Roster spots and minutes in the rotation are up for grabs for the Boston Celtics this season, so their upcoming training camp will be one to keep an eye on.
After jettisoning most of the key veterans from the "Big Three" era, it's the dawn of a new day in Boston. Without stalwarts like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett around to soak up minutes, every player on the roster will be fighting to stake their claims for playing time.
Add the usual fight for roster spots into the mix and you have the recipe for one of the most competitive Celtics' training camps in recent memory.
Jordan Crawford vs. MarShon Brooks
Take it away, Highlander:
Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks will be fighting for the right to be Boston's designated scorer off the bench. It's likely that the man who is left standing will be the only one employed by the Celtics once camp breaks.
There are two factors that will likely decide this battle—efficiency and defense. New head coach Brad Stevens comes from a Butler program that emphasized sharing the basketball, so getting points within the flow of the Celtics' offense will likely be a trait he desires.
Brooks would appear to have the advantage in that regard. Crawford, well known around the league for his gunning, infamously told The Washington Post that, “It’s not a bad shot until you miss it. That’s how it always is.”
His 40.2 percent shooting —four points below Brooks' average— is a product of his penchant from shooting anywhere and every time the ball is in his hands.
Defensively, it might just be a matter of who is the least bad. Crawford's career 109 defensive rating is less than stellar, but Brooks had his defense openly mocked in Brooklyn:
Brooks has the tools with a 7'1" wingspan to be useful on defense, but whether he gets there or not is a mystery. The popular view is that Brooks has more potential than Crawford, but the truth is that both players are just 24 years old with spotty resumes. Their preparation coming into training camp will be a key factor in deciding this battle.
Donte Greene vs. DeShawn Sims
This matchup of tweeners might not be a headline grabber, but Donte Greene and DeShawn Sims are likely fighting for their NBA lives in Boston.
Greene has more NBA experience than his counterpart, having spent the past four seasons as a member of the Sacramento Kings, but playing spot minutes on a terrible team aren't the most encouraging sign for his future.
Sims' journey is a little more interesting, taking him from Maine to South Korea in search of a job. While the level of competition he has faced is not on the same level as Greene, Sims has put up great numbers at his previous stops, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Maine Red Claws, and 22.5 points and 8.3 rebounds during his most recent stop in Lebanon.
If it were as clear-cut as the numbers make it sound, Sims would already have a guaranteed deal. Unfortunately, they come at a woefully inefficient rate. He shot 36.4 percent to achieve those marks in Maine, and poor shot selection has plagued him his entire career.
These two players represent nothing more than lottery tickets for the Celtics. If either one amounts to something, it will be a major bonus going forward. It's more than likely, however, that this is nothing more than a battle between a couple of above-average athletes without a true position. Salary cap implications might play a deciding role in this one.
Kris Humphries vs. Gerald Wallace
After finishing last season second-to-last in NBA rebounding, the Celtics are looking for a source of boards from anyone who can contribute. Two of the main candidates are Brooklyn imports Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace, who are fighting for minutes in a new town for a new team.
Wallace's heyday as the focal point of the Charlotte Bobcats seem well behind him. Last season's averages of 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds were his lowest total since 2002-03, and there doesn't seem to be much reason for hope. With the athleticism that once made him an impact rebounder slipping away, concerns over how much he has left in the tank are valid.
Humphries saw his numbers plummet in a similar fashion last season, but for very different reasons. While Wallace averaged 30.1 minutes, Humphries only managed to get on the court for 18.3 minutes a game. Even with the disparity in playing time, he averaged more rebounds (5.6 vs. 4.6) and win shares per 48 (.109 vs. .072) than Wallace.
The case could be made that Wallace was a more-viable defensive option than Humphries, and Wallaces' 2010 selection to the NBA All-Defense Team would appear to be an indication of just that, but the numbers aren't as friendly. Humphries' 105 defensive rating was just a point higher than Wallace's 104 rating.
Perhaps moving on to a new team will rejuvenate Wallace, but the same could be said for his opponent. Eager to impress a new coach and earn a bigger role, Humphries will have the chance to prove his solid per-36 numbers are not just a product of a relatively small sample size.
While much of the focus in the frontcourt will be on the development of young guns Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, this fight for minutes will have an impact on the short-term ceiling of the Celtics this season.