Tag: 2010 free agency

Delonte West to sign with the Celtics, bolster Boston's already impressive bench


Thumbnail image for Delonte West.jpgDelonte West, like a lot of other late free agent signings, comes with a few red flags. For starters, he’ll be inactive for the first 10 games of the season, as a consequence for pleading guilty to weapons charges last month. Go a bit deeper, and there are some understandable concerns about West that have no doubt thrown plenty of NBA teams off the scent of an otherwise solid player.

Saying that West is “troubled” may not be fair, but bringing him on does introduce a slight element of worry that some teams would apparently rather not deal with. There just aren’t all that many other ways to read West’s situation; why else would a slightly below-average player (in terms of PER, at least) and contributor on a championship-level squad still be around this late in the off-season?

Well, West is available no more. According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics will take the plunge, bringing West back to the city where he started his NBA career. West actually found a fair bit of success in his first tour through Boston, but was sent to Seattle as a part of the Ray Allen deal in the summer of 2007.

The move makes Boston one of the deeper teams in the East, after years of running a relatively shallow reserve unit. One of the O’Neals — either Shaquille or Jermaine — will start the season on the pine, and Kendrick Perkins will likely join in upon returning from injury. Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and Marquis Daniels will return from last season’s squad. Boston signed scoring dynamo Von Wafer, and picked up rookies Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, and Semih Erden, who are all capable of playing spot NBA minutes immediately. With West also in the fold, that’s a hell of a bench.

Amassing that kind of depth is the best way for Boston to take the regular season seriously — which they certainly didn’t do last year — while still keeping their legs for the playoffs. Previously, that would have meant leaning on players like Shelden Williams, Michael Finley, and J.R. Giddens. Now the Celtics can do better, due to an active off-season filled with value moves. West won’t cost Boston much, but he can provide scoring and a bit of playmaking from either guard spot, while offering Doc Rivers a versatile backcourt alternative.

What can we really expect from Shaq this year?


shaqdunk.jpgShaquille O’Neal is still looking for a team. August has arrived, and the FMD (Former Most Dominant) is unemployed.

It seems reasonable that Shaq would be towards the end of the free agent acquisitions. He’s in the awkward cross-section of expensive and old, both of which are in the short list of words that make GMs run screaming from negotiating rooms, bursting through walls like Roger Rabbit.

But we’re still talking Shaq. Diesel. The Big Aristotle. Superm… let’s not go down that road.

So let’s take a look at what a player of Shaq’s age, 38, can be expected to produce.

Last season, Shaq averaged 12 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks at age 37 (he turned 38 in March while recovering from the infamous thumb injury). Those aren’t exactly stunning numbers. But when you look at his production in comparison to that of other players his age, he looks pretty good. The average for a 37 year-old center is 5.4 points and 3.67 rebounds per game with .65 blocks. By that comparison, Shaq was beasting, even in limited games and minutes.

And that minutes part is pretty relevant. Obviously, any 37 year old player you’re going to expect to play limited minutes. You’re not really looking for great per-game numbers because his role is going to be limited. So how does Shaq compare based on per-minute numbers?

We’ll use per-36, since that’s the Basketball-Reference average, and if you were going to exhaust a player at that age, that’s the limit you could probably expect them to play. The average per-36 for a 37 player is much more favorable, coming in at 10.8 points and 8.97 rebounds. Shaq averaged 18.5 and 10.3 per-36 last year. So his scoring percentage is in the elite of all 37 year-old centers historically, coming at 3rd on that list. His rebounds, on the other hand, were 7th among all 37 year-old centers.

It’s at 38 that things get interesting. Centers at 38 averaged 14.5 minutes per game, compared to 16.7 minutes at age 37. The average for 38 year-old centers per36 minutes was 11.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per 36. Not astounding numbers, but at least fairly consistent and pretty decent for what you’re likely paying for a 38 year-old big. What I was surprised to find is that for centers that played at both 37 and 38, their production didn’t drop. They played 90% of the minutes they did at age 37, and actually produced at a higher per-minute clip (the per-36 rebounds for 37 year-olds were higher due to several players retiring after that season).

In Shaq, we’re not talking about a bottom-feeder, either. We’re talking about one of the most dominant players in NBA history. So what does he have to measure himself against, in terms of 38 year-old outstanding centers?

Bullets? Yes, bullets.

  • The standard bearer is, unsurprisingly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who at age 38 averaged 25.3 points and 6.8 rebounds at 56% shooting in 33 minutes per game. That’s just absurd. A 38 year-old man playing basketball averaging 25 points a game. I don’t care if a cyborg was the one throwing him the passes, that’s pretty incredible (Note: We actually think Magic Johnson would have a better assist rate than the cyborg.)
  • How about Robert Parish? The Chief averaged 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds for Boston at age 38, for a 17.6-11.1 double-double per 36 minutes. That’s greatness, right there.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon is the center Shaq is most often compared to, as Olajuwon was the greatest center in the league in the era before Shaq, with Olajuwon sliding out just as O’Neal hit his prime. Amazingly, all of Olajuwon’s numbers went up at age 38 from age 37, as he played 26.6 minutes per game at 38 after playing only 23.4 as a 37-year-old. Olajuwon’s production went up with the minutes increase, averaging 11.9 points per game at 38 compared to 10.3 at 37, and grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game compared to 6.2 at 37. His per 36 numbers were of course similarly improved. Olajuwon averaged 103% of his age-37 points at age 38 (16.1), and 106% of his age-37 rebounds at age 38 (If10.0) for another double-double performer per 36 minutes. That’s why he’s the dream.
  • If Olajuwon is the optimistic concept for Shaq to reach for, Patrick Ewing is, sadly, the warning sign. (I’m sorry for the reminder, Knicks fans.) At age 38, Ewing was actually with the Sonics, and saw his per-minute production and minutes plummet. He played 26.7 minutes compared to 32.8 the year before, and while his rebounding stayed solid, only dropping .7 per-36, his points dropped from a respectable 16.4 to 13.0 per-36. His 9.6-7.4 performance was still good enough to land him fourth in points per game and tied for second in rebounds per game with Olajuwon. His per-36 numbers slid to 8th in points and ninth in rebounding per-36 from 7th and 6th respectively at 37. Ewing really is the concern if you’re a team looking to evaluate Shaq.

