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Bench Bigs Questions

 

Here’s the second of three parts of our 2012-13 questions, this time focused on the bench bigs. We looked at the starters on Tuesday.

Jeff Green — Early in Tuesday’s game against Miami, Green took the ball to the basket with the heartening aggression he displayed in the preseason. He came up empty a couple of times and soon slipped into the disinterested spectator role he played so convincingly two seasons ago. I know there are caveats aplenty here. The entire Celtics team seemed disconnected on offense, even when they were making shots. Green was hardly the only one to struggle on defense. The dude may have been overly jacked for his first real game in 18 months. It’s a long list of excuses. However, we’ve been making those for Green since he arrived in Feb 2011 and there’s a difference between marginal output on a rookie-scale salary and one that pays $9 million a season. Is this year’s Jeff Green any different than the one who disappointed us two years ago?

Jared Sullinger — There’s a lot to like about Sullinger. He’s quick on the uptake, aspires to post play and he has a knack for rebounding. That’s a good makeup for a rookie in pursuit of rotation minutes. There are also a couple of concerns. He looks like he’s going to struggle against athleticism and when trying to score against interior height. So, it’s important to temper expectations for the kid and apply the same filter Doc Rivers uses to dole out playing time: defensive effectiveness. Can Sullinger hold his own covering the pick and roll and find a way to bother bigger guys on the block? If so, his smarts will get him enough baskets to keep him in the rotation.

Darko Milicic – When will Darko self-destruct and will it be catastrophic or merely amusing? We should put this up as a poll. Those who have observed him closely over the years suggest that our contempt for him will grow as his lack of love for the game becomes clear (seriously… when I talk to people about Darko the name that keeps popping into my head is Jermaine O’Neal). So, while I hold out hope that Green’s and Sullinger’s preseason play are harbingers of good things to come, with Darko I’m gun shy. Unfortunately, he’s not as superfluous as his late signing would suggest. Compared to Jason Collins and Fab Melo he’s got Hakeem Olajuwon-level offensive skills. They may yet be important for a Celtics team that, game one aside, still has to prove its offensive mettle. 

Jason Collins — How important is his aptitude for post defense considering Rivers’ desire to go small and fast? Against Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard there’s no doubting his value. Against teams like Miami, he may stay anchored to the bench, as he did Tuesday. At this point, his usage is a legitimate x-factor. The pace will slow in the playoffs and rim protection (or at least the illusion of it) will be important. Collins and Kevin Garnett would make an interesting pair of 7-footers to back line the defense, except of course, that KG is not a 7-footer. As he’s made clear over the years.

Fab Melo — Will he end up over or under Avery Bradley’s 162 rookie year minutes? Is he the next Kendrick Perkins? Is there an unlimited Greyhound pass for roundtrips from Boston to Portland, Maine? Is there any way for him to play for both the Red Claws and the Celtics on the same day? Is he destined to be part of a trade for Josh Smith or Paul Millsap at the trade deadline?

Chris Wilcox — Can he stay healthy? Wilcox showed flashes last year as a Rondo running mate and a pick and roll dive man (the latter is something the C’s could use more of this year). Compare him to Collins, Melo and Darko and he grades out favorably (on balance — all these guys have warts) and best fits the style of play we expect out of Boston in the regular season. His return could be sneaky important.

  • Phil

    Wilcox and Sullinger are the guys I'm really focused on. I'm trying to cut down on Jeff Green angst for my own health, but I don't look at him as a big regardless (he's a 9m dollar backup SF of course…) Darko and Collins are the same thing; regular season minutes. Darko is potential that will never be realized and its taking GMs 5 years too long to realize, and Collins is a matchup play for slower, bigger teams, but neither is going to make a difference in the playoffs barring a Bos/LAL finals. I'm taking the over for Melo minutes, but its only because of height and what I expect out of Darko. He's a Redclaw rotation player this year.

    Sullinger and Wilcox, along with Bass and KG are who I see playing minutes in the postseason. To me, the questions about Sully are whether or not he can be better than he is now. I don't think he'll have a problem stepping right in and putting up 4th big numbers from the start. Wilcox is a much bigger question. I see him as a clear #3. He can run and play the 5, but none of that matters if he's not on the court. Its impossible to predict injuries obviously, but I'm optimistic.

    Overall, I think the Cs have the regular season depth they need to not wear KG down, and that's what we're really going for. Lets be honest; this team's plans A-Y are to beat Miami, and they'll figure everything else out after that. No bench big is helping in that series.

  • swissflix

    Yeah, Wilcox and Sully are the two players expected to actually contribute. Wilcox will not stay healthy, however. Sully will get blocked many times, i am afraid.
    As for Green…well. It was the first game, it was against the champion, whatever. He desperately needs to be better in the next game already! It hurt to see him being lost on the court. He has to figure out lots of stuff.

  • jr9901

    I don't understand why you think Wilcox will have trouble staying healthy. Why, because he had an enlarged aorta — that got fixed, just like Green's did? Huh? He doesn't have a history of being particularly injury-prone. I think there's every reason to expect him to be as healthy as the next guy, once he's done rehabbing back to the lineup.

