On a day where Celtics nation is being fueled by speculation of trades of members of the starting five that are (hopefully) unlikely to happen, I figure it would be a good time to step back and take a look at the more likely scenario to occur this offseason: Danny Ainge refilling the bench cupboard he left inadequately filled prior to this year’s campaign.
Last week I touched upon how the top priority for Doc Rivers for the upcoming season, was find Paul Pierce a capable backup In that piece, I set a few guidelines for an individual to fill this role based upon what Doc had said he was looking for in that player.
1. Play good perimeter defense
2. Make some shots so not to be a complete offensive liability
3. Respectable size for a small forward (6’6” or above)
4. Have enough of a basketball IQ and adequate court awareness so that Doc can trust them enough to leave them on the floor in place of Pierce for a significant period of time
Now there are a number of candidates out there this offseason that fit at least portions of this criteria. There are big names, (Trevor Ariza, Grant Hill) who could it all, along with some up and coming players (Brandon Bass) that the C’s would likely have to pony up big money for. In addition there are some under the radar guys (Matt Barnes, Rodney Carney, Ime Udoka) just to name a few that could come at a discounted rate for the C’s.
However while perusing the list of free agents for this summer, there was one in particular that caught my eye. It was someone who had a reputation for playing stellar defense on some of the best players of the league. He had some size and had some question marks on the offensive end of the floor but would likely come for cheap, probably little more than the veteran’s minimum. The more I learned about him, the better the fit he appeared to be for this Celtic team.
So who is this mystery man you ask, the player that will help resolve the C’s bench woes for a bargain price? Meet none than Quinton Ross.
You may have heard of the guy. Before playing for the Grizzlies last year, he spent four years in LA with the Clippers, starting at the 3 spot for some playoff squads back then with Sam Cassell, Elton Brand and company.
Back then, the book I had on the guy was that he was in there to play defense and was a major liability on the offensive end of the floor. By all accounts, he worked hard, played hard and was a good teammate but was ultimately a flawed player.
Now given the fact I had only seen him play a couple times a year during his career, my assessment of the guy was bound to be flawed as well. Thus upon doing some research on Ross, I went straight to the expert, Kevin Arnovitz an NBA editor at espn.com and blogger extraordinaire of Clipperblog one of the best basketball blogs on the net.
After getting Kevin’s analysis along with doing some research of my own on Ross, I decided to break down exactly how well Ross fit the “criteria” the Celtics would potentially be looking for in their search for a backup 3 man. So without further ado let’s take a look at how good of a match Quinton Ross may be for the C’s.
1. Play good perimeter defense
Now this is a category where I knew going in Ross would fare well. This is perhaps the most crucial of any requirements a backup 3 would need to play with the C’s though since the need to give Paul Pierce adequate rest is priority number one here.
Given the team’s lack of size and depth last year, The Truth was forced to chase around the opposing team’s best perimeter player for 35-40 minutes on a consistent basis. The good news is Quinton Ross can be that guy to give Pierce a blow. In fact he can do a lot more than that on the defensive end.
Ross has shown in his five year career he is capable of guarding anyone from Steve Nash to Carmelo Anthony as was the case during the 2006 postseason. His defensive prowess helped limit Anthony to just 33 percent shooting for a 1st round series against the Clippers as LA dispatched the Nuggets easily in 5 games. Here’s an account of Ross’ job on Melo from Kevin on Clipperblog from that series:
“the guy (Ross) is a defensive genius. Did you see the third Denver possession of the evening? Elson set a high screen for ‘Melo. Ross not only recovered but he was able to move fast enough to force ‘Melo baseline and into to the teeth of our interior defense. The prior possession, Ross forced ‘Melo into an awful off-balance 18-footer that barely nicked the rim. On the fourth possession, he blocked Miller’s driving layup attempt. The one after that? He drew a charge – a frustrated push off – on ‘Melo. When Q can fulfill that doesn’t-need-the-ball-but-can-hit-an-open-16-footer role, he’s indispensable.
The Clippers are a better team when Quinton Ross is on the court. It’s that simple”
This defensive effectiveness is not just a flash in the pain either. Basketballvalue.com has Ross listed as their 9th best defensive player in the league according to adjusted +/- That ranking jumps to number four when you discount all big men in the rankings, making Ross the 4th best perimeter defender in the league according to their numbers.
Grade: A+ To put it simply, the guy is one of the best perimeter stoppers in the league right now.
A look at the other parts of Ross’ game after the jump.
2. Make enough shots so not to be a complete offensive liability
Now this is where the critics of Ross will quickly point to as his downfall. The guy is not a pure shooter, that much is clear. Through five seasons Ross is only a 42% career shooter, a lackluster number to say the least. That percentage has gone down further in recent seasons below the 40 percent threshold.
