Spotlighting and Breaking Down Boston Celtics' Shooting Guard Position
The Celtics are woefully thin at point guard and center, but their roster features four talented players at the 2-guard spot who could realistically play a role in 2013-14 for this rebuilding Boston team.
A legitimate argument could be made for any of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, MarShon Brooks or Jordan Crawford to play 25-plus minutes on any given night, and given that they each provide slightly different skill sets for the C’s, that may prove to be the case.
While Boston’s lack of playmakers besides Rajon Rondo ultimately sank their season after his ACL injury, it appears the team is again heading down a similar path, with a roster featuring several combo guards but none who are suited to run the offense besides Rondo.
As Boston readies for its first season under Brad Stevens and a year of attempting to figure out who will be with the team long-term, let’s take time to break down Boston's shooting guard situation, which could change drastically by the end of the year.
Note: Projected minutes for each player are overall, not only at shooting guard.
Starter: Avery Bradley
Projected Stats: 10.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.3 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 30.5 MPG, 44.2 FG%, 33.2 3P%
Although Bradley did not progress as well as many hoped during his third campaign, he remains one of the league’s more intriguing players as a 22-year-old All-Defensive team member whose ceiling is still somewhat unclear offensively.
After progressing as a jump shooter in 2011-12, Bradley regressed somewhat, shooting just 31.7 percent from three-point range. He managed to hit 43 percent of his jumpers from 16-23 feet, per HoopData, but Bradley simply looked less willing to shoot from the perimeter.
He also had some difficulties converting in close. Bradley is a very good backdoor cutter who has the ability to shake his defender and get open, but he scored on just 51.5 percent of his shots at the rim, according to HoopData, a career low by far.
In the postseason, Bradley was forced to play primarily point guard and had some major difficulty with the role. He could not run the offense and at times struggled just to bring the ball up the court.
He wound up averaging 6.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting just 40.5 percent overall and 25 percent from three.
Bradley also could not contain New York point guard Raymond Felton, who used his quickness to blow past Bradley.
Still, even with shortcomings, Bradley remains one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. He plays sensational on-ball defense and has the ability to create pressure and keep a team from comfortably setting up its offensive sets.
According to Synergy Sports, opponents shot just 32.3 percent against Bradley and an anemic 30.3 percent on isolation plays.
Though his 6’2” stature means that bigger, more physical guards can sometimes push him around, Bradley is scrappy and uses his quickness to offset his lack of height and strength.
Bradley will be a restricted free agent in the 2014 offseason, and with wing defense at such a premium nowadays, there will certainly be teams expressing interest in signing him.
While Boston will likely will opt to wait and see as opposed to giving him an extension before October 31, Bradley should play heavy minutes as the Celtics’ primary wing-stopper and one of their key secondary playmakers.
Key Reserve: Courtney Lee
Projected Stats: 9.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 26.2 MPG, 45.5 FG%, 38.4 3P%
While it was considered a heady signing when Boston acquired Lee from the Houston Rockets in a sign-and-trade during the 2012 offseason, Lee’s first year with the C’s did not exactly go as planned.
Lee struggled with Doc Rivers’ system on both ends of the court and was forced to shuffle between the point and 2-guard spots due to injuries, never fully finding a comfortable role.
For the year, he averaged just 7.8 points, 2.4 boards and 1.8 assists while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Though he played better as a starter, averaging nine points in 39 starts, Lee still figures to be the backup to Bradley as the Boston front office tries to determine whether or not Bradley is worth the lucrative extension he may demand.
Offensively, Lee primarily spent time as either a backup ball-handler or a spot-up shooter from three. He shot a respectable 37.3 percent on spot-up threes, but Lee was not the consistent double-digit scorer he was with Houston.
With little depth behind Rondo at the point, Lee figures to again log some minutes at the 1, but he should be a more natural fit in Stevens’ more fluid offensive system.
Additionally, Lee provides Boston with another quality perimeter defender capable of guarding multiple positions.
Lee held opposing shooting guards to a 12.9 PER, per 82Games, and also is capable of covering point guards thanks to his quick feet and active hands.
In one-on-one settings there are few better wing defenders than Lee. He helped opposing guards to 31.7 percent shooting in isolation and just 39.8 percent overall, according to Synergy Sports
Thanks to his defensive presence, versatility and outside shooting, Lee should find a role as the first guard off the bench for Boston in 2013-14 and ultimately have a more successful sophomore season with the Celtics.
Key Reserve: MarShon Brooks
Projected Stats: 8.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.2 BPG, 0.8 SPG, 20.8 MPG, 43.3 FG%, 31.0 3P%
Of all the pieces Boston acquired from Brooklyn, Brooks is the only one who figures to be a part of Boston's long-term plans.
Brooks struggled to earn consistent minutes last season behind Joe Johnson, but figures to receive more regular time off the Celtics bench. For his career, Brooks boasts averages of 8.5 points, 2.4 boards and 1.6 dimes on 44 percent shooting from the field and 30.2 percent from distance.
At 6’5”, Brooks has ideal size to play the 2-guard spot and should fit comfortably next to Rondo or Bradley in the backcourt.
Despite his inconsistent outside shot, Brooks has the ability to attack the basket and finish in the paint. He connected on 68.7 percent of his looks at the rim in 2012-13, per HoopData.
Though he is occasionally prone to ball-watching and has some problems in one-on-one coverage, Brooks held opposing 2-guards to a respectable PER of 13.7 last season, according to 82Games.
Still, the 24-year-old guard is entering just his third year in the league and has plenty of untapped potential. With uncertainty around the futures of Bradley and Lee in Boston, it is important that Brooks gets an opportunity to integrate himself in Stevens’ offensive and defensive schemes.
It is unlikely Brooks starts during his inaugural season in green, but he will be a consistent scoring option off the bench. Expect his minutes to increase as the season goes on and he steals minutes away from Lee and Bradley.
Additional Depth: Jordan Crawford
Projected Stats: 4.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 10.2 MPG, 37.4 FG%, 29.4 3P%
Boston brought in Crawford at the trade deadline to give its listless offense some punch, but while he managed four 15-plus point games with the C’s, he shot a mere 41.5 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three-point range.
To make matters worse, he was a complete non-factor in the playoffs, logging 11.8 minutes in five contests and scoring just 18 points in the entire series.
His most memorable moment from the postseason turned out to be his role in a post-game kerfuffle after Boston’s Game 6 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Crawford has proven that he can score in this league with a career average of 12.7 points per game, but those points have come on 11.9 field-goal attempts and he has never developed much of a stroke from deep.
At 6’4” Crawford can also play some point guard if need be, but he is too shaky of a decision-maker to be trusted running the offense.
He is also not much of a spot-up threat, connecting on just 40.3 percent of his spot-up attempts with the Celtics, per Synergy Sports.
By acquiring Brooks in the Pierce-Garnett trade, Boston indicated that it does not see Crawford as a long-term piece and will likely use him sparingly as a spark off the bench.
While he is one of the few Celtics capable of creating his own shot, he does not have the defensive acumen of Bradley and Lee or the athleticism and upside of Brooks.
Ultimately, with three more interesting players ahead of him on the depth chart and Crawford’s shoot-first identity not meshing with the new culture under Stevens, don’t expect to see all that much of the former Xavier guard in 2013-14.
Add to all that the report from CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely that Boston would “love” to deal him if there was an opportunity, and it is not exactly shaping up to be a breakout campaign for Crawford.
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