    I like Darko. I think he's gonna surprise a lot of people. He's not right for every game (esp vs. Miami) but he'll get his PT when the matchup is right, and I think he'll be the best big off the bench. (I'm assuming Wilcox starts.)

    Sully will find his way, whatever that is. No way to know now how far he'll go.

    Jeff Green is definitely worry-worth. It wasn't just that he had a bad game… it was HOW BAD he was…. dazed and confused, lost in space, unable to finish simple layups or hold on to the ball…. just… unbelievable. WTF kind of mental BS must be going on in his head to fall apart so completely…. is beyond my understanding. He has the healthy body, he has the skills…. WTF IS YOUR PROBLEM, MAN? Smh…. gonna be hard to get to where we wanna go if JG's gonna melt away like that every time the lights go on.

    But the guy we absolutely must have back to his last season's heights is KG. That was not a good game for KG, and he knows it. The hope (and the worry) is that it was rust, not age, that made him look old out there.

    • hdavenport

      Wilcox absolutely has a history of being injury-prone.

      Games Played
      2008 – 62
      2009 – 62
      2010 – 34
      2011 – 57
      2012 – 28

      • jr9901

        2007 – 82
        …but I don't think these numbers mean much. CW is a bench player, so his DNPs could always be coach's decisions.

    • Rav

      He did have recurring shoulder (or back?) issues in his first season with the Celtics, if I recall correctly. That may be why he's seen as injury prone.

      • jr9901

        Yeah, back issues, I think. Overall, I get the sense that he's about league average in terms of durability. But it's far from scientific.

  • emg

    Emg goes on record saying we will love Jeff Green by the end of this season.

  • CG12

    It would be great to see Wilcox earn some minutes as a floor-running C/PF, but I get the feeling he is a ways away.

    Darko is obviously a head case, but the skills he brings could be very helpful. He is a good rebounder and shot-blocker, and throws a nice outlet pass. The inability of modern bigs to throw a good outlet pass drives me nuts, but Darko has those Euro-skillz.

    Sullinger will provide high-quality minutes as a substitute big, but he is a guy with a limited ceiling. His athletic skills are more in the nature of feel for the game and timing than physical tools. Which is okay – those are very valuable skills that tend to get under-valued vs. measurables like vertical leap.

  • mittsthetits

    small ball for the celts is what it is….the live or die off grit n balls. saw it in the playoffs last year and you saw it 2 nights ago against the heat and honestly its not good enough. get back to the 08 model slow em down in the halfcourt and bang bodies. feel free to run it when you have to with some of the new pieces for rondo but must dominate the game in the halfcourt

  • Brian

    They could have used Wilcox against a small ball team like Miami. They really didn't have anyone after KG to play at the 5 and matchup with Miami's hybrid lineups. Darko and Collins are too slow. Green and Bass are too small to play Center even in a small lineup. Sullinger just wasn't ready for that in his first game.

    • Brian

      Hopefully Wilcox will be healthy and in shape the next time they meet.

  • Clarenz

    Ryan DeGama, Is the Josh Smith or Millsap trade possible to happen? destined?
    Can you tell us rumors about it?

    • mittsthetits

      its just mear hope and speculation at this point….celtics will probably be players towards the trade deadline tho

  • https://www.facebook.com/JoshSmithToTheCeltics Smith to Celtics

    What are the chances of The Celtics acquiring Josh Smith this mid-season or at seasons end.. We NEED him..

    • Phil

      How valuable is Avery Bradley; that's the key question. To both other teams, and the Celtics. Teams aren't gonna give up good players for draft picks, and they're not gonna take on players on long deals like Green or Bass. If you mention Jeff Green, Utah or Atlanta is hanging up, period. The Celtics have depth at guard, and they may sacrifice a good and promising player to improve their bigs, and to increase their chances to win this year. I highly doubt anything happens, but talks would have to start and end with Bradley.

  • Clarenz

    I think it will be Bass, Green, Melo or Bradley or picks at the trade deadline for Josh Smith.

    Celtics

    Josh Smith

    Hawks

    Green
    Bass
    Bradley
    or Picks
    or Melo

    • CG12

      Good grief – I sure hope not. Josh "Fool's Gold" Smith is good, but not that good.

    • Phil

      If we could get Smith for just Bradley, Melo and a pick, 'and' dump Bass and Green's salary, I'd have a really hard time turning that down. Unfortunately, I'd assume Atlanta would tell you to drop Green out of that trade, and then it doesn't look as favorable to me.

      I also irrationally love Bradley, so I'd have a hard time giving him up.

  • DIEHARDCELTICSFANS

    I WILL NOT EVER TRADE DWAYNE WADE JUST FOR JOSH SMITH BECAUSE BRADLEY IS A LOCKDOWN DEFENDER SO AS LONG AS BRADLEY IS ON THE COURT NO WORRIES ABOUT D-WADE ONLY LEBRON

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