Having served his NBA-mandated 10-game suspension, Delonte West will make his regular season debut Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards. Bringing West back into the picture, however, raises an interesting question about one player in particular: What happens to Von Wafer?
I've been mulling this one over all weekend, and was going to touch on it tomorrow, but many of you guys picked up on this idea in the comments section of two recent articles, so now I'm technically late in the game. Well, the way I see it, we can still use this as a separate thread to discuss the matter in greater detail.
It seemed to be a commonly held belief that the first 10 games of this season would be something of an "audition" for Wafer, while West served his suspension. The notion made sense, as he could have stepped in and served as one of the members of a second unit comprised of all bench players, which would hopefully help to limit the minutes of the starters. Instead, he's appeared in only seven of the team's 10 games, and has averaged a mere 4.6 minutes. As you can probably guess, his production was all but non-existent.
Rather than play Wafer, Doc Rivers elected to use insert either Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo into the second unit to team up with Nate Robinson in the back court. Seeing as Doc didn't elect to use Wafer when West wasn't able to play, it seems pretty obvious that he's not about to go with Wafer now that West is about to return. As a result, it would seem that Wafer has become expendable.
So, what should the Celtics do? Realistically, Boston's two main options are cutting him or simply moving him to the inactive list.
Wafer's only on a partially guaranteed Veteran's Minimum contract (according to HoopsHype, he's set to make $915,852 this season, which is chump change in the NBA), meaning there won't be any significant salary cap implications if the Celtics decide to cut ties with him. As Ryan DeGama of Celtics Hub notes, this decision could come down to the inconsistent health of Boston's stock of big men. Both of the O'Neals have already suffered injuries, and Jermaine in particular could miss extended time with an ailing left knee. Semih Erden's battling a banged up left shoulder that Doc recently said will require surgery down the road, although to Erden's credit, the shoulder hasn't seemed to limit him too heavily in the minutes he has played recently.
If the C's do cut Wafer and decide to pursue another big man, their best bet is to probably look internally and bring up either Stephane Lasme or Tiny Gallon from the Maine Red Claws. Based on what we saw during the preseason, Lasme would probably get the nod over Gallon. User 'mmmmm' noted in the comments recently that if the Celtics did bring up Lasme, he could fill in at small forward and Glen Davis could slide over to the center spot for stretches.
If the Celtics are comfortable with the potent four-guard rotation of Rondo, Allen, Robinson, and West, and didn't feel the need to cut Wafer, they could place him on the inactive list and keep rookie Luke Harangody on the active roster. But, having not played once this season, is Harangody the Celtics' best option as an insurance big man should Jermaine miss extended time? If Jermaine is out for a longer stretch, the Celtics' big man rotation would consist of Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Davis, Erden, and Harangody. Could this work until Kendrick Perkins returns in either January or February (and that's assuming Shaq stays healthy until then, which certainly isn't guaranteed)? Or would you feel more comfortable with Garnett, Shaq, Davis, Erden, and Lasme?
If you're wondering why the Celtics can't just keep him on the active roster, it's because doing so would sacrifice a spot that would otherwise go to a back-up big man instead, and right now, that area of the court requires the most attention. The Celtics' back court is pretty secure with Rondo, Allen, Robinson, and West.
Ideally, Jermaine's knee would heal overnight and we wouldn't even need to have this discussion. But things don't always work out as planned. Either way, Wafer now finds himself in a difficult situation, and, no matter how the Celtics approach these circumstances, he probably won't be seeing much playing time in the near future.