Jared Dudley is a rare breed and one who is making waves early this offseason in the shadow of the NBA Finals. In a sports climate that has grown more business than casual, he has fired out tweets about his playing ability and worth as an unrestricted free agent this summer while also making the rounds on a variety of shows to discuss all things basketball.
I'll play you for 5k! Your ball I'll spot you 5pts. If you have a girl bring her so she can see you get embarrassed https://t.co/K3t9tWoQVy— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) June 13, 2016
Dudley appeared on CLNS Radio's CelticsBeat with Larry H. Russell in response to the latter bringing up his name during a discussion on possible C's free agent targets the week before. While running through names with guest Sean Deveney of Sporting News, Russell stated that he loved Dudley as a fit with the Celtics and that he'd be willing to give him $5-6 million. Surprisingly Dudley himself came across the episode and took exception to the notion:
I love my Boston people but that 1 yr 5 mil not goin to get it done lol https://t.co/pSQ0sju741— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) June 6, 2016
The 30-year-old is an anomaly. In an era where athletes are decisively careful about everything they say in the public forum that is the media, Dudley says everything that's on his mind and in a refreshingly insightful way. As he made it known, he sees everything, and instead of doing the planned trade preview episode Russell had the Wizards forward on to discuss his issue with the comment.
Through the course of the show Dudley and Russell hit on everything and anything, with a specific focus on the Celtics who the former made clear that he would love to join:
"To be honest with you when you listen to people, a lot of these sports writers on your show are pretty accurate. I think I would be a pretty good fit for Boston in the sense that they need shooting. You can never have too much veteran leadership. They're a team that's obviously led by Brad Stevens who is a great coach and they've done well, but the key to a young team is developing that young talent. They have the number three pick here in the draft and you can never have (enough) people who know how to play the right way, know their role."
The elaborate response was incredible, Dudley seemed to know enough about the Celts to write for this site, but beyond that he brought plenty of insight on what it means to be an effective NBA veteran beyond a typical cliche response:
"When it comes to the dollar amount I like to joke around with people. The reason I was messing around with that five million dollars is the cap is going up crazy the next couple years and there's value when you look at people that for one shoot over 40% from three, some do it for one season, myself I'm a career 40% three point shooter. Then it goes by your value to a team, leadership and helping develop young players is a value when it comes to a locker room that you can't put a dollar price on. That's why you see people like Elton Brand, Juwan Howard these guys come back to help these playoff teams where these teams have struggled before."
It was both pleasing and stunning to hear. Dudley was basically making a pitch to the C's about why he'd be a perfect fit to join Boston and came fully loaded with examples of the kind of impact he has had in a locker room in the past:
"I think your reputation goes a long way, I think me playing in Milwaukee where a lot of players would dread going. To have a role player that embraces going to any situation, being professional... I went in and spoke to J.Kidd and told him he needs to start Giannis (Antetokounmpo). I don't know too many veterans who are doing that. He's the future, I know I'm not the future, I know I'm better serving that team off the bench...for this team to make that leap I knew he needed to start...staying on him at practice, the kid was only 19 years old...on teams that have a young team...they need to find good veterans...that will do more than their salary."
The conversation went on. Russell admitted he disregarded the new complexion of NBA free agency when he made his money comment and of course Dudley had knowledge to drop on that too:
"They (the media) won't be able to understand it...we've never seen it. It's like watching Steph Curry...he arguably went from not being an all-star to arguably the best player in the NBA...the cap is going up right now where every team with have an extra $20-25 million. They have to spend to a certain point...and if they save the following year it's going up. So even if you spend a lot this summer, you can spend a lot the next summer."
Connecting it back to the Celtics, Dudley went on to praise the situation that Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have formulated in Boston since 2013. He has a New England connection being a Boston College alum, but from what he mentioned it appears all free agents will take a harder look at the C's than ever before:
"The reason why it's so attractive for role players, maybe not the key stars, is the stability. Danny Ainge has been there, we know how he can a program in an instance with trades, he knows how to draft, and they have probably the best upcoming coach in the NBA Brad Stevens when it comes to know personnel. He plays all 10 guys, keeps everyone engaged. (Jonas) Jerebko went from not playing to being a huge contributor in the playoffs. That is a huge factor for role players because he gives you an opportunity where not many other teams do."
