, no matter what your eyes seem to be telling you), Leon Powe doesn’t have it as a shooter and Mikki Moore definitely doesn’t have it.
Joe Smith has it. If I’m Danny Ainge, I’m throwing whatever I can at Smith, even it means having no shot at Marbury.