In a best case scenario, Marquis Daniels will make his return to the court at some point later this month. While his return will not magically solve the issues the Celtics have been facing for the past month, his presence should certainly help steer the ship in the right direction. Specifically, a handful of players should be affected by his return, including:
Tony Allen: It will be interesting to see how Allen's minutes are affected once Daniels works his way back into game shape and is capable of playing consistent minutes. I touched on this in an article a few days ago, but Tony filled in admirably during Paul Pierce's absence with a knee infection in December, and he's played even better the last handful of games (specifically on defense, which at times, has turned into offense for him), to the point where Doc Rivers can't simply remove him from the lineup.
The addition of Marquis might have spelled certain doom for Allen at the start of the season, but (ironically), thanks to the injuries this team has suffered, Tony's been able to prove his worth. Now the question becomes, does Doc continue to play one of his starters with four reserves, which has been his custom routine? Or, does he give the starters more rest, and go with a lineup resembling: Eddie House, Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis/Shelden Williams/Brian Scalabrine? Can he feel confident with that lineup?
Tony's averaged 18.1 minutes his past 10 games - a number that seems to suit him, in terms of production, focus and confidence. Let's see what happens to that number upon Daniels' return. If his minutes do remain consistent, the Celtics suddenly have a very defensively sturdy second unit.
Eddie House: It's been a feast-or-famine season for House so far, especially in terms of his three-point shooting. Despite his claims that he can handle the ball, it's no secret that Eddie's true talents lie in his ability to curl effectively off screens and get his shot off quicker than almost any other guard in the league.
It's obvious that Eddie becomes a virtually ineffective player when the burden of ball handling is placed upon him, so with Marquis back in the fold and presumably handling the ball for the second unit, Eddie should be able to revert back to his old-fashioned roaming self, spotting up in the corners and curling off those screens.
Eddie shot just 32.5 percent from three-point nation throughout the month of January, a far cry from the 44.4 percent rate he was bombing threes last year, which resulted in a single-season team record. Keep an eye on Eddie's shooting percentages once Marquis returns.
Paul Pierce/Ray Allen: There was major talk entering the season about limiting the minutes of these two players, yet, due to injuries, that simply hasn't happened. Ray's shooting percentages are all down from last season. Is it a question of too many minutes? Couple that question with Ray's increasing age and you could have a legitimate argument. With Marquis back in the picture, perhaps Ray will garner some extended stretches on the bench, conserve those legs, and return fresh for late game situations, while also preserving him for future games down the road.
As for Pierce, it's difficult to argue his age is causing him to break down, seeing as he's still boasting consistent averages in scoring, rebounding and assists, as well as his career-high in three-point field goal percentage. With Pierce, Daniels' relief could potentially cut back on some of the rather quirky injuries Pierce has battled through this season. Between the knee infection, the repeated knee collisions he's suffered through in the wake of the infection, and now the undisclosed foot/ankle injury he suffered against the Wizards, Daniels' presence could allow Pierce to sit for somewhat longer stretches, to better heal and preserve his body for the playoffs. Fortunately, none of Pierce's injuries have been very serious so far, but those nagging injuries can still limit a players' effectiveness, while always posing the threat of turning into something more serious if not treated/rested properly.
Doc Rivers: Doc will have quite a few decisions to make once Daniels returns, but he'll also have an extremely versatile weapon on his hands that he can use to his advantage. Doc was deemed the "mad scientist" earlier in the season, and with Daniels back in the swing of things, he'll have the option of experimenting with a number of different lineups, in order to create some mismatches for opponents.
Balance of Doc's Bench: With Daniels, Tony Allen, House, Wallace and Davis posing as the second five, Doc has an awful lot of balance with that lineup. You've got your slashers and effective wing defenders in Allen and Daniels, your spot up shooter in House, your other shooter in Wallace (despite his low numbers) who also pulls out the opposing team's second unit center, thus freeing up the lane more for the slashers. And then you have Davis plugging himself in the middle, hopefully helping to clean up on the offensive glass, while converting the dump off passes he'll receive from the slashers.
Above all, Daniels will contribute in almost every statistical area the Celtics have struggled in lately. He won't dominate a game with rebounds, but he'll collect a few over the course of a game. He'll also hopefully help the Celtics cut back on their turnover rate. He'll dish out a few assists and score a few points in the process as well, all while playing above average defense.
These changes might not be noticeable right away, but his presence could result in something I've deemed "Trickle-Down Statistics". Daniels' return won't automatically solve the turnover problem, but maybe with him at the helm in the second quarter instead of Eddie House, the Celtics don't commit that costly turnover, and instead convert a basket that otherwise would have resulted in a hoop for the other team, which would have swung the momentum in their favor.
And gradually, maybe the Celtics' turnover number decreases, even if it's just by one or two giveaways a game. We've seen how costly a single turnover can be. The less there are, the better the Celtics will be. Daniels can affect other areas of the game in this way as well. With Daniels potentially limiting something like turnovers, perhaps that results in more baskets for the Celtics, which results in fewer opportunities for defensive rebounds for the other team, which results in fewer possessions for the other team, etc. Again, these won't be monumental differences, or even necessarily noticeable ones right away, but don't be shocked to see a change in some of the statistics that have so far hurt the Celtics this season.
Only time will tell. But we certainly have reason for hope once Daniels makes his return.