But really, considering O’Neal’s particular game, it’s hard to get an idea of him. He averaged 23.4 minutes per game last year, so at the 90% production rate of the average 38-year old center, that puts him at 21 minutes next season. Is a 21-minute-per-game player worth the kind of money O’Neal is asking for? Obviously not, which is why there has still not been a team rushing to take him on. But on the flip side, Parish, Olajuwon, Ewing, none had the physical dominance of Shaq’s sheer size, and these were no slight players in their own rights. Shaq will always have massive potential to influence a game because he is just that much to load. Then again, his work ethic and conditioning are always called into question…

Do you see the paradox? It’s likely not the production teams are worried about, it’s instead the built-in risks that have kept the bull market away from O’Neal.

Someone’s going to sign the big fella. And considering how he ranks with the greatest players at his position at his age, it’s going too far to say he doesn’t have the potential to be an impact player. How his 38th year ends will be up to him, just as it always has been.

Nets ink Jordan Farmar, look to avoid a single impact signing


The New Jersey Nets are making an offer to Jordan Farmar, which means a bizarre compromise on the part of both participants. 

The Los Angeles times reports that Farmar has received an offer from the Nets but has not accepted it, while Ric Bucher of ESPN says the deal is done for three years and $12 million.
UPDATE: The deal is done, with Yahoo! Sports confirming.  
For the Nets, it continues the pattern we talked about earlier of signing good but not great players with the massive cap space they have after missing out on the max free agents. Farmar is a great prospect, young, with potential at a key position. But he still seems like a compromise in terms of what they were looking for this summer versus what they got, and that dissonance would seem to suggest that they may have needed to simply horde the cap space. 
For Farmar… there isn’t a single NBA team with cap room looking for a point guard to compete for a starting position? Farmar wanted out of LA because of his always being in Phil Jackson’s doghouse and constrained by the triangle. But New Jersey has Devin Harris, and is wed to him for the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely that Farmar will play to the point of pushing Harris, which means Farmar has signed on to be a backup for another three years. Maybe it’s a matter of accepting reality. Maybe he’s excited about playing in Brooklyn. Maybe the offers just weren’t there. 
Either way, this feels like a deal regarding two sides lunging for the middle ground. 

Grizzlies sign Tony Allen

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The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the Grizzlies have closed in on a deal with former Celtics back-up guard Tony Allen. Woj and Spears over at Yahoo! report the deal is for three-years, $10 million, a very reasonable price for a player that played a significant role for the Celtics during their Finals run. 

It’s a smart move for the Grizzlies, getting a solid back-up perimeter defender for a reasonable price. They need one after letting Ronnie Brewer walk. Brewer had been acquired for a first round pick from Utah, but then was hurt, and then renounced without attempting to re-sign him, another a series of questionable Grizzlies moves dating back to the beginning of time. 
The Grizzlies were an explosive offensive unit but desperately needed defensive improvement and production off the bench. Allen showed flashes of offensive ability to go with a defensive skillset that helped lockdown Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if Allen gets time with O.J. Mayo at point guard, a move expected to be experimented with during Summer League this week. 

Heat have interest in Zydrunas Ilgauskas

This should make Cavs happy. Did I say happy? I meant, “feel like they were kicked in the back of the head after getting hit in the groin with a tire iron.”
Mike Wallace of the Miami Herald reports that Zydrunas Ilgauskas is “looking into the option” of joining LeBron James, a close personal friend, in Miami for the veteran minimum. Ilgauskas, the Cavs’ main man before James arrived in 2003, helped integrate LeBron to the league and has been on his team ever since. 
Ilgauskas was dismayed last season when first his record-breaking appearance as a Cav night was postponed thanks to Mike Brown electing to DNP-CD him, despite the presence of many Z friends and family that had been brought in for the game. Things couldn’t have gotten better when Z was shipped to Washington for Antawn Jamison. Z was bought out from the Wizards and returned to the Cavs to try and help them win a championship, which obviously did not happen. 
There was a lot of talk that James was the biggest proponent of bringing Z back, even though it was the need to put superstar talent around James that necessitated the trade in the first place. So really, it may end up being that LeBron James’ decision to leave Cleveland could cost Cavs fans two life-long Cavaliers. 
For the Heat, Z is a perfect fit. Seven feet tall, a veteran, still able to rebound and hit a few jump shots, and knows how to work with LeBron. He fits literally every single one of their needs at center. And he’s a much better option than Juwan Howard, who they’re also considering. This could wind up as a huge move for the Heat. 
That should make Cavs fans feel better about it. Did I say better? I meant…