Leandro Barbosa Deepens Celtics Backcourt But Does Not Solve Backup Point Guard Issue

Leandro Barbosa Deepens Celtics Backcourt But Does Not Solve Backup Point Guard IssueIf Rajon Rondo had his way, he would play 48 minutes a game,
82 games each regular season and at least 16 games (the minimum of wins needed
to win a championship) every postseason. Unfortunately for Rondo, the human
body is not built to withstand that sort of overuse. Fortunately for Celtics
fans, coach Doc Rivers is in charge of Rondo's playing time and is not going to
let Rondo run himself into the ground.

Yet even if Rondo does not challenge Wilt Chamberlain's
1961-62 record of playing every minute of every game, he may need to tote a
heavy burden regardless. While the Celtics have a packed backcourt that
only gets deeper
with the signing of Leandro Barbosa to a one-year contract
worth the veteran's minimum, Rondo is the only "pure" point guard on the roster. That is not
necessarily good or bad. It simply is the reality, and it probably is the way
things will stay for the Celtics, given their payroll constraints.

Barbosa's signing, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports
on Wednesday, may not provide a logical backup for Rondo at the point but does
add even more intriguing combinations for Rivers. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and
Avery Bradley were a disparate enough group before Boston added the once-speedy
6-foot-3 Brazilian guard.

Barbosa is not the answer to the Celtics' prayers for a
prototypical backup point. He is known for running, not running an offense,
although the Brazilian Blur does not move like he used to. He averaged a
career-high 4.0 assists per game for the Suns in 2006-07, when he averaged 18.1
points as a reserve and was virtually unguardable in certain situations. Barbosa
does not have much of a reputation as a defender, either, although court
awareness and defense are not why the Celtics brought him in. Rivers stressed
this week that the Celtics were not preoccupied with adding a point guard at
all costs.

"Point guard, maybe the Heat cut LeBron [James],
whoever," Rivers said. "We're always looking. I think every team is
always looking. If nothing comes of it, does it bother us? No. It'd be great to
get another guy at any position. Obviously, that one would help, but we can
forget that Avery's coming back, too. We don't want to overdo the point guard
thing."

What Barbosa can do, as he showed in the first round of last
season's playoffs, is be a disruptive terror in spurts. Usually playing around
20 minutes per game, Barbosa played a key role in three of the Pacers' four
wins over the Magic, culminating in his seven-point, six-rebound, three-assist
outburst in 20:29 in the deciding fifth game. Still, he was less effective
overall after the midseason trade from Toronto, falling to 16.2 points per 36
minutes from 19.5 points per 36 minutes with the Raptors. In the playoffs, his
productivity toppled to 10.2 points per 36 minutes due to his ineffectiveness
in the Pacers' six-game loss to the Heat.

Some fans who have not watched much basketball in the last
five years might be thrilled with the acquisition of Barbosa, imagining that he
will provide the same offensive punch of the bench as Terry. (These would be
the folks who look at Darko Milicic and still see a failed No. 2 draft pick,
not a career backup who has settled into his minor role.) In reality, none of
the Celtics' existing guards should need to worry about losing their spot in
the rotation and Terry stays the most likely person to assume the ballhandling
duties when Rondo needs a rest.

To prevent anyone from coming away with the impression this
is a bad signing (assuming they have not already), Barbosa is a useful addition
at this price. As noted, he is still dangerous is doses, and as the fifth guard
in a backcourt already filled with potential starters, that dose should be just
about right. He gives Rivers insurance in case Bradley takes longer than
expected to get healthy or if the Celtics suffer any more injuries in their
backcourt. And because Boston's payroll cannot exceed $74.3 million as a
stipulation of using the $5 million mid-level exception on Terry, the Celtics
were not going to find a better player for their needs at that price. To steal
one of Rivers' favorite evaluations, Barbosa could even help the Celtics win a
playoff game at some point.

If the lack of a true backup point guard is the Celtics' one
glaring need, the Barbosa signing did not fix it. But Boston's backcourt
remains "scary deep," as one player put it, and it has gotten a bit
scarier.

Have a question for
Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/loriann_sunsfan

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