A few weeks ago, under the assumption that Von Wafer would be backing up Ray Allen at the shooting guard spot this season, I wondered aloud if Avery Bradley had a chance to steal some minutes at the position.
Well, that was before the Celtics signed Delonte West. Now, a more accurate question (perhaps) is: Who should come off the bench first? Delonte West or Von Wafer?
The interesting thing is, we're slightly unsure about both players, but for different reasons. We know West can play, but we can't help but question his state of mind. Meanwhile, we assume Wafer can play, but we only really have one season to base that assumption off of.
Despite his personal issues, West is still the more proven player, in terms of quality NBA seasons put forth, particularly for playoff teams. The numbers favor West as well, as he boasts higher career averages than Wafer in points, rebounds, assists, free throw percentage, field goal percentage, and three-point field goal percentage. However, that comes back to Wafer producing just one quality season to this point in time. If we judge West's career numbers against Wafer's one and only respectable season (2008-2009), the numbers even out considerably. West also has the advantage of having played for Doc Rivers before, although not in the current system.
I'm very confident that public opinion will favor Delonte on this one, and understandably so. However, a few things do need to be taken into account.
First, training camp will be a great time to see whether or not Wafer's "breakout" season in 2009 was some sort of anomaly, or an accurate representation of his basketball potential.
Second, West's career 3.7 assists per game average suggest he's a better playmaker than Wafer (career 0.8 assist per game average; 1.1 assists in 2008-2009), but in terms of both guards attacking the hoop, Wafer attempted 2.4 shots at the rim per game in 2008-2009 - the exact same number as West attempted at the rim last season. So, I'd say Wafer has playmaking potential, but it's now a matter of whether or not that potential is realized.
Third, assuming neither player is cut during training camp, West will have to serve his 10-game suspension for pleading guilty to weapon's charges. Those first 10 games really could be Wafer's chance to garner real NBA minutes and prove to Doc and the team that he can be a valuable asset. It's definitely an opportunity for him to get a leg up on West. Doc has a habit of sticking with a bench player when he's consistently producing, and if Wafer can prove to be a valuable tool on offense and anything better than a liability on defense, he might just force Doc to wait on West, even once he is eligible to play in games.
Again, this really all comes back to us not really knowing what to expect out of Wafer. Delonte's game is much more familiar. We know we'll see a very aggressive style of play, gritty defense, a clutch shot here and there, and intelligent basketball decisions. We know Wafer can score - that's why Danny Ainge brought him here. But whether or not scoring alone will be enough for Wafer remains to be seen. His impact next season might very well come down to how he can impact the other areas of the game for the Celtics.