Last week, Chad Ford drew some ire from all Celtics’ fans (well, nearly all of them) when he bestowed a B- grade for the team’s offseason efforts. My biggest gripe with the grade was the lack of standardized criteria/rubric for evaluation. After reading the rankings, I quickly realized that Ford based his assessments on the idea that “if you didn’t have the number one pick or land a marquee free agent, you’re not getting above a B”. This did not bode well for any team who happened to not scrambling to get under the cap in order to a land a big time free agent. Or any teams who, you know, did well enough last season to not be in the Draft lottery. The Celtics were a four point swing away from winning their 18th Championship and they were still able to upgrade the depth of their front court as well as resign all of their key players from their Finals run (again, nearly all of them). B -? I think not.
After I got over my initial shock and awe about how poorly Ford graded the Cs offseason, I quickly realized that the Celtics were not the only team in the line of Ford’s fire. Low and behold, Ford gave the defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers a B- as well. Seriously? That has to be a misprint. As much as it pains me to say it, the Lakers did a phenomenal job this offseason. With Derek Fischer unable to be effective for all 82 Games (and beyond), they went out and got one of the most consistent point guards in the game in Steve Blake. Blake has great handle, takes care of the ball, makes good decisions, and can knock down threes. This pickup was so solid, it prompted Ric Bucher to dub it the most underrated acquisition of the offseason (Insider Only).
While I do not exactly agree with Bucher (anyone see how much Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller signed for?) I do like where his head’s at. The bottom line is that the Lakers acquired the best guy available and also solved a huge problem: they broke up the two-headed ineffective monster that was Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. These guys were unreliable as backup point guards and now, after only retaining Brown, Blake can handle the ball while Shannon can do what he does best (of course, I mean dunking on fools!).
Okay, enough with the Laker love.
They had a good offseason, certainly one worth more than a B-, but that being said I have recently gone cold on their other big acquisition; Matt Barnes. For the second straight offseason, I was more than convinced the Celtics needed to sign this guy. He was going to be the second coming of James Posey. He had the size (6’7″), he had the defensive reputation, and he could hit the corner three. Barnes also played hard and played through injury. He certainly seemed to fit the mold of the trash-talking, bruising Boston Celtics more than the finesse ball that’s played out in Los Angeles.
The more I thought about Matt Barnes in green, the more I thought the Celtics problems could be solved with his signing. Then Barnes opted for gold and the honeymoon was over. With the dreams of “Po-Z” incarnate dissipating, I began to realize that Matt Barnes was and is no James Posey. In 2008, James Posey had a special season with the Boston Celtics. He came off the bench to guard the opposition’s best player (defensive rating: 1.62), he shot 42% from the field, 38% from deep, and he brought a winning resume with him (HoopData.com).
Last year with the Magic, Matt Barnes started 58 games, guarded the opposition’s best players (defensive rating: 1.3) shot 49% from the field and 32% from deep (HoopData.com). As a team’s starting swingman, those numbers do not get it done which could be the reason Barnes is no longer in Orlando. Barnes is a different kind of tweener. He has prototypical small forward size but his his skill-level falls in between starter on a bad team and sixth man on a Championship level team.
The Lakers are a Championship level team and considering Barnes signed for the veteran minimum, you have to tip your cap (just a little). Take solace in the fact that while the Celtics still have a hole to fill at the backup wing Matt Barnes was unlikely to be the answer. It will be interesting to see how well Barnes fairs on a team that already has their own Matt Barnes in Ron Artest.
Both the Lakers and the Celtics had successful offseasons. They both signed players they needed, retained players they needed, and drafted well. It’s going to be interesting to reevaluate each team’s respective offseason when the results of their efforts are known.
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