Outside of Kevin Garnett, it's possible that no player has more riding on this pre-season than J.R. Giddens. Why? Because October 31 marks the date by which the Celtics must determine whether they want to pick up Giddens $1,100,640 contract for next season. If the team declines the option, Giddens would become an unrestricted free agent next year. While the team has not commented on Giddens' future publicly, it's likely that J.R. will not be having a happy Halloween.
When Giddens was drafted, there was speculation that he would immediately find a role on the team, due to his size, athleticism, and allegedly NBA-ready defense. However, that never materialized. Giddens declined to participate in the Celtics' summer camp, a decision that, according to Danny Ainge, set him back. Next, Giddens couldn't earn a spot on the active roster coming out of the pre-season, followed by his name appearing in trade rumors. Giddens was quickly sent to Utah to play in the D-League, where he performed well -- 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists with a 57.8 FG% -- leading his team to the D-League Finals. However, despite injuries to Tony Allen and the fatigue of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, he never made much of a contribution in Boston; in six games played, he totaled 4 points in 8 minutes played.
This season appears to be more of the same. Despite early injuries to Tony Allen and Bill Walker, Giddens hasn't been seeing a lot of minutes with either the first or second team in training camp. Indeed, while speculating on who could guard shooting guards when five bench players are in the game at the same time, Doc's mind wandered to Brian Scalabrine, rather than to Giddens. When asked to assess Giddens' future, Doc responded this way:
But it’s going to be tough right now for [Walker or Giddens] to get on the floor. We’re pretty deep. We have good depth, great veterans. So it will be tough or them to get on the floor. I’m hoping they do. J.R. has a chance to be a terrific defender. He has to improve his offensive skills. He has to improve how to play with his offensive skills with other players. So that’s something he’s improving on. I think he’s much better than he was last year.
In other words, don't expect him to play. The writing appears to be on the wall. Giddens isn't a 19 year old still learning the game; he'll be 25 years old this season, older than Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, and only three months younger than Kendrick Perkins. The most exciting news concerning Giddens this summer has come from his twitter page, where he talks about still doing "rookie runs" to CVS and states that he feels like he's behind "invisible prison bars" due to the number of meetings he's been attending. There's no reason to pay Giddens $1.1 million next season, when the team can sign a more experienced veteran to an $850k minimum contract. Furthermore, by declining Gidden's option, he becomes an expiring contract, which makes him nice salary filler in any deal.
Based upon the above, I simply can't see Giddens in Boston beyond this season. There's no spot in the rotation for him, and he's simply more valuable as an expiring contract than he is as a player. I wish him all the best in the future, but I can't help but feel that this season is the J.R. Giddens farewell tour.
Update: For more on Giddens, see today's article in the Globe.