6 Reasons Boston Celtics Need to Get Leandro Barbosa More Run
Run is the operative word here.
Prior to Wednesday night, Barbosa had been averaging just 11 minutes per game. He got extra run against the Utah Jazz after Rajon Rondo's injury but has been minimally used in most games thus far.
The Celtics have been playing like they started the season trudging through mud. The bench players stumbled out of the gate and have been struggling to find their rhythm. Even Paul Pierce is shooting at the lowest percentage of his career.
Barbosa is the most recent addition to the Celtics roster and hasn't had as much time to assimilate into the system. Therefore it makes sense to use him sparingly this early in the season.
However, with everything he has shown and everything the team around him has shown, it is time to get the reserve guard in there for more minutes.
Leandro Barbosa is a conscienceless offensive player. He is instant offense and relentless in his attack.
He is very much a Nate Robinson-type player. When he is dribbling the ball around the point, you can pretty safely predict what is going to happen. Barbosa is going to shoot more often than not.
However, this is a good thing and something the Boston Celtics need more of.
Given how tentatively players like Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee have played this season, Barbosa offers a different dynamic. He doesn't have to be reminded to play a certain way, because he is going to the rim no matter what.
He is fast enough and a competent enough ball-handler to get to his spot on the floor without much trouble. At the rim or before it, he knows how to get his shot off as well. He uses the glass particularly well against big shot-blockers, skillfully avoiding their swats.
It is more than just an ability, though, it is a willingness to score the basketball. Green and Lee are going to have a lot of games where they play big minutes and only put up four or five shots.
They are sometimes tentative players who shy away from attempts. With Barbosa getting more minutes, that is not a concern.
He Knows the Style out West
The ability to score as a smaller guard amidst a horde of big bodies and long arms is a learned skill—a skill Leandro Barbosa already has.
Barbosa's career began with seven seasons in Phoenix with the Suns. That meant a lot of games and playoff series against the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Those are just couple of the big teams that ruled the Western Conference during the 2000s.
While backing up Steve Nash in Phoenix, Barbosa practiced the art of getting floaters and layups to the rim over and around bigger frontcourts in real time. This is a skill he has kept with him through his transition to the Eastern Conference. He displayed it in spurts with the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers.
Now, with the Boston Celtics, it is a skill that is incredibly valuable. The guards the Celtics have are not in the mold of Barbosa. Jason Terry is a mid-range and perimeter player. Courtney Lee can get to the basket but doesn't do so often. Even Avery Bradley doesn't have the requisite experience to perform this type of offensive feat with regularity.
It was on full display in Wednesday night's victory over the Utah Jazz. Barbosa was able to get off many floaters and layups around Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap. That is the type of thing the Celtics could really use more of.
Too Much Rajon Rondo
Through seven games, Rajon Rondo was leading the league in a category that doesn't always benefit a player.
His 40.7 minutes per game topped all NBA players. In Wednesday's win, his sprained ankle limited him to just 25 minutes, and he watched the entire end of the game from the sidelines.
This may have been a blessing in disguise for Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics. Rondo's absence allowed Barbosa to see his first real, extended minutes of the season. The reserve guard did not disappoint.
His performance in the game against the Utah Jazz, along with a couple other solid showings this season, should allow for extended time on the court. That means less need for Rondo to regularly have 40-minute nights.
Rondo has been prone to breaking down in recent years, missing 27 games the past two seasons combined. Some of those minor injuries have to do with overuse. The Celtics have struggled to find a legitimate backup to Rondo, and his extended minutes have been detrimental to the team.
If Barbosa can play well and see more minutes, it makes Rondo a better player in the long run.
The Offense Doesn't Stop
A major takeaway from Wednesday night's game against the Utah Jazz was that the offense didn't slow down in the fourth quarter.
Rajon Rondo injured himself going up for a layup after just 25 minutes of action. That left the door open for Leandro Barbosa to see serious playing time, especially in the fourth quarter.
In 23 minutes, Barbosa tallied 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and added three assists. He played all of crunch time as the team's point guard, giving way to Paul Pierce a few times in the final possessions.
This was a great show for a player who has been with the team for less than a month. Individually, Barbosa really stood out. However, in the larger picture, it was that the team didn't stop that was most impressive.
In the past, Rondo on the bench has meant the end of the Boston Celtics offense. Things tend to stall without Rondo on the floor distributing the ball and starting the fast break.
With their starter suffering a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still managed 25 points (to 23 for the Jazz). Barbosa played a huge hand in this. He has proven to be a responsible player worthy of more minutes.
Rekindling a Lost Identity
Wednesday morning I published a story detailing the need for the Boston Celtics to reestablish their lost identity. A big part of that identity could be returned with the help of Leandro Barbosa.
As stated previously, some of the new additions to this Celtics team have a tendency to play tentative basketball. Jeff Green and Courtney Lee in particular seem to do a lot of second-guessing themselves on the floor and pass up good shots.
That is an identity that the Celtics don't want. They can't afford to be pulling punches this season. Barbosa is an aggressive player whose offense comes as a result of relentless effort to force the ball. That is more the identity the Celtics would like to have.
His style of pushing the ball up the court is exactly what this team needs in the second unit. Even more needed is his willingness to occasionally throw offensive sets out the window and get to the rim when necessary.
Barbosa is especially adept at driving to the rim before the defense sets itself and disrupting an opponents' defensive scheme.
Relentless pressure defensively is what the Celtics have been known for. Bringing that pressure on the other side as well is a good idea.
Needs Playing Time to Continue Assimilation
After his most recent performance Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, Barbosa detailed to WEEI's Mike Petraglia just how far he has come in learning the Boston Celtics' system.
The advancements he has made in his ability to fall in line with what the Celtics are trying to do has been a virtue of playing time. He has improved with every minute he has been on the court with his new teammates.
The 16-point performance was the latest example in just what he can do once fully integrated. He won't score at that level consistently—nor does he need to—to help Boston win. Just knowing that type of production is potentially there when extended minutes are called for is comforting.
However, to get more consistent with that level of play, he'll need more minutes now. For the second unit to be successful down the road when it really needs to be, Barbosa needs more run right now.
This does more than just help Barbosa learn the Celtics spacing and sets. It also helps his teammates in that second unit adjust to his style and abilities.
Only as a unit will this team reach its full potential, and Barbosa needs to be more of a part of that unit.