The early preseason cuts of Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith signaled that something else was likely up Danny Ainge’s sleeve when it came to filling his roster for the upcoming regular season. That suspicion was confirmed very quickly this afternoon, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, reported that the Celtics have come to terms with the 29-year-old Leandro Barbosa, a free agent guard who split time last season between the Raptors and Pacers. The deal reportedly is for one-year at the veteran’s minimum, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
The move does not give the C’s an answer at the backup natural point guard position it may have desired, but it does do something that is perhaps even more important: additional instant offense off the bench. While Christmas and Smith failed to show much offensive help during training camp and the team’s early postseason contests, Barbosa has a track record of being able to just that off the bench throughout his nine-year NBA career. He may not be as much as a threat as he was during his Suns days with Steve Nash, but the possibilities of him running the floor with either Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry and/or Avery Bradley are fun to think about.
For a team desperate to improve their offensive output and efficiency, Barbosa is a volume shooter who can attack the rim and shoot from the outside (39.3 career shooter from downtown). His 16.6 field goal attempts per 36 minutes would have been tops for the C’s roster last year as well. With Avery Bradley sidelined until December, Doc Rivers will surely give Barbosa a shot right out of the gate to be paired with Jason Terry in the second unit’s backcourt and provide a scoring punch (despite being defensively vulnerable).
For a veteran’s minimum, there are no real notable downsides to this deal. Between Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Barbosa and Avery Bradley, the Celtics are well-protected against injury woes and won’t have to lean too heavily on Rondo to create offense for 40+ minutes a night with a guy like Barbosa who thrives on high usage and creating with the ball in his hands as a sparkplug for a second unit.
Barbosa has his weaknesses, a horrendous shooting slump during last year’s postseason for the Pacers that helped sink their chances against the Heat being one of them. He won’t do much for you on the defensive end and his shooting percentages had been on the decline in recent years, before a bounce back year during the regular season in both Toronto and Indiana. However, with Lee and Bradley available, Doc should be able to mix and match his lineups when he needs a more defensive mentality from his team’s bench and reel in Barbosa if he isn’t producing.
The fact of the matter is, for the past three-plus seasons, offense not defense has been this team’s major issue, especially during the postseason. When points become tougher to produce, the C’s have been limited and over reliant on their starters for production deep into games. There have been a number of additions to help in this department for next year, but Barbosa should be able to fit the bill in that department just as well as any of the new additions, after coming off a extremely impressive Olympics for Brazil this summer where he averaged 16.2 points per game.
For no real money and no major risk, it’s hard to argue against this kind of signing. Now it’s on Doc to find the best lineups to use with his embarrassment of riches in the backcourt.