The Boston Celtics had few silver linings in their semifinals series with the Miami Heat.
Delonte West was one of them.
The reserve guard proved efficient and consistently productive, averaging 16 points and a steal per 36 minutes of play. His shooting percentages were among the best on the team: 53 percent from the field, 47 percent from 3-point range. By midway through the series, many Boston fans were clamoring for West to start over the injured Rajon Rondo.
Leaving the debate about the wisdom of that opinion aside, Boston needs a legitimate backup guard who can help lead a second unit that's bound to be filled with newcomers. Avery Bradley, entering his second season in the league, is the only reserve currently under contract, and he isn't quite ready to fill that void.
Delonte, given legal and injury concerns, should come cheap. The 28-year-old cost Boston just $850,000 in 2010-11, and (depending on what the new collective bargaining agreement looks like) should be willing to sign for the veteran minimum. West's agent, after all, has repeatedly said the Washington, D.C., native wants to be back in green.
Consider the alternatives:
J.R. Smith: Can't play the point, can't play defense and would likely command Boston's entire mid-level exception.
Earl Watson: Who? He's a veteran ball-handler but doesn't score and is entering the twilight years at 32.
T.J. Ford: Again, likely too pricey and poses the same injury risk as West.
A bunch of other candidates are either restricted free agents or too expensive — or both.
Meanwhile, under the watchful eyes of Doc Rivers and the Big Three, West has behaved himself as a Celtic — and, when healthy, mounted a productive regular season. Per 36 minutes of play, West averaged 10.7 points, five assists, three boards and close to two steals — some of those career highs.
He can play both the point- and 2-guard, spreads the floor on offense, can keep his counterpart in check on defense and knows Doc's system better than any outsider the Celtics could pursue.
Yes, there are concerns about his proclivity for injury (he played just 24 regular-season games in 2010-11), but that's why West is available at a discount. Perhaps more important, he has continually proven he's willing to put in the rehab work. Heck, the guy came back from a broken wrist in less than two months.
With likely just one shot left at a title before a major rebuilding project, the Celtics need a veteran behind Rondo. Delonte made his case in May against Miami — and it's one the Boston brass should strongly consider.
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