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Musings On the BGJ-Maggette Debate

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Only this much is even close to certain so far as the Celtics' incumbent sixth man and the man they may be pursuing from the West Coast are concerned: If there were some feasible way to have both James Posey and Corey Maggette in green next season, it would be an absolute dream come true for the Celts and the faithful.

(Indeed, I'm late to the party with this one, but with several great threads running in the forums, it seemed time for some extended thoughts about the Celts' sixth man situation.)

Alas, without getting buried in the logistics, suffice it to say that the possibility of the Celtics ending up with both of these players on the roster come opening day could most kindly be described as 'minimal.'  Without some sacrificing made by either of the two players toward taking contracts below market value, it's extremely hard to see it working financially.  That sentence comes with this disclaimer that neither player deserves to take any heat in the event that he decides against 'sacrificing.'  Both have performed quite admirably in their respective environments and have earned paydays for themselves.

But that means that the reality of the situation is that the Celtics will most likely end up with either James Posey or Corey Maggette at best.

In that case, chalk me up for a seat on the Big Game James bandwagon.

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For what it's worth, I'm a Maggette fan, and it is pleasantly surprising to see that the Celts are interested in him.  He has become a dynamic scorer in this league, and over the course of his career he has done that both as a starter and off the bench.  He fearlessly slashes to the rim and can score in bunches with his head-down-and-attack-the-rim force.  This slashing has made Maggette a fixture at the foul line, and he tied for third in all of basketball last season with 9.7 free throw attempts per game.  Thanks to the fact that he shoots over 80 percent from the line and 45 from the field, Maggette has posted an admirable 57.6 true shooting percentage for his career, including a career high 59.5 mark last season.

Maggette has a well-built 6-foot-6, 218-pound frame, and he has grabbed nearly six rebounds per game at the small forward spot over the past few seasons.  He has done a commendable job slaving away in Los Angeles, and while he can certainly perform as a starter, his energy and explosive scoring makes him wonderfully valuable off the bench.  He truly embodies the concept of instant offense.

Undoubtedly, what Maggette brings would certainly be quite helpful to a Celts team that was prone to occasonal droughts on the offensive end at times throughout this past year.  He can create his own shot and force defenses to adjust to him, and he would be a great injury security policy as someone who could step in and start if either Ray Allen or Paul Pierce has to miss any time.

Maggette is also just 28 years old, and he may be the better value around the league right now as someone who could continue to be a big-time scorer as a starter in many places around the league.

But for this Celtics team, he simply doesn't have the value of the big gamer who is three years his senior.

Most likely above all else, this Celtics team made Green 17 a reality by playing the league's best defense all season.  James Posey was a huge part of that.  Pose has established himself as one of the league's best perimeter defenders.  At 6-foot-8 but just 215 pounds, he has both the length and deceptive quickness to guard marquee players at the two and the three and occasionally even the four for stretches (though he isn't as effective there).  Posey plays a physical brand of stifling defense that is rarely found around the league these days, and he did an excellent job both as an individual stopper andin rotations in the Celtics' help-oriented schemes.

In contrast, Maggette's defensive game is at best considered below par.  He has been known to lose focus on that end of the floor.  Now it's certainly fathomable that coming to play for a championship team and playing under Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau and alongside Kevin Garnett (among others) could change Maggette's way and get him to really work at his defensive game as certain other Celtics did this season.  But there is little possibility that he'll become a defender of Posey's significance.

Posey is also just as good a rebounder as Maggette in terms of per-minute production; both average close to 6.5 boards per 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, though Maggette had a very good season from the outside (38.4 percent this season to Posey's 38 percent), Posey is the much better shooter from deep (35.1 to 32.9 percent) for their careers, and he has been consistently up close to 40 percent over the last few seasons while Maggette's shooting this year appeared to be far more of an aberration given that he had three-point percentages of 20.0, 33.8, 30.4, 32.9 over the four seasons prior.

But when one gets right down to it, the statistics really are the least of it with Big Game James.  It's the defense and the all-around tenacity that this guy plays the game with.  It's that mean streak he gives this team on both ends of the floor.  It's the way he takes "playing hard" to such another level that I actually once referred to him as a player who would "kill his mother for a loose ball" -- and that was meant in the most complimentary manner possible.  This is a guy who knows what it takes to win, who doesn't seem to care how many shots he gets or how much glamour comes his way.  What matters to him is killing himself on the floor every night to win.  He'll be the first in line to protect a teammate, and he'll make you absolutely detest him if you're on the other side. 

It's how cool and collected he is in the biggest moments.  Whether it's taking one of his patented leaning-back-off-one-foot corner treys, striding to the line for two free throws to seal a game or pulling a loose ball out of a scrum, Big Game James always has ice in his veins.  Just completely unflappable.

Corey Maggette simply hasn't shown that yet.  That he has spent his entire career in Clipper prison isn't entirely his fault, but the fact remains that Posey has demonstrated himself to be the type of player who gets exactly what it takes to be part of a winner.  Maggette doesn't fight for loose balls the way Posey does, doesn't get inside the clothes of other players the way Posey does and hasn't shown himself to be the big-moment stud that Posey is.  Again, in fairness to Maggette, he hasn't been in that many big spots.  But in a league where such performers are so valuable, it seems wiser to take the proven one rather than the unknown commodity.

Once more, this isn't meant as Maggette-bashing by any means.  As the incomparable Roy Hobbs points out, bringing in a player like Maggette would not only provide immediate offensive help but would also demonstrate an eye toward having a big-time scorer down the road in the future as the star trio ages onward.  Make no mistake about it: If Posey isn't retained, I would welcome Maggette into the green fold with open arms, and I would eagerly await seeing the way in which he would change the complexion of the bench, which would still be quite effective but likely in a different way.  Meanwhile, the dream of having both of these guys coming off the pine remains monstrously enticing.

But if it's got to be one or the other, count me in for being willing to splurge on the older guy who seems more conducive to helping this team gain that eighteenth banner what could be the immediate future.  Big Game James Posey it is.

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