Ed.’s note: We’re back today with the second segment of the D-LeagueDigest Triumvirate’s three-part NBA homer series. A brief refresher on what we’re doing here, as inspired by reader Nick Agneta:
“I know you and the guys there have your favorite parent teams. How about each one of you pick two D-Leaguers who you each think could help your favorite NBA team and explain why you would want them on that team and whether they could realistically make and help that team?”
In Tuesday’s opener, Kolsky selected a pair of Johnsons (Trey and Alexander) for his Bulls. Today, SW makes his picks for the Celtics…
Kolsky wrote yesterday about how he found this task both easy and difficult to complete for the Bulls. Not the case for me with the Celtics; it’s simply daunting for me. This Celtics team was put together to win a championship this year. Despite the bumps in the road the team has encountered this season, I have maintained throughout the year that the biggest issue with this team was getting its stars healthy and clicking on all cylinders. When the trade rumors swirled around Ray Allen, I wondered which player the Celtics could trade for whose skill set included the ability to return Kevin Garnett and his knee to 2008 form. At full health and investment from its core players, this is a team that could win a championship with Nate Robinson or Eddie House coming off the bench, with Bill Walker or Marcus Landry as the token D-League moonlighter and fan favorite, with or without JR Giddens. At less than that from its core players, this is a team that might not find its way through the second round, regardless of who comprises the supporting cast.
Further, after the Robinson acquisition, the Michael Finley signing, Marquis Daniels’ return to health and Shelden Williams’ re-arrival from inexplicable bench hibernation, Doc Rivers now has 12 players seeing legitimate minutes in his rotation, and he is expected to shorten that list heading into the postseason.
All that said, it’s hard to see any call-up playing a significant difference-making role for this Celtics team. But in the name of the activity and in spite of my skepticism, we’ll wrap this disclaimer here and offer two individuals who might be of use to this team if roughly a jillion factors aligned (most of them not very good for the Celts) and they wound up with a chance at some run in green.
Also, two extra rules that I’m instituting for my selections: I’ll be selecting only from players who have not received a call-up this year, and I’m disqualifying Dwayne Jones from the pool of eligible candidates because, well, you know, you’ve heard enough about him from me already.
Morris Almond, Maine: Like Jones, Almond isn’t exactly a stranger to this space. But the Celtics can’t stockpile enough back-up wing players to make it possible to take some of the load off Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on occasion. While the Celts are already using three reserves in those two roles, none of their three back-up swingmen can both create their own shot going to the rim and spot up from the outside. Michael Finley has shot the ball at an outstanding clip since coming to town (40.8 percent on threes, 60.7 percent true shooting), but at his advancing age, he isn’t a major threat to go to the rack. Tony Allen is a sometimes-effective, sometimes-infuriating slasher with a horrific outside shot. Marquis Daniels is the team’s best non-Ray cutter and effective from the foul line down, but his woes from the outside parallel those of TA.
Enter Almond. The man is a scorer, plain and simple. He can shoot the three (40.1 percent this season, 38.2 percent in 88 career D-League games), get to the rim off the dribble, pull-up in traffic, finish with contact and convert at the foul line (81.1 percent from the stripe this season, 81.9 percent for his D-League career). Almond scores in bunches (24.5 points per game this season) and can play the two and the three. While unspectacular in other aspects of the game, he won’t be a fatal liability either. For a team that ranks 17th in offensive efficiency and second at the defensive end, an added scoring option for the second unit could hardly hurt at this point.
It doesn’t hurt that Almond has spent the last month and a half playing for Austin Ainge (recognize the last name?) for the Celtics’ affiliate in Maine. He managed to get his points rather efficiently while leading the league in scoring for a struggling Springfield team, but playing for the stronger Red Claws has really showcased how sharp Almond can be: Though he plays six fewer minutes and scores five fewer points per game in Maine than he did in Springfield, Almond’s effective field-goal percentage has jumped from 53.9 with the Armor to 59.3 percent with the Claws. When the Celtics’ bench is struggling to generate offense, it might help to have a guy like Almond to toss out on the floor for couple-minute bursts at a time.
Greg Stiemsma, Sioux Falls: While the Celtics in particular can never have enough swing help, nobody ever seems to have enough big men. Given the Celtics’ dependence on their strong interior defense and Kendrick Perkins’ current knee injury (not to mention his history of shoulder troubles), more help in the middle seems a reasonable flavor of the week. While the team swears that Perk’s current injury isn’t long-term, the green faithful can hardly blamed for a bit of skepticism when it comes to injury reporting (see: Garnett, Kevin, circa spring 2009).
At 6-11 and 260 pounds, Stiemsma offers height that incumbents Glen Davis and Shelden Williams don’t possess and more bulk than Rasheed Wallace carries. While he could do a better job hitting the glass (6.9 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game this season), Stiemsma has terrific shot-blocking skills. As mentioned last week, Stiemsma has already had a record-breaking season in that department, swatting 3.5 shots per game. At the other hand, he is capable of creating his own shot but won’t demand the ball, which is just fine on this team. More importantly, he won’t be caught hanging around the perimeter with Rasheed Wallace, and unlike fellow shot-blocking machine Kurt Looby, Stiemsma isn’t a foul-shooting liability for opponents to target. He has taken just one three-pointer all season and shoots better than 85 percent from the foul line, and any contribution offensively would be a bonus in the first place.
As an insurance policy to provide the occasional sizable presence in the pivot against certain bigs residing in Cleveland and Orlando, Stiemsma would do just fine.