Off-season thoughts #2: the Walker & Giddens Show.
June 6th. The anniversary for Tetris. The anniversary of D-Day. The tennis great Bjorn Bjorg’s birthday. What a day. I’d like to now chalk something else up for remembrance of June 6th: the day the proud writer at Loscy pushed Celtics Nation to hop on the Bill Walker & JR Giddens bandwagon for the next season.
The Walker/Giddens 2009-2010 campaign starts now.
On the same day I tried to explore some of the salary cap and roster issues that the Celtics face for next season, the folks over at CelticsBlog pretty much completed a dissertation about the collective-bargaining-agreement, salary cap exceptions, and a run-down of how the Celtics’ roster will be affected by all of potential issues with money. It was like me bringing In-N-Out Burger to a potluck dinner and CelticsBlog bringing Gordon Ramsay, Paul Bocuse, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain, Rocco DiSpirito, Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Emeril, and Charlie Trotter with a trailer full of fresh produce and organic beef. (I got the list of top chefs by googling “best chefs in the world.”)
Anyway, check out the last post for more thoughts on who might be moved and who will probably stay for 2009-2010.
Lots of questions linger about what kind of team we can assemble to make another banner run. In sports, no team is ever complete and no player is ever safe. Knowing that nothing is really ever set in stone, I think that many of you would agree on one thing: all 5 of our starters from 2008-2009 will be back again in green for 2009-2010. This is the same starting five that presented you with the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the 2007-2008 championship season. Although the window is closing and our biggest starts are aging, we are also seeing the accelerated maturation of Perkins and Rondo. More importantly, you are seeing the growing trust between all 5 players– when healthy, is there a better starting 5 in the association? Taking my Celtics hat for a second, I really don’t think that there is a better group of starters in the NBA. Defensively, we are as sound and tight as any group. We have the best, yes, the BEST, defensive front court in the league. Individually, each player adds a dash of offensive to create a team that can put points on the board in a myriad of ways. It is an unselfish team despite 3 future hall of famers and a young gunner handling the ball. They can score inside and out– on the block or behind the arc. In a set offense or in transition. 4 different players that can go ISO if need be. 4 different players are capable of dropping 25 points on you without even blinking. That is how good they are.
The key to raising banner #18 will rest on these 5 gentlemen’s shoulders of course, but as we learned this year, the weight has to be shared a bit with the bench. We’ve heard Doc talk about the need for some veteran presence and composure on the bench. We need to get a veteran point guard. We need to get a veteran big man. Whether that is through an off-season trade (TA an Scal!) or through free agency (there are some delicious names out there for front-court assistance), we know this to be a priority.
But in the middle of the lineup for the second unit, we may not need to search very far. We may able to find 2 swingmen that fill the middle of the lineup in that 2-3-4 holes for only a combined $1.8 million dollars: Bill Walker and JR Giddens.
The Walker and Giddens show.
Let’s start with Walker. I feel like I have been calling for Walker to get some quality PT all season long to speed up his development into the Celtics system and more importantly, to help give some rest to the aging legs of Paul Pierce. Walker is a dynamic player. Unlike the Walker that adorned the #8 before him on the Celtics, this Walker is a fast, quick, strong, sturdy slasher. In the little time we’ve seen Walker play, you can tell he is fearless on the court– he plays with swagger and confidence. He has great instincts about where to be on court: remember all of those ‘oops Rondo threw to Walker? Yeah, me too. In his 2007-2008 season with Kansas State, he averaged an impressive 16 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game across 31 games. The best part: he can play a big 3 or a small 4. That flexibility is key depending on match-ups for second units. This guy is young. This guy is raw. Physically, he can push smaller forwards around and blow past bigger forwards. Even without a a great perimeter shot, he still is effective because he can finish around the rim. With Eddie House floating around the perimeter, who cares if his shot hasn’t fully developed yet. Does it matter right now?
Now JR. Let’s forget about the stuff at Kansas and let’s get down to the possibilities of the future. Even more than Bill Walker, JR Giddens is an explosive offensive player. At 6’5”, 200lbs, he and Walker physically make up a great 2-3 or 3-4 combo off the bench. They are similar in their athletic capabilities: JR has a good build, he’s fast, quick off the dribble, and a creative scorer. If he’s confident, this guy is almost instant offense. He was great in the D-League averaging just under 20 points and posting a FG% higher than 50%.
Both guys are high energy, explosive players. Let’s find moments to send them in together. Let’s send them both in to be the catalyst for the second unit. Can’t you see these guys making a stop on defense, coming back to the other end playing some good old transition basketball with some some acrobatic move ending in an offensive exclamation point? This second unit needs to be an intensely emotional one: with guys like Giddens, Walker, House, Baby, and Powe, you are pretty much guaranteed players that will be fired up to play.
The biggest line-up issue with the Walker & Giddens Show is if Giddens plays off-guard, then what happens to Eddie House? We know he is only highly effective when not handling the ball. We could resolve this by going smaller: veteran PG, Eddie, JR, Walker, veteran center? But then what happens to Big Baby if we re-sign him? We know he’s proven his way to being a reliable back-up for KG, and really, he’s earned that spot. What happens if we re-sign Powe and he returns to the line-up? What a job Danny has this summer…
Let’s stay with Walker for a minute… If Walker becomes Pierce’s back-up. then you can reduce Pierce’s minutes in games from 38 minutes (in 80-09) to 32 minutes per game for next season. Doing this will save the guy 8.2 hours on the court (492 minutes). In other words, Pierce will have eliminated 13 full games from the regular season with the simple 6 minute reduction in each game. Those full 13 games that Pierce won’t have had to play in the regular season will come in handy when the Celtics need him to play anywhere from 16-28 games in the post-season. This is how critical it is that the Celtics sit Pierce more to save his legs. 38 minutes for soon-to-be 32 year old is not going to help this team come next April. Whether this comes from Giddens or Walker, I don’t really care. It has to come from one of the 2 youngsters.
There is no real solution here. I like the idea of the Walker & Giddens show, but them coming together doesn’t make sense… But one of them has to have a developmental breakthrough this off-season. Already on the roster, you have 2 young players that are cheap and realistic options for bench scoring right now. Getting them ready in case the off-season signings and trades don’t work out is the smartest thing. Prepare them as if they will see 12-15 minutes per game. It’s far too early to give either of these guys up– they have the raw potential to be viable options for the future. They are a good back-up plan.
The best way for Giddens and Walker to learn is to start getting minutes in the regular season so they can be trusted in the post-season. To get there, however, it starts this off-season by pushing Bill Walker and Giddens to get in as many summer league games as possible. To constantly be working out. To constantly watch film. To hit the weight room. To take 300 jumpers a day. To work with the coaches about defensive sets and to learn the Coach T system. Bill Walker and JR Giddens need to be at their best come this fall because the Celtics financially may not have any other options. One of these guys needs to be a reliable back-up to Pierce.
The Celtics may not have the liberty of signing anyone that cost more than $6 million dollars this off-season, which severely limits their search in the free agency pool Trades are more likely to help shape the roster for next year… But then again, we have a pretty solid team already in front of us. Let’s face the facts together: we have 3 guys making a combined $50 million next year. Bill Walker and JR Giddens might not be our ideal swingmen, but they might be our choice by default. But, this isn’t a doomsday situation we are faced with. We have to trust Walker and Giddens. Give them a shot. Trust that they are surrounded by some of the best players in the league and possibly even some of the best teammates in recent history. Let them learn… Let them play. Let them play. Let them Play.