Before departing he would even put a cherry on top, giving insight on his unconventional approach to media that he would like to pass on to players under him in the future:
"You need the media. You heard Barry Bonds talk about it...if he was a nicer guy he could've made more money...I'm surprised players don't open up more...it's engaging as personalities...I think so many people get caught up in this media training, don't let them in, give them these cliches answers. I would never tell my players that, when I become a coach maybe when I take over BC...you can have personalities...don't be stupid with it...but don't just ‘you know what, both teams play hard, next game.'"
There was so much to take away from the interview, which is a must-listen in its entirety, first being that the Celtics must pursue Dudley. He didn't give specifics as to what he'll want money-wise, stating that his agent has a better idea, but he made quite the compelling case. The C's do indeed need to pad their roster with shooters as Stevens has instituted an offense over his three years that has placed an emphasis on high-volume perimeter shooting while yielding bottom level efficiency from outside in that span. Dudley is a 40% career shooter from three, who states that he knows all his own analytical numbers across the court, and is willing to work with Stevens in any role that he sees fit.
Then there's the equally important fact that Dudley flat-out gets it. The amount of basketball IQ he distributed to listeners in about 30 minutes was simply astonishing. He described how stability is key for any situation when a role player like himself decides location, he elaborated on how 90% of free agents will be going to the highest bidder and that the cap ceiling ahead through 2018 will allow teams to sign big deals with little risk, and gave aware commentary on how today's players are now feeling the financial benefits of what the 80s/90s NBA built worldwide.
But there was one comment that was particularly important in regards to Kevin Durant and Al Horford, two of the most touted free agents this summer. Dudley said that 13-14 teams will be shooting for those two with high bids and feel disappointed if they can't land either, but behind them is the next tier of players who will also pursue max contracts like Dwight Howard and role players seeking good situations like himself.
Dudley gave a compelling strategy, while some teams will go all in on this summer and max out secondary free agents others will have the option of filling their roster with solid role players and "saving" for the next cap jump coming in the summer of 2017. That could be an intriguing option for the Celtics.
Not seeing any fireworks towards next season would stink. We all want to see Durant fly into Logan Airport and hug Ainge with a C's contract in his hand at the gate while Isaiah Thomas shoots off confetti. But there needs to be an alternative route to take that both helps the Celts grow and still be prepared to make a significant move down the line.
Parting ways with Thomas, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart or even two of those three may be what it takes to land Jimmy Butler. Demarcus Cousins doesn't appear to be on the market and neither is Paul George. That would leave the Celts with two options, utilize a max contract on a Howard-level player or go with veteran role players to help push the young players who would likely be joined by a number three overall pick in that case.
It's the route that the Warriors took to greatness and Dudley specifically cited that in his interview. Curry went from a mid-level player to a two-time MVP, Draymond Green went from a second-round pick to one of the most effective big men in the league. That was all thanks in large part to smart veteran signings like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala who have helped craft a distinctive team personality and pushed their young teammates to new levels on the court.
This has already been seen in Boston too. Evan Turner's arrival in summer 2014 helped craft the "Celtics Hustle" growth and chip-on-their-shoulder identity we've watched over the past two seasons. Amir Johnson's signing helped push the entire team to a new level last season with his veteran presence and interior defensive play.
Dudley would be a seamless fit in the Celtics locker room. He'd help on the court with the team's shooting issue. He even has a vision for Boston's future. No role player has ever laid out such intricate case for joining a team. It's a fantastic sign for the Celts, they now have an appeal that NBA players have felt. The identity as a team they've built has made waves and at least one free agent really wants to be here. They have to see what options are out there to make a splash first, but if the fireworks aren't there again this summer Dudley made an excellent case for bringing in the right veterans to push the team's youth to a new level. The Warriors became the league's best team by pure internal growth and sensational role player signings, so why can't the Celtics do the same?