Brad Wanamaker’s road to the NBA was not easy, having traveled the globe as he continued to improve, waiting for his shot in the league. When that shot finally did come around at the age of 29, Wanamaker found himself riding the bench for his rookie season. However, this season has been a different story. Wanamaker has played 63 games this season, averaging 19.3 minutes per game.
When on the floor, Wanamaker has been a capable deputy at the guard position, dictating play and offering a steady hand with the second unit. For a short stretch, Wanamaker produced at a starter’s level when coming off the bench, but this was to be short-lived. Incapable of creating his own shot, Wanamaker relies on pick-and-roll or transition offense to make his mark. Unfortunately, his patchy jump shot further weakens his ability to operate as a scorer.
Brad Wanamaker can't get any lift on his jump shot and goes from a near airball to an actual airball on back to back crunch time 3s, after airballing a layup earlier in the game.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) March 7, 2020
As the season has progressed, Wanamaker’s impact when on the floor continued to wane. This continued lack of influence from Wanamaker has led to sections of fans calling for changes during the summer. There is no secret that the Celtics require additional scoring off the bench and have limited cap flexibility to maneuver in free agency. These limitations are creating an onus on looking inwards for replacement talent.
Wanamaker is on the final year of his original contract and can enter unrestricted free agency, should the Celtics opt against extending him a qualifying offer. Before entering negotiations with an aging guard who offers little to increase the team’s ceiling, the front office could choose to take a closer look at another point guard on their roster, one capable of running plays and scoring from multiple levels.
That guard is Tremont Waters. The 5’9’ point guard out of Louisiana has been a steady hand as the starting point guard for the Maine Red Claws. Waters has been averaging 18 points, 7.3 assists, and shockingly, 3.2 rebounds throughout 36 games. Celtics fans also got treated to ten games of Tremont in the NBA, where he averaged more modest numbers of 3.3 points, 1.2 assists, and 0.9 rebounds while playing 8.9 minutes per game according to Basketball Reference.
Waters, while still wet behind the ears, can provide the Celtics with a dynamic guard off the bench, capable of putting the defense on its heels with his lightning pace and a quick release off the catch. Throughout his first season in the G-League, Tremont has shown an ability to operate as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll. He can also peel off of pin downs and loves to push the tempo on the break.
Here’s Tremont channeling his inner Rondo pic.twitter.com/Cv2FotgM5v— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) April 22, 2020
For a player of Waters’ size, he is a pesky defender who consistently applies pressure when he’s guarding on-ball. When defending off-ball, Waters can become a target for switches as the opposing offense looks to isolate him in the paint and attack the mismatch. Waters would be fortunate to play for a Brad Stevens team in this instance, as Brad is already well versed in incorporating smaller guards into his defensive system.
The way Waters attacks a defense when they settle into a half-court--by looking to penetrate and cause panic inside--would alleviate some of the cold streaks the Celtics bench unit has endured this past season. By continually probing the paint with dribble drives or hitting a big on a short-roll, Waters could allow bench players such as Romeo Langford and Grant Williams to locate scoring positions more frequently.
With the noticeable evolution in Robert Williams’ passing, the dynamic of pick-and-rolls or dribble hand-offs that could become commonplace between him, and Waters would alter the outlook of Boston’s second unit, enabling Brad Stevens to tinker with his staggering of the Celtics’ Big Four. With a fearless guard operating as the secondary ball-handler off the bench, the Celtics ceiling rises due to the added potency their rotations now possess.
It won’t all be smooth sailing. Tremont is still considerably untested at the NBA level, but the difference between Wanamaker and Waters is that the coaching staff has seen how the Wanamaker experiment has played out, mainly consisting of stagnant possessions, timidness to attack without a clear driving lane, and an ability to get cooked on defense.
With very little cap room this summer, taking stock of what’s already in their cupboard is the most logical move for the Celtics. Boston could extend Waters a two-year minimum deal, possibly with the second year being a team option. With the cap at its current level, this deal would be worth $1,523,320 in Year One, and $1,792,956 in the second year, bringing the total contract total to $3,316,276. Financially, this would be swapping one player for another, Wanamaker for Waters, leaving no additional impact on the Celtics current cap situation.
Unfortunately, signing Waters to a guaranteed deal, will mean parting ways with Brad Wanamaker. The skill set which Wanamaker possesses does translate to the NBA in a backup role; it just doesn’t convert to how Boston’s current roster construction. Waters’ skill set does translate to what the Celtics are currently missing, for the most part, and sooner or later he’s going to be given a shot to stake his claim for regular rotation minutes.