As we enter the final weekend before the start of regular season basketball, the Celtics roster situation has begun to come into focus. Michael Sweetney was mercifully waived yesterday leaving the C’s overall roster set with 15 players.
Out of those players, Bill Walker (knee) and Tony Allen (ankle) have been ruled out for the start of the regular season next week. Walker will be out at least another month while recovering from right knee surgery. TA is still experiencing soreness in his right ankle following offseason surgery, so he will be returning during the start of November at the earliest.
The absence of Walker and TA leaves 13 healthy players for the C’s heading in the regular season. With only 12 players able to dress for regular season contests, it is evident that there are two players in contention for that final spot on the active roster on opening night: Lester Hudson and J.R. Giddens. With a small preseason sample size of both players out of the way, it’s time to evaluate both players and decide who serves this team better on the active roster through the first week of the season, and perhaps beyond it.
Hudson came into Beantown from obscurity in UT-Martin but came with a reputation as a guy who can score from anywhere and play some defense. Zach Lowe profiled Hudson indepthly last June if you need a refresher on his resume and other characteristics.
To these strengths, he has not disappointed. Let’s first start with the shooting. Thanks to the folks over at Dougstats.com we can look at the preseason numbers for all the Celtics, including Hudson. During eight games of action, Hudson has not been shy about putting up shots, putting up four attempts a game while averaging just 12 minutes of action. Hudson has shown some nice range, especially from downtown, during this action going 5/12 from deep in his abbreviated stints on the floor.
Hudson has also shown some solid on the ball defense during his preseason campaign as well. He played pesky defense against fellow point guards, fighting well through picks and also piling up 6 steals in his limited on floor time. This likely comes as a pleasant surprise to Danny and company, who drafted him most likely due to his offensive strengths, all though he did have a good defensive reputation in UT-Martin as well.
That’s not to say there have not been some hiccups along the way on both sides of the ball. Hudson at times has appeared selfish with the ball, but that can’t be held too much against him in the preseason when he trying to display his skills and earn a spot on the team. His size always makes him somewhat of a liability in who he can guard. Overall a very good showing by the oldest rookie (25) taken in this year’s draft thus far.
Giddens has come a long way from a his stint sitting out mini camps last year, while foolishly holding out for a contact that was all ready set due to the rookie money scale. It’s been an uphill battle ever since for the former New Mexico star, as he spent most of his year in the NBDL and didn’t see more than a few meaningful minutes on the floor all year for the C’s, despite the multitude of injuries the team has faced.
Luckily this preseason, Giddens has started to show glimpses of his potential that made the C’s draft him the first round last year. The aspects of his game that have stood out the most are his defense and rebounding. It’s clear Doc and his coaches have gotten in Giddens head, and convinced him that these are the aspects of his game that will earn him a chance at playing time for this squad. More on Giddens and a final prediction on who dresses, after the jump.
Giddens averaged 3.8 rebounds a game in his 8 contests, capped off with a 13 rebound performance against the Nets when he played major minutes. With the preseason numbers caveat in mind, the rebounding figures are once again impressive, given the fact Giddens only played 12 minutes a game. He has shown a nose for the ball on both ends of the floor, a stark improvement from the looking flat out lost on the floor during any PT he had last season.
Giddens’ defense has also been a plus during October. His athleticism and 6’5” frame has led Doc to match him up against the likes of Nate Robinson to Lebron James. Lebron had his way with him (surprise, surprise) but Giddens did effectively slow down Robinson in crunchtime at The Garden Tuesday night. Robinson had burned C’s defenders all night long with his penetration so Giddens’ versatility in defending a speedy player like Robinson no doubt earned him points with the coaching staff.
Giddens still has a long way to go, especially on the offensive end of the ball, where he looked more hesitant than ever around the basket. He shot 29% from the field this preseason, missing several bunnies from point blank range that made him look as if he was channeling TA around the rim. It’s possible this hesitancy was caused by the coaching staff making sure he was running the offense effectively, rather than looking for his own shot, but on the offensive end of the floor it’s clear Hudson is miles ahead of Giddens as far as confidence goes.
A Final Decision
Celtics fans have to pleased if nothing else, that there is a competition at all between these two for the final spot. Both of them have stepped up to the plate during October and at least made a case on the floor for their inclusion on the roster, albeit a limited one.
This entire conversation may be moot anyway, as Brian Scalabrine is still suffering from a sprained ankle suffered in New York on Tuesday. If Scal is not good to go, both will dress until the SF/PF gets healthy. For now though, let’s assume Scal will be ready to go in Cleveland.
Hudson clearly has the edge offensively over Giddens and could be a useful weapon for Doc at the end of quarters, giving the team one more player with shooting range. On the other hand, Giddens size (6’5”) makes him capable of guarding both 2′s and 3′s, giving the team one additional player besides Marquis Daniels with the ability to guard athletic swingmen off the bench. If Giddens doesn’t dress, the depth chart at SF is rather thin if anyone suffers and injury.
My gut says Hudson will be the man to dress, but it’s truly a toss up in my opinion. Whoever is picked likely won’t see any meaningful time on the floor anyway throughout this intital stretch of games as Doc is unlikely to go more than 9 or 10 deep in these games. The decision bears watching though, as it may foreshadow who is more likely to make an impact and perhaps stay on the active roster even as the injuried bodies (Walker and TA) return to form.
Curious to know everyone’s take on this though. Who do you think Doc will let dress in the opener? And who do you want to see in uniform? Who helps this team more this year? Or are both irrevelent?