Boston Celtics Can Find Help from the D-League

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIFebruary 3, 2013

Rookie Fab Melo (right) made his season debut with the Celtics Friday against Orlando.
Rookie Fab Melo (right) made his season debut with the Celtics Friday against Orlando.USA TODAY Sports

Boston was in no hurry to find a replacement for Darko Milicic after he left the team.

The Celtics want to wait and see what they have in Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa before deciding how to fill the void from Rajon Rondo’s season-ending ACL tear.

Now Jared Sullinger will miss the rest of the season following back surgery.

How long will the Celtics wait to take action now? With Boston down to 11 available players, the Celtics are dangerously thin.

Rookie Fab Melo had his Celtics debut against Orlando on Friday after spending his season thus far in the NBA Developmental League. Will Melo be joined by other D-League imports?

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge shouldn’t be coy about mining the minors. He found a productive shot-blocker last year in Greg Stiemsma. Two seasons ago the Celtics signed wiry swat man Chris Johnson to a 10-day contract. He was later signed by Portland for the remainder of the 2010-11 season. He’s now on Minnesota with Stiemsma.

And earlier this season the Celtics signed Jarvis Varnardo, but released him, along with 2012 second round draft pick Kris Joseph before their contracts became guaranteed. Miami later signed Varnardo for the rest of the season.

Ainge seemingly has a knack for identifying NBA talent in the D-League. If a prospect intrigues Ainge, he should trust his intuition.

Bringing back Joseph might be a possibility. Head coach Doc Rivers liked what he saw from the Syracuse product during the Summer League and Joseph’s all-around game seems like it would fit nicely with Boston’s move-the-ball style of play. But a rebounder is a priority, not a small forward.

NBA D-League Free Agent Rebounding Leaders

As of 2/1/2013

Rank Player Height-Weight RPG
2 Luke Harangody 6'8" 240 13.4
6 James Mays 6'9" 230 10.8
7 Arinze Onuaku 6'9" 275 10.5
8 Brian Butch 6'11" 240 10.4
9 Rick Jackson 6'9" 240 10.2
10 Lazar Hayward 6'6" 225 10.0
14 Paul Harris 6'4" 230 9.6
15 Sean Evans 6'8" 250 9.4
16 Zach Andrews 6'9" 230 9.1
16 Tyler Wilkerson 6'8" 240 9.1
18 D.J. Kennedy 6'6" 215 8.8
20 Chris Wright 6'8" 225 8.7
20 DaJuan Summers 6'8" 240 8.7
23 Henry Simms 6'10" 245 8.5
24 Michael Eric 6'10" 240 8.4

According to the NBA D-League web site, 15 of the top-25 rebounders in the D-League are not on assignment from an NBA club. They can sign with any NBA team. Ironically, the second leading rebounder is former Celtics 2010 second round pick, Luke Harangody.

For more athleticism, Boston can sign either Chris Wright or DaJuan Summers from the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ D-League affiliate.

If Boston wants a point guard, Ainge missed out on Shelvin Mack, who was a Red Claw to start the season, but signed 10-day contracts with Washington, Toronto and currently with Philadelphia. Maine found an excellent replacement in Andre Barrett, who’s leading the D-League with 11.8 assists per game after eight games with the Red Claws.

The argument can be made that an NBA veteran is a better fit for the Celtics. But Boston has failed repeatedly acquiring veteran big men: Mikki Moore, Troy Murphy, Jermaine O’Neal, Ryan Hollins, Sean Williams, Shelden Williams and Patrick O’Bryant are Boston’s failures since the 2008-09 season.

Even if Ainge guesses right and adds a productive veteran to the roster, he will help now, but a young player with potential could contribute now while also making his case for subsequent years with the Celtics. Certainly Boston would have kept Stiemsma if they were able to meet his contract demands.

Boston has enough available roster spots for two players. There’s no reason why one shouldn’t be a Developmental League player. How the Celtics play until the February 21 trade deadline might determine if a D-Leaguer gets a shot with the Celtics.

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