Celtics Mailbag: Paul Pierce Should Still Start Next Season, But C’s Need to Develop Jeff Green for the Future


Celtics Mailbag: Paul Pierce Should Still Start Next Season, But C's Need to Develop Jeff Green for the Future While the Bruins fight through the Eastern Conference final, one win away from a shot at the long-coveted Stanley Cup, there’s another team in Boston that’s not so fortunate.

The Celtics are two weeks into a long, painful, deeply contemplative summer. They fell short of another run to the NBA Finals in 2011 — way short — and what comes next is a long period of self-reflection as the C’s ponder where they stand.

You all are deep in thought, too. This week’s batch of questions is rich with postmortem analysis, worry about this transitional period and perhaps a little optimism for the Celtics’ long-term future. There’s a little of everything in the mailbag these days.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week. You guys have been better than ever.

Why is there still a Celtics mailbag when the season ended in disappointment?
–Bruins in Mexico

I’m guessing this wasn’t intended as a serious question. Don’t care. Answering it anyway.

In my opinion, this is the best possible time to have a Celtics mailbag. So what if the C’s aren’t playing games anymore? This is the time of year that everyone has questions. What will happen to the C’s next year? Who stays, who goes? Whose role changes as the team looks to get younger and keep up in the competitive East?

There’s no more intriguing time than the time right after a disappointing postseason. Everyone’s in panic mode, and everyone’s ready to throw his two cents into the rebuilding effort.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

With all that’s been said thus far about roster changes and so forth, my biggest question is: Why have Paul Pierce come off the bench? I can understand cutting his minutes back to save on wear and tear? but off the bench?

I’m with you, Glenn. It would be blasphemy to take away Paul Pierce‘s spot in the starting five. He’s earned that spot, and he’s held it down for 13 years. He’s the leader. He’s the face of the franchise. It just wouldn’t be a Celtics game without hearing “The Captain and The Truth” introduced at the TD Garden.

That said, there will probably be subtle changes next year to Doc Rivers‘ rotation of wing guys. Pierce should still start, but he probably shouldn’t play 35 minutes a night anymore. The more the C’s dip into their bench to spell Pierce, the more they’ll be able to keep his legs fresh for the fourth quarter. They need to get their captain back to attacking the basket in crunch time.

Also, they need to make a concerted effort to develop Jeff Green for the future. He’s capable of being much more than just a seventh man, but the C’s need to push him to do more. He has to become a bigger part of their plans on both ends of the floor.

Any thoughts on the Jeff Green situation? I feel like he could be a great addition for the future, but he still has a lot of work to do.
–Griffin Morrow

Hey, speak of the devil.

Yes, Green definitely still has work to do. We may have underestimated the challenge of making that transition from Oklahoma City to Boston. It’s hard being a Celtic — you’ve got to compete with a handful of future Hall of Famers for touches. The change for Green is more mental than anything.

Green has to learn to be the athletic, running small forward rather than the post player he was in OKC. He has to fit into the C’s defensive schemes. He has to be equally comfortable starting or coming off the bench — he did very little of the latter on the Thunder, but the Celtics will expect him to do a little of both.

The C’s need to make a qualifying offer of just under $6 million if they want to keep Green. You can expect them to do so, and what’s more, you can expect them to overpay to keep Green around. They traded Kendrick Perkins for a reason. They want Green to be a part of their plans long-term.

Should the Celtics look for a young power forward to spell Kevin Garnett?
–Chuck Lockhart

Yes, definitely. Like Pierce, Kevin Garnett knows he can’t go on playing major minutes for the rest of his career. KG turned 35 last week, and he needs help if he’s going to stay afloat.

Last year, that guy was Glen Davis, but now it looks as though Big Baby may take his talents elsewhere. The C’s need to find a replacement pronto, lest they find themselves forced to overextend their aging big man.

The C’s need someone who’s young, athletic, plays defense, crashes the boards and stays healthy. I’ve suggested Kris Humphries as one option, although the Celtics might not be able to afford him. He’ll be looking for a monster contract to pay off the $2 million engagement ring he just bought for Kim Kardashian.

Who do you think would be a good fit as a sort of combo guard?

That’s easy: Delonte West.

