Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Celtics Should Be Talking to Erick Dampier

There's been an interesting discussion over at Celtics Hub regarding whether the Celtics should release Von Wafer (who has done nothing so far and is unlikey to do anything moving forward) and sign another big. The pros for such a move are summed up here; the cons are here.

I have no idea if the team has reached out to Erick Dampier, nor do I know if Dampier is even remotely interested in joining the team as an insurance policy. And make no mistake, that's all Dampier would be -- an insurance policy. The offseason signings of Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal were supposed to make center a position of strength for the Celtics, especially when Kendrick Perkins returns from ACL surgery, which presumably will be some time in February. If any two of those three guys are healthy, whatever big the Celtics may add is superfluous and won't see the floor much.

But Shaq has already missed six of the team's first ten games, and Jermaine is having some problems with his knees and may miss the next few weeks. It's irrational to think that the O'Neals' nagging injuries will just disappear as the season goes on. Plus, even when Perk gets back, it's not like he'll be his old self right away.

Dampier, the 14-year veteran who was cut by the Bobcats after going to Charlotte from Dallas in the Tyson Chandler trade, is the option that makes the most sense.

One option that has been suggested is that Boston bring back Stephane Lasme, the journeyman who came oh-so-close to making the team out of training camp. But at 6-8, Lasme isn't big enough to play center. While big minutes for Kevin Garnett (35 mpg) and Glen Davis (31 mpg) are an ancillary concern about the lack of center depth, Davis also isn't big enough to play center. Signing Lasme would thus only cut into Davis' minutes, and Davis is both young enough to handle his increased workload and effective enough that his being on the court a lot is not a major problem. With Lasme, KG would still have to play big minutes, and would still have to play out of position at center.

Adding a guy like Magnum Rolle isn't an attractive option because he's a rookie and lacks the experience to be a major contributor, even if Doc trusts him with substantial playing time, which he won't. The other D-League possibility being bandied about, Tiny Gallon, is both too small to play center (like Lasme) and too raw to be a contributor (like Rolle). The Celtics already have a young big man on their roster, Semih Erden. While Erden hasn't been spectacular, he's shown that he's capable enough to play an emergency role, and he has the size to play center. It's unreasonable to expect that Rolle or Lasme or Gallon would be even as effective as Erden has been in the early going.

I don't think rookie Luke Harangody, already on the Celtics roster, is the answer, either. He suffers from the same inexperience and size issues that the young guys listed above have. While he was something of a rebounding machine in college, he's shown a preference for playing the wing -- though perhaps that's in part because it looked like he might need to be able to play small forward in order to get minutes with the team.

To be sure, Dampier has his limitations. He's close to a non-factor offensively and turns the ball over a lot for a player with those limitations. But he's a decent defender, and has NBA size and experience. If the Celtics are going to cut Wafer (their last non-guaranteed contract) and thus hamper their roster flexibility, then Dampier is the only guy who makes sense.

And time is of the essence. Dampier's situation is kind of curious; he was rumored to be signing with the Rockets, but didn't, and it's unclear to me why he hasn't hooked up with Miami, where he'd be an obvious improvement over Joel Anthony. As the Heat continue to struggle on the interior, I imagine they'll make another, stronger push for Dampier, and I don't expect that Dampier will be on the market too much longer.

As far as roster flexibility goes, while it's true that Danny and Doc would be hamstrung by cutting Wafer and giving Dampier a guaranteed contract, I'm not sure for what the team would need that roster flexibility, other than another big. Delonte West's return gives the Celtics three solid backup wing players (West, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson), and rookie Avery Bradley, if forced into duty due to injury, would probably be at least as effective as the young project bigs mentioned earlier. And I haven't heard of any veteran centers that are likely to become available via trade later in the season -- at least not any that could be had for Wafer's modest contract.

A bigger concern for me, if the Celtics signed Dampier, would be what happens if the O'Neals and Perkins do stay (read: get) healthy late into the season. Then they'd have a situation where they'd have four veteran centers and not nearly enough minutes to go around. For that reason, as mentioned above, I'm not sure Dampier is interested in signing with Boston. But it's a conversation worth having. It appears that center is a position that needs to be addressed, and the time for addressing it is now.


Ramon said...

what's patrick o'bryant up to these days?

H.S. Slam, Ph.D said...

Ramon, I know you're new here, but we don't mention the POB 'round these parts.

According to the supremely excellent ShamSports.com, O'Bryant is playing in China this year.