The C’s have one guy that could play good defense and can’t shoot a lick in Tony Allen. Why should the C’s get another similar player to fill that role you ask? To find the answer I once again went to Kevin Arnovitz for some analysis about Ross’ play on the offensive end:
He doesn’t need the ball, and I think the “you end up playing 4 on 5 with Ross in the lineup” rap is overstated. We saw repeatedly in the Phoenix and Denver series during the postseason that if you can get Q a couple of open shots on the wing, he’ll make about half of them. The 2-4, 3-7, or 4-8 line from the field is nice, but more important is forcing the opposing defense to be honest on the weak side. It’s ludicrous to say that the Clippers play “4 on 5″ with Ross when the guy is a 50% shooter who rarely turns the ball over. The trick — and good teams do this all the time and it’s never been a problem with Sam — is figuring out how to leverage the space created on the weak side.”
–Kevin Arnovitz January 2007
A couple things stick out to me from that passage. First off the fact he doesn’t need the ball in his hands is an important factor. Playing with the Celtics bench unit, he would not be asked to do much. No one would need him shooting on a regular basis as there are other places on the Celtics bench (Big Baby, Eddie House) that will likely provide the offensive punch.
Ross’ career numbers also stick out to me since he had his best years shooting the ball when he was with the most talented teams (pre 2007) The Celtics as currently constituted are a better team than those Clipper squads. During the last two years, Ross has played for teams (Clippers and Grizzlies) that couldn’t score the ball (both 28th in offensive rating) Quinton Ross is not a good fit for these kinds of teams. He can’t create his own offense on a regular basis. Can he be an adequate 4th or 5th option on the floor for a strong offensive team? I think he has proven he can be.
Another plus with Ross is that he has developed a 3 point shot (38%) this past year in Memphis, an ability that is crucial within the Celtics offense. He also plays smart and does not turnover the ball much which I will discuss in depth more later in this post.
Grade: On poor offensive teams C to D range. With a good team potential to be a B player is there
3. Respectable size for a SF (6’6’’ and up)
I liked this criteria since I didn’t have to do much research for it. Ross is 6’6’’ so he passes the test. This size is another appealing part of Ross in my estimation since it allows him to be versatile. He could easily slot into the 2 spot with the C’s to give Ray a breather against a tough 2 guard on any given night. Ross has also shown the ability to guard speedy point guards like Steve Nash as Kevin Pelton discussed in his analysis of the Clippers-Suns series in 2006
Doc would probably enjoy the luxury of having a player as capable as Ross to float between positions on the defensive end. As noted earlier, the undrafted small forward has also shown the ability to match up and shut down taller players like Carmelo Anthony. With the Celtics likely to have to go through Lebron in order to get back to the finals, any additional help Paul Pierce could get in that department would likely be greatly appreciated.
Grade: Pass with added versatility given his average size (6’6’’) a plus for the C’s.
4. Have enough of a basketball IQ and adequate court awareness so that Doc can trust them enough to leave them on the floor in place of Paul Pierce for a significant period of time
I guess you could refer to this as the Tony Allen rule when relating it to the Celtics. TA can hypothetically fill the role as the defensive stopper on this team. However Allen is turnover prone and his erraticness and lack of a conscience on the offensive end of the floor caused Doc to relegate him to bench warmer status for much of the playoffs, when the team was shorthanded and surely needed him to the most. I discussed why I feel the team should give up on TA in a post a couple weeks back.
Quinton Ross is by all accounts the opposite of Tony Allen. He has great court awareness and rarely makes mistakes on the offensive end averaging less than a turnover every 36 minutes. For a team that is all ready as turnover plagued as the Celtics, anyone who shows the ability to limit their miscues would like be welcomed by the Celtics brass.
By all accounts I have read, Ross is well liked, level headed individual who works hard at his game. He’s the kind of guy that would likely have no problems fitting in with this Celtic team and finding his niche. Let’s face it, if Stephon Marbury can make it work in the Celtic locker room, anyone can at this point. His experience, professionalism and maturity would likely be an asset for a team laden with young developing talent along with their veterans.
Final Verdict: I am fully behind Quinton Ross as a low risk high reward player that would look to be a perfect fit for this Celtic team. Let’s go the man himself for some closing words describing his game from an Inside Hoops 2004 interview.
I’m a guy who plays hard, gives a great effort, on the defensive side of the ball, and on offense just tries to make the right plays.
That’s the kind of guy Celtics fans could get behind if he suited up in green. At only 27 years old Ross is on the right side of 30, will come cheap and has proven he can be a terrific defender and valuable contributor on playoff teams. The Celtics brass should look past the offensive ineptitude and give the guy a chance to make the roster.
In the meantime check out this mix of Ross highlights I found on youtube so you can get as pumped about him as I am.