As Red’s Army told us last night, a number of folks have reported the C’s are pursuing Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is an unrestricted free agent, he’s drawing lots of interest and he’s worth a lot more than the veteran’s minimum. The Celtics would have to work some sort of sign-and-trade to acquire him, and just to be clear, that sign-and-trade would have to be with the Grizzlies. Important note: Memphis retains Bird Rights on Brewer, meaning they can go over the cap to re-sign him.
So our old friend Chris Wallace would have to help Boston out, and if the C’s intend to use Rasheed Wallace’s $6.3 million deal to nab Brewer, the Grizz might have to throw a second player in to make the salaries match.
In other words: It’s tricky. But it’s not a ridiculous scenario, since the Grizz are always look to save some scratch and could do so by acquiring Sheed and then buying him out.
So: Who the heck is Ronnie Brewer? And is he worth all of that trouble?
Save the five games Brewer played for the Grizz last season, he has spent his entire career in Utah, so you know he has learned the right things about being a role player in the NBA—moving without the ball, working hard on defense and fitting his talents within the team concept.
He’s also young (just 25), so he has room to grow. Despite some underwhelming numbers (we’ll get to them), he’s clearly a better option than any of the guys the C’s could pick off the veteran’s minimum scrap heap.
Some notes about Brewer:
• He’s 6’7” and he can play both shooting guard and small forward. He has split time between the two positions fairly equally in each of his four seasons in the league, according to 82games. (See here, here, here and here).
• He appears to defend shooting guards better than he defends small forwards, which isn’t surprising given his size. Opposing SFs have put up a higher PER against Brewer than have opposing shooting guards in each of his four seasons in the league, according to 82games. For instance: Brewer held opposing shooting guards to a 12.9 PER last season, but threes put up a 21.9 PER against him.
He should not be regarded as a potential LeBron stopper.
• Brewer takes the bulk of his shots from two locations: At the rim and from the long two-point range, according to Hoopdata. He is not a three-point shooter.
An important question about Brewer: Can he get those at-the-rim looks—and finish them—outside of Utah’s motion offense? Brewer would be coming off the bench in Boston, so he would have to spend a lot of minutes on the floor without Rajon Rondo to break down defenses and create open looks.
In each of his four seasons in the league, between 65 and 72 percent of Brewer’s baskets at the rim came after assists—a very high number for a wing player. Small forwards league-wide needed assists on about 55 percent of their at-the-rim hoops; the assisted-on number dropped to 49 percent for shooting guards, according to Hoopdata.
So: Can Brewer attack the rim successfully outside of the Utah offense and without an elite point guard to initiate plays?
• Is Brewer really a good defender? He certainly looks like one. He’s quick and strong, he works his tail off, and league observers generally regard Brewer as a defensive standout. He passes my personal eye test, but the stats don’t back up his reputation as a stopper.
Consider: The Jazz have allowed more points per 100 possessions with Brewer on the floor in each of the last three seasons, according to Basketball Value. (See numbers for 2008, 2009 and 2010). The stats at Basketball Prospectus show Brewer hasn’t made a dent in the production of his head-to-head-counterparts. He rebounds like Ray Allen.
This is not to say that Brewer is a bad defensive player. Defense is as much (and probably more) about systems and five-man units as it is about individual talent, and the stats community readily admits that the stats we have to evaluate defense are imprecise. But the stats we do have don’t show Brewer to be an elite defender.
Still: At 25 and with two double-digit scoring seasons on his resumé, Brewer would be a nice option for Boston, if only because it might be difficult to find a team willing to trade a comparable wing player under contract in exchange for Sheed and filler.