As the dog days of summer drag on there has been a palpable agitation amongst the die-hards for a move to be made. The initial confusion that followed the draft-night trade for Ray Allen has passed for the most part. Fans are waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop that will push this team into true contender status. The anticipation of additional moves has been precipitated both by statements from management as well as the logical assessment of a roster that is still too light on experience.
Belief in rebuilding through the draft has instilled many with a faith in the youth of this team. Rajon Rondo is still widely considered to be the future of this team at the point. Successful 2nd round selections of the past have already elicited high expectations for Glen Davis as well. In short, there isn’t a shortage of optimism when it comes to the potential future of this team.
Yet, even the most vehement "futurists" view this season as a proving ground for the Celtics and its current shot-callers. It’s readily agreed upon that the team needs additional veteran support to augment the talented, but inexperienced rotation of this team.
For instance, most of the constituents of this board would be staunchly against a move that limited Rondo’s ability to grow as the future point guard of this team. But few who follow this team closely would argue that they have complete faith in the 2nd year point guard’s ability to lead this team deep into the playoffs. Almost no one would disagree that a veteran presence would greatly increase the probability for success this season by providing depth and experience to a position thin in both areas.
Read more after the jump.
Everyone who follows the organization knows that the offseason priority has been to acquire veteran help at the point and in the frontcourt. The team has put an emphasis on the backcourt as the number one priority, or at least has intimated that this is the principle area of focus. Beyond Rondo the team currently only has disappointing 4th year man Sebastian Telfair and newly minted rookie Gabe Pruitt as alternative options.
For a team that has just pushed up the time frame for competing in the east, this position falls short in two key areas:
Team objectives: Trading for Ray Allen signifies a move into the "win now" category. Ainge and company have clearly stated their desire to build a 4-6 year window of competitiveness, but a 32 year old Allen and a 30 year old Pierce still need to hit the ground running this season with more reliable veteran options to support their cause.
Team Strategy: Supporting Pierce and Allen goes beyond simply adding a veteran presence of two. From a strategic standpoint, this Celtics squad has a definitive need for top-notch perimeter shooting to complement the inside game of Al Jefferson as well. While the two All Star wings fit the bill, the Celtics are lacking an effective perimeter threat at the Point.
Ainge stated numerous times before the Allen trade that he didn’t want to acquire veterans that only had a couple of years of competitive basketball left in them. It is plausible that Ray Allen is the type of player who can be effective deep into his 30’s, but any additional moves should be for players south of that figure.
A couple of vets in their late 20’s would give more support to the YOUNGER members of this team down the road and help to ease the transition away from Pierce and Allen as they themselves become more complementary in terms of their impact on the game.
Their should be a "middle ground" group of players that bridge the gap between Jefferson(22), Rondo(21), and Pierce(30), Allen(32). These mid 20’s types should also have the type of big-game experience and performance under pressure success that will help them to shine once the regular season ends and the playoffs begin. There is no substitute for big-game experience, which is something that NONE of the young Celtics posses enough of.
Perkins, Jefferson, and Allen are the only young rotation players who have been in the playoffs and their roles were not significant enough to qualify them as "battle-tested" by any stretch. One only needs to look within the Atlantic division for proof of the value that playoff experience brings when it comes to performance.
Toronto Set the Tone
The Raptors ran away with the division last season by relying on the veteran savvy of three players who were short on NBA experience, but long on big-game acumen. Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa, and Jose Calderon were the driving force behind Toronto’s success.
None of these player’s was consider a "star" acquisition and all three cost the team substantially less than their production value would command on the open market if they had been NBA free agents. Yet, it was these three players, along with 1st year NBAer Andrea Bargnani, who solidified the Raptors rotation and pushed them into the playoffs.
Chris Bosh is the one true "star" on this team, but his first playoff appearance was a learning experience at best and a washout at worst. Bosh not only was unable to carry his team during their first round match up with New Jersey, he was carried by them for the most part. As the the series wore on, it was Parker and Calderon who became the driving force behind Toronto’s attack. Both of these players combined to make less than the mid-level exception.
Their ability to perform in the clutch and play intelligent, error free basketball made them more valuable than almost every other rotation player. In contrast, Rasho Nesterovic and Morris Peterson could have taken the series off for all the impact they had and they combine to almost triple the salary of the other two players.
Garbajosa would have no doubt added to the mix as well as he was a major force during the regular season and a former MVP overseas, as was Parker and Calderon. Truly, it was the past resumes of these players that helped them transcend the somewhat derogatory "role player" status to become "central support" players for their NBA club.
These players had been relied upon in a high-level professional environment to be the "go-to" guy, to be what Chris Bosh is supposed to be for Toronto. They have faced pressure and overcome time and again, so it is second nature for them to be in environments that require composure and execution.
The Celtics would be wise to take a page out of Toronto’s playbook. Rumor has it that the team has looked in this direction, (Papaloukas, Jasikavicious) but both times the team has been reluctant to pull the trigger. But, if the NBA success of the Spanish National Team members is any indication, perhaps the third time’s the charm.
