KG's healthy, Sheed is at practice and saying all the right things, and the 15-man roster looks to be set. So there's no better time than now to grade Danny Ainge on his offseason maneuvers.
(To be honest, the best time would be after the season, but let's be realistic here. We're Boston fans. We can't wait that long to pass judgment.)
It makes the most sense, in these grading games, to take each of Ainge's moves in turn, from the best (re-signing Big Baby) to the worst (cutting ties with Leon Powe).
Ainge re-upped Baby in August at two years, $6.3 million.
I count this among the president's better deals for two reasons:
1. Davis showed real signs of improvement in the playoffs, averaging 15.8 points, 1.3 steals and 5.6 rebounds a game, while demonstrating further upside with an efficient outside jump shot and the ability to score inside-out on defenders.
2. The more impressive part of the deal was the manner in which Ainge conducted it.
He allowed Baby — who stated publicly that he was in the market for a five-and-50-type deal — to shop himself around. And Davis did, finding suitors in Cleveland, Portland and Utah, among others. C's fans were no doubt shaking in their boots a bit, worried they'd lose their insurance plan for KG's knee.
But Davis came back, limping a bit after realizing the economy (and his lack of height) had shuttered his chances of landing a contract that hefty. That dose of reality allowed Ainge to nab Baby at a very reasonable $3 million per, and for just two years.
Boston got its insurance and did so on the cheap.
The only reason this isn't also a straight-up "A" is that Sheed, to be completely fair, can be a personality liability (I can hear it already: "Wallace picks up another technical.") and is 35 years old.
Other than that, this makes complete sense. Even with Baby, the C's were in need of deeper KG insurance, and one need look no further than Mikki Moore's stats (4.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) from last season to know that the second unit — and the first, for that matter — could use help in the paint. Sheed, a career 15-point, seven-board-a-night guy who shoots 34 percent from beyond the arc, fills both those holes.
Add the fact that Wallace owns an NBA championship ring, is a great friend of Garnett's and was a steal at the midlevel exception ($5.8 million, compared with the $14 million he earned with the Pistons last season), and Ainge looks like a genius on this one.
I included this no-brainer-of-a-move simply for the excuse of posting this link.
Yes, folks, Starbury has officially gone off the deep end. Ainge ended that experiment (3.8 points, 1.6 turnovers, 34 percent shooting) at exactly the right time.
What else did the C's need after fizzling out in the '09 postseason? A backup for Paul Pierce (who averaged 40 minutes a game in the playoffs and is about to turn 32) and someone who can be counted on to bring the ball up the court when Rajon Rondo's on the bench.
Daniels fits that bill. An athletic 6-foot-6, he can play both guard and small forward, and the 28-year-old has the ballhandling skills to occasionally spell Rondo on the point with the first unit. Perhaps more importantly, he's a low-risk proposition at one year and $1.9 million.
Here's where Ainge failed: in not orchestrating a sign-and-trade with Indiana to bring Daniels over. Ditching the oft-injured Tony Allen and expensive Brian Scalabrine would have freed up some dollars (which the Green desperately need) to land a backup point guard (which they also desperately need).
The failure to land that sign-and-trade leads us to the signing of Hudson. The rook finally inked a deal this past week, theoretically rounding out Boston's 15-man roster (unless Hudson doesn't make the final cut).
Here's the problem: He is now — in effect — the primary backup point guard to Rondo, a heavy task for a guy who played his college ball at Tennessee-Martin and spent most of this offseason trying recover from a broken finger.
Sure, Hudson averaged 28 points and eight boards a game in his senior season, but he did so against subpar competition.
The catch is, once Ainge realized he couldn't free up salary with a sign-and-trade for Daniels, his hands were tied — the Celtics are already staring at an $84 million payroll for 2009-10, almost a full $30 million above the NBA's salary cap of $57.7 million. Ainge needed another point guard, and Hudson was likely the easiest/cheapest option available.
This, to me, is the only "What was Danny thinking?" moment of the offseason.
Here's essentially what this boils down to: Boston replaced Leon Powe with Williams. The C's are getting a guy who averages 11.4 points and 10 boards per 36 minutes while they're getting rid of one who gets 16.3 and 10 over the same period of time. To make matters worse, Powe left for conference rival Cleveland.
Did I mention they're the same size (except Powe is more athletic and aggressive) and that they will be banking the same pay (about $850,000) in 2009-10?
All in all, Ainge did a great job of bolstering the roster in the paint, but left some questions unanswered in the backcourt and failed to cut some fat from an exorbitant payroll.