1.29.2008

Is Powe Being Showcased?

The Lakers acquisition of Pao Gasol is vaguely reminiscent of the Mychal Thompson pick-up in the summer of 1987. There is only one difference. This time the acquisition won't net them a title, not this year anyway, not unless they get Jason Kidd, too.

What the Gaosol trade does tell me, though, is that teams are gearing up for the stretch run.

Danny Ainge, protestations to the contrary, is no doubt active on the phones himself. Rumors of the Celtics acquiring Sam Cassell likely scratch only the surface of his miscellaneous machinations.

One deal I have heard repeatedly as of late is Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, and Leon Powe for Sam Cassell. This trade scenario seems far-fetched at best. The only problem is that I am hearing it from the same guy who told me Garnett was coming to Boston before just about anyone else knew.

The source emphasizes that Powe's increased PT of late is proof of what he is saying, as that increased PT demonstrates that the Celtics Agent Zero is being showcased for a trade.

Still, I am inclined to write-off his apparent insider's knowledge on Garnett as beginner's luck.

Here's why.

Sam Cassell is 38. He would most likely be a one-and-done with the Cs, meaning he'd play from February through June and be done. Meanwhile, the Cs would be without the services of three other players who are currently playing important roles.

Tony Allen isn't totally healthy yet and he definitely isn't a point guard. But if we get a traditional point guard to back up Rondo, and I’m pretty sure we will, even if his name isn’t Sam, Allen's value increases immediately. As a wing guy, Allen can D-up 2s and 3s. One could argue that his skills overlap with Posey's and thus we don't need him. But given how frequently Celtics’ players have gone down this year with injury, I'd rather not risk going thin at the backup wing spot just to get Cassell, especially if we have to throw in Powe and Scalabrine.

Brian Scalabrine is one of the more underappreciated Celtics in recent memory. He sits on the bench and does nothing...until asked to step up and start in place of an injured Kevin Garnett, which against the Dallas Mavericks meant guarding Dirk Nowitski. No, he didn't shut him down. Yes, he picked up a couple of quick fouls. But I also saw him put a body on Dirk, and force him to hoist some low-percentage fade-aways. Big Baby couldn't have stayed with Dirk. Nor could have Pollard. Leon Powe did reasonably well, but he's not as tall as Scalabrine, and if Powe would have been assessed the two early fouls, then you risk getting Posey in foul trouble early by putting him on Dirk.

Leon Powe’s recent play may not be evidence that he is "coming into his own," but he certainly is making a case that he has something to offer. Last year Doc Rivers said "as long as I'm in this league, I hope to have Leon Powe on my team." I agree. Leon Powe is Brian Scalabrine, only with more talent. He is a guy that can sit on the bench and sit and sit, until called on to perform, at which point he brings some toughness and grit, not to mention an inside presence. Oh, and he puts up the numbers that Scalabrine doesn’t.

Before the season began, I compared the Celtics bench to the 1990 Pistons bench, and, oh boy, did I get laughed out of the building. Not as many people are laughing now.

It is easy to confuse Detroit's 1990 championship team with the 1989 squad. But the two teams did not have the same roster. The 1989 team included Adrian Dantley and Rick Mahorn, while the 1990 squad had neither. The 1990 team relied primarily on Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, and Vinnie Johnson off the bench.

It is not obvious to me that Laimbeer, Rodman, and the Microwave offered the Pistons much more than James Posey, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Leon Powe, and Scot Pollard offer the Celtics. House and Johnson are a push, Rodman is better than Posey, and Laimbeer is better than Pollard. But the Celtics bench still has three more players who contribute on a regular basis.

The other night the Celtics bench played 94 minutes against Dallas, and that doesn't even count Scalabrine's minutes in a starting role. Since the start of the New Year, Doc has been playing his bench more than 80 minutes a game. That is a heap of minutes, son.

Long story short:

The Celtics bench is effective not because it contains three highly talented players who play 20 minutes per game each, but because it is comprised a 5-6 role players who bring a variety of skills to the court, and who provide Doc a significant amount of flexibility in devising game plans.

It says here you don't eliminate a proven, palpable strength to get Cassell. You figure out a way to get Cassell without your bench taking a hit. Otherwise, an injury to Cassell after he joined the Celtics would mean Doc would be short four key bench players, not just one.

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