In the case of Garbajosa and Calderon, each has played with another player who comes with a more impressive international resume…Juan Carlos Navarro…
The 27 year old Navarro’s resume reads like a record book. It is filled with superlatives that speak to his abilities as both a leader and clutch performer. He’s been called the best guard in Europe, and for good reason: (Stats)
- Named to 05/06 and 06/07 All Euroleague 1st team
- Spanish National Team: 2006 Gold Medalist; 2005 Bronze; 2003 Silver; 2001 Bronze
- Spanish National Champion with FC Barcelona: 98/99, 00/01, 02/03, 03/04
- King’s Cup Champion: 2001, 2003, 2007
- Under 18 European Champion: 1998 and 1999(MVP)
Navarro has steadily improved every year of his career and has won championships at every level he’s played at while serving as a central figure for his team’s success. His statistics have been superb in a league that is better known for its emphasis on team play over individual achievement and his numbers in big-game situations have helped to build his reputation.
Navarro is more of a combo guard than a pure point and he’s played the off-guard for Barcelona as well as for the Spanish national team. But he is a very good ball-handler who can use either hand and doesn’t favor one side of the court. He is comfortable making plays with the ball in his hands as well as playing off-ball and coming off of picks for catch-and-shoot opportunities. His perimeter shooting, first step, and creativity off the dribble allow him to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the court. Navarro knows how to make intelligent basketball plays, both the spectacular and the subtle. (Read more)
Navarro is a great fit for the Celtics in a number of ways:
- His perimeter shooting complements Jefferson’s inside game
- His experience and offensive savvy are a great foil to Rondo’s skill set
- His ability to play with or without the ball will help him to mesh with Pierce and Allen
- His age (27) means that he’ll still be in his prime when Perk/Jefferson/Gomes/TA/Rondo reach theirs
Pierce and Allen are going to do a lot of ball handling and playmaking. Regardless of whom the point guard on the floor is both of these players are going to be making decisions on many of the team’s possessions. Add Jefferson into that equation as another primary ball-handler in the team’s half-court sets and you’ve got a very definitive need from the other two players on the court with them- shooting and slashing ability.
No matter how adept Rondo is at creating shots off the dribble, he’s still not going to be the team’s primary ball-handler this season. The point guard’s role on this team is going to be to bring the ball up court and create plays off of the three main offensive options. Ball movement and floor spacing are going to be the order of the day for the Celtics offense, not Nash-like ball dominance from the point.
Rondo’s slashing and ability to pass off the dribble should keep him effective, but Navarro’s game is tailor made for a system that emphasizes equal distribution of touches and playmaking from multiple positions. Navarro is at his best when attacking the hoop. His excellent first step and creativity in the lane should make him a terror for recovering defenders trying to decide how to set up defensively. As a kick-out option, Navarro is an excellent 3-point shooter who has a quick release. His decision making with the ball is equally as fast, so he can be relied on to snap the ball around the perimeter or attack the basket without hesitation.
Above all else, Navarro is a competitor who knows his role and has the versatility to come off the bench and provide support at both guard positions. Beyond Pierce and Allen there is a lot of uncertainty at the guard position due to Tony Allen’s recovery and Rondo’s lack of experience and shooting prowess. Having a dead-eye shooter with championship experience who is in his prime and willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team seems like a no-brainer move for this team.
Navarro has the character and demeanor that is the epitome of Celtic Pride. He understands what it means to play for a team with a rich tradition and takes pride in fulfilling his obligations to the team he plays for. He also has a tremendous sense of self and an awareness of what he needs to do in order to be successful.
There are always aspects of your game that an athlete can improve on. I feel that I have improved a lot on my defense and my ability to find the open man and run the offense as a true point guard, but as a player, the moment you stop developing your game is the moment you hang up your sneakers.
So what’s the Asking Price?
The big issue really doesn’t seem to be whether or not Navarro would be a good fit for the Celtics and their needs. The real question has been the asking price of Washington and whether or not the exchange would be worth it for this franchise.
The Wizards had initially been insisting on another team taking back one of their undesired long-term contracts in order to secure the rights to Navarro. Both Brandan Haywood and Etan Thomas have been the two names most frequently mentioned in trade talks. The Celtics do need veteran help in the frontcourt, but Ainge has been holding out for something more lucrative than the services of Washington’s unspectacular bigs.
But the August 3rd ultimatum that’s been handed down by FC Barcelona has dramatically shifted the scales in favor of the prospective buying team. The Wizards are in a position where they can either take what’s offered to them for Navarro’s services or lose him as an asset all together.
Similar to the situation the Spurs faced with Luis Scola, it seems that Navarro could now be had for much less. A late first round pick, a couple of second round selections, or even a sign-and-trade for Telfair and Ray’s expiring deals may be all it takes to acquire a player who is sure to outperform the theoretical production that those draft slots may represent in the future. No one seems to be offering much more for his services, and if past Euroleague production is any indication, it’s unbelievable that Navarro has not received more.
In terms of his contract demands, Navarro is said to be searching for a deal in the 3.5 million dollar range for 3 years. This partial mid-level deal is similar to What Parker and Garbajosa received and it could very well pay out the same dividend for the purchasing team.
Best of all for Celtics fans, a deal for Navarro wouldn’t cost the club the assets it needs to pursue the "home run" trade that apparently has been the focus of management this offseason. Theo Ratliff’s contract would still be in place, as would the team’s best youthful assets. So while it does typically make sense to leave the mid-level open for subtle tinkering, the level of player now available with the need he fills seems worth the cost.