Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How the Celtics Should Handle Sam Cassel (and the rest of their lineup).

Sam Cassel is a veteran point guard with 2 NBA championship rings who knows how to win. But he hasn’t been brought in to lead the Celtics, Kevin Garnett can handle that just fine. And he hasn’t brought in to score points, the Big Three handle most of that thank you. He hasn’t even been brought in to play starting point guard, Rajon Rondo has been stellar all year. So why do the Celtics need Sam Cassel?

The Celtics have no back up point guard. Watching Eddie House try to break the press this year has been abysmal. House has contributed to the Celtics in other ways this year, providing instant offense off the bench, which isn’t easy to do. But House is a 2 guard, not a point guard. The Celtics have looked discombobulated with Rondo off the floor, even utilizing Ray Allen as a glorified point guard in spots, but that is about to change.

With the recent addition of Cassel and PJ Brown, the Celtics lineup looks something like this:

PG: Rajon Rondo, backed up by Cassel, Gabe Pruitt.
SG: Ray Allen, backed up by Eddie House, Tony Allen.
SF: Paul Peirce, backed up by James Posey, Brian Scalabrine.
PF: Kevin Garnett, backed up by Big Baby Davis, PJ Brown.
C: Kendrick Perkins, backed up by Leon Powe, Scott Pollard.

I say “something like this” because Tony Allen can play the 3, Scalabrine can play the 4, PJ Brown can play the 5, etc. But case in point, the Celtics have some options. How should they be handled?

The only action Gabe Pruitt should see for the rest of the season should be as a human victory cigar. Rondo is young and needs all the experience he can get come playoff time. Rondo should continue to see 30 or more minutes per game, leaving 15 or so minutes for Cassel. That’s enough time a game for him to stay in shape, contribute, take some shots, stay happy, and learn his role with the team.

With Cassel on the floor, Eddie House can now spell Ray Allen at the 2. Ray has been more influential than a lot of people have noticed this year, some of the Celtics toughest games, and losses, have come during games where Ray has struggled. Overall, Ray has been playing great, but the Celtics need those legs to stay strong in the post season. Ray Allen should not see more than 30 minutes a game for the rest of the season. This previously would have been impossible, but now there are two viable back up options for Ray.

I feel the same way about Paul Peirce, 30 minutes, max. James Posey will be crucial come playoff time because of his defensive abilities, but for the regular season 9 minutes each for him and Scalabrine is just fine.

The power forward situation is the exact same, and now it’s even deeper. KG is fierce, but he already strained his ab muscle earlier this season, keep him at 30 minutes per game. Big Baby has played great for the Celtics all season, 13 minutes for him and 5 for PJ Brown is just fine.

It seems that Perkins in the Celtics starting center, regardless of how good Leon Powe plays, but in reality I feel like they should split time. 20 minutes each, definitely not more than that for Perkins. The defenses of opposing teams don’t bother to cover him most time, daring him to take foul line jumpers, which he doesn’t. Scott Pollard has been nursing an injury as of late, so he can rest until the playoffs, where he’ll be used sparsely anyways. The remaining minutes at center can be picked up by Big Baby, or PJ Brown, with Scalabrine covering a few more minutes at power forward.

Limiting the numbers of the starters this way will keep their legs fresh. The Celtics suddenly find themselves with one of the deepest benches in the league, and essentially they have the number 2 spot in the East wrapped up. Unlike Cleveland, the new additions to the Celtics are not starters, and it won’t take long for the team to gel completely. If Doc Rivers and the Celtics are serious about a championship run this season, and there’s no reason to think the top team in the East won’t have a shot after the bloodbath the West champion will have to go through, then it’s time to start planning for it.

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