The Celtics went looking last summer for a guy who could play both backup guard positions, handling the ball in place of Rajon Rondo and also spelling Ray Allen on the wing. Delonte was able to fill that role. He got a bad rap because he missed most of the season — not only with wrist and ankle injuries, but also a 10-game suspension to start the season — but when he played, he was very good.

Delonte made the league minimum on a one-year deal this season, just over $850,000. The Celtics made a low-risk investment in him because they weren’t sure his head was on straight. Now that he’s proven it is, he deserves a raise.

If Delonte doesn’t work out, Aaron Brooks might be another possible option. He’s an athletic guard who could give the Celtics instant offense off the bench — like Nate Robinson was, only good at basketball.

I wondered why Von Wafer saw so few minutes all season, but especially after the trade, when the team struggled to score points. Wafer has shown flashes of brilliance in brief and scattered stints, but rarely gets any playing time. Am I the only guy wondering why this potential scoring threat is going to waste?
–Mike King

You’re not the only one, Mike, but you’re probably one of very few.

Wafer definitely has talent. He’s young, he’s athletic and he has good basket-attacking instincts. That alone is enough to keep him in the league for a while.

Then again, he can’t do much else. Von remarked at one point early last season that he wasn’t “known for his defense,” and Doc Rivers later responded, “Then he won’t be known here.” That’s really all you need to know. Wafer prides himself on being a strong offensive player, but he hasn’t grown enough in the other aspects of his game.

Like West, Wafer was on a one-year contract this past season. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t expect him back.

What are the Celtics’ possibilities in the draft with the No. 25 pick? Most of what I’ve read points to Jordan Williams of Maryland. How good is this kid?

I’m hearing the same Jordan Williams buzz you are. And at least to me, he seems like the perfect pick.

The bullish appraisal of Williams is as “the next Kendrick Perkins.” I’m not sure if I’d go that far. Williams is only 6-foot-9, and he’s not as bulky as Perk. He looks like a totally different guy. He might turn out to be one of those tweeners without a natural position in the NBA — too small to be a center, not rangy enough to be a forward — but with the No. 25 pick in a weak draft, the Celtics should probably take a chance on him anyway. He’s a strong defensive player and a hell of a rebounder. Williams averaged 11.8 rebounds per game in his sophomore year at Maryland, 3.7 of which were offensive. Rebounding numbers almost always translate to the NBA.

Will Williams be the next Perk? No, probably not. But the Celtics need to add depth with players like him — young big guys who can jump into their rotation right away and make at least some impact.

Who are some possible big men the Celtics can go after this summer? Are Nene from Denver or Marc Gasol realistic targets, or is that setting the bar too high?

Both of those guys are probably out of reach, Josh. Nene is going to be a very hot commodity on the open market this summer — he’s the best big man available by far. He might even command max money, or at least close to it. As for Marc Gasol, he’s a restricted free agent, and I’d expect the Grizzlies to do whatever it takes to keep him around.

The Celtics have no cap space this summer, so they basically only have two options to add another big man (besides the draft, of course). They can spend their mid-level exception (assuming it still exists after this whole lockout mess is resolved), or they can sign smaller deals for either the biannual exception or the league minimum.

Potential guys in that first, more expensive group: Greg Oden, Samuel Dalembert, maybe even Yao Ming. Smaller pickups: the aforementioned Humphries, Jared Jeffries, Jason Collins, Ryan Hollins.

No can’t-miss superstars on those lists, sorry. The Celtics can’t afford any more of those.

What are the chances of the C’s getting Dwight Howard to come to Boston?

Ah, yes, the $100 million question. Time for the weekly Dwight Howard rundown.

Honestly, I think the Celtics’ chances are slim. The competition is going to be very, very tough. The Lakers can offer Howard a glamorous position, following in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal in L.A. The Nets can offer him a co-authorship of a future dynasty alongside Deron Williams. The Knicks will have cash to spend. And oh, by the way — there’s still a very good chance the Magic find a way to keep him. The Celtics are a darkhorse in this race, and the leading contenders are very tough.

But the Celtics are going to keep hope alive. Howard gives them a chance to sustain their championship hopes for years to come, building a bridge from the Big Three era to the next generation of title-caliber C’s teams. Danny Ainge isn’t going to miss out on Howard without a fight.

I’d say he’s got about a 10 percent chance of actually getting Howard. But what a magical 10 percent chance it is.

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