What it shouldn’t and probably can’t mean: That Kevin Garnett plays any more than 30-32 minutes per game.
What it obviously will mean: More playing team for Brian Scalabrine and likely Shelden Williams. One of those players lack’s Big Baby’s size, strength and rebounding ability; the other can board but has struggled offensively, both inside and on jumpers. Neither is a perfect solution as a 20-minute-per-game back-up four.
But let’s talk a little more in-depth about what Baby’s absence could mean for the C’s rotation. Some ideas/questions:
• Does this kill the possibility—however small it may have been—of Doc using a five-man Bench Mob line-up?
We’ve already discussed that the C’s most common back-up units last season consisted of either Pierce or Ray Allen and four bench players. Bearing that responsibility adds up to a few minutes per game for Pierce and Allen, and a few minutes per game adds up to a few games per season, and that matters more and more as the stars age.
One way to combat that: The five-man bench. That option may be dead for now without Big Baby.
• A massive hole in the middle—on offense
Davis isn’t a traditional post-up player, but he was going to shoulder a decent chunk of the interior scoring load (along with Marquis Daniels) on the second unit. Davis sets great screens and can either pop out for a jumper or roll to the hoop on screen/rolls. I bet the plan was to have him do more of the latter this season than last. If Sheed‘s primary offensive role is to stretch the floor, that would leave Davis as the roll man on a lot of screen/rolls designed to give Daniels the triple-option of driving, hitting a rolling Baby or dishing to an open Sheed should Sheed’s man drift to help in the lane.
And Davis is good at being the roll man. He’s agile and has a knack for shoving his body through open spaces and getting enough room to shoot the ball or draw a foul in the process.
Unless Sheed is ready to assume that role, the C’s don’t really have anyone who can play it in Baby’s place. When Sheed does feel like playing down low, he is more of a straight-up back to the basket post player than a screen/roll guy. Shelden Williams sets solid screens but has trouble finishing or even getting decent looks on the move. Scal is obviously not this kind of player; if he gets the primary back-up power forward minutes, the C’s second unit will really lack an interior presence offensively. If the perimeter shots don’t fall, how will they score?
One other thing to consider: Davis is—by far—the best offensive rebounder among the guys we had expected to get a lot of run off the bench. The Celtics either have to play Williams (a very good rebounder) or accept the reality that they will get few second-chance points without Davis.
• Does Scal play the four?
Doc’s pre-season rotation suggested he trusts Brian Scalabrine much more than Shelden Williams right now, but the pre-season rotation also suggested Doc was prepping Scal for a role guarding small forwards (and, in crazier scenarios, shooting guards). Now Scal may suddenly have to switch gears and prepare to guard power forwards again.
• Can Shelden really hit a jump shot?
Doc has talked during the pre-season about Williams’ skill as a pick-and-pop option in the mold of Big Baby, but the numbers simply don’t back that talk up—yet. Williams has never hit more than 34.6 percent of his jumpers and yet he still takes a lot of them; nearly half his career field-goal attempts are Js, according to this prior post that culled a lot of data from 82games.
So the trade-off you get for playing Williams heavy minutes is this: An interior presence without much offensive ability.
Or—will we see Scal and Williams play together?
How about this line-up: Daniels-House-Scal-Williams-Sheed. Certainly not a group we planned on seeing much. Does it pressed into service now?
These are just some quick thoughts. I’d love to hear your ideas and predictions for how the coaching staff will adjust to the sudden absence of Big Baby. Not a good way to start the season. But it starts anyway.
• Does J.R. Giddens factor into this at all?
As Jeff at CB mentioned: My head is spinning. Oh, and the C’s play at Cleveland in about 20 hours. Yowza.