Fresh Faces: Meet the Newest Boston Celtics
When Opening Night arrives on Oct. 26 -- and even before that, when training camp begins on Sept. 28 -- there will be many familiar faces running around the court in Celtics green and white. You’ll see the Big Three (Plus One), you’ll see Donkey and Shrek, who are better known as Nate Robinson and Glen Davis, and you’ll see Marquis Daniels, too. (Kendrick Perkins will also be around, but he’ll be rehabbing his right knee and dressed in street clothes).
But if you count up those familiar faces, you’ll come up with a tally of eight, which is seven short of the 15-player roster the team will likely open the season with against the Miami Heat. Since you already know the familiar faces, let’s take a deeper look into the seven new players who have a shot at rounding out Boston’s roster. Meet your newest Boston Celtics.
Avery Bradley - No. 0 - Rookie
Avery Bradley, the 19th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, is set to become the highest-drafted rookie to arrive at a Celtics training camp since Gerald Green (18th overall) in 2005. And there’s some hype that’s coming along with him.
One of the first comments Danny Ainge made after he drafted Bradley was that the 6-foot-2 guard was ranked ahead of the eventual No. 1 pick in this year’s Draft, John Wall, coming out of high school. If that doesn’t say something about Bradley’s upside, I’m not sure what will.
He’s an athletic, super-speedy guard who averaged 11.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 2.1 APG during his lone season at Texas. Two of his best skills, mid-range shooting and shutdown defense, will play important roles in his ability to crack Boston’s rotation as a rookie. The Celtics lacked an efficient mid-range shooter off the bench last season, let alone one who could play lockdown defense, and from the sounds of it, the C’s think Bradley might be able to step in and deliver both from Day 1.
Ainge has already said that the rook is “a very good mid-range shooter,” while Doc Rivers said on draft night that Bradley “can play point guard defense on anybody in the league, and that's huge for us.”
Rivers’ comment would lead you to believe that the team is looking at Bradley as a point guard, but don’t be surprised if he sees some time at the shooting guard position during training camp and beyond.
Semih Erden - No. 86 - Rookie
You know how some rookies aren’t really rookies? Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowitzki are three players who come to mind when you think about that idea. This season, the Celtics will welcome in one of those European players, too. This one, however, a bit more ripe than those three.
Semih Erden, a 24-year old 7-footer from Turkey, has been playing professional basketball overseas since 2003-04 and has been a member of the Turkish national team since 2005, as a member of the Under-20 national squad, and most recently was a key cog in Turkey’s run to the gold medal game of the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
Boston drafted the slim yet nimble center with the 60th and final pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, just nine days after the team celebrated its 17th World Championship victory. Erden made his first appearance as a member of the Celtics during Boston’s summer league in July, averaging 5.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 1.0 APG in three contests. He had a breakout tournament for the Turks at the World Championships less than a month ago, when he averaged 9.1 PPG on 62.5 percent shooting to go along with 4.6 RPG and 1.2 APG.
With Boston’s depth in the frontcourt, it may be difficult for Erden to gain big minutes this season, but he certainly seems to be a player who is quickly evolving into a solid young talent. During the Orlando Pro Summer League, Erden displayed great hands, the ability to run the floor and solid defensive instincts. His basketball IQ will grow exponentially simply by being on the court with the other Celtics in training camp, which will help him continue to grow in his first NBA season.
Luke Harangody - No. 55 - Rookie
Much like Leon Powe and Ryan Gomes, the scouting reputation of Luke Harangody came like this heading into the draft: I dominated in college, but most people don’t think I can succeed in the NBA.
No need to worry, Luke. The Celtics think you can.
Boston grabbed the former Big East Player of the Year with the 52nd overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft and Harangody has done nothing since to disprove the Celtics’ belief that he can deliver in the pros. All he did was average 17.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.6 APG for the Celtics’ summer league squad en route to a First-Team All-Summer League selection. Other accolades include three-time First Team All-Big East honors and three selections to the AP All-American team (twice to the second team and once to the third team).
Harangody averaged 21.8 PPG and 10.6 RPG over his final three seasons at Notre Dame. He stands at 6-foot-8 and is a garbage man on the court. Harangody is willing to do anything the team needs, be it sacrificing his body, attacking the glass or nailing mid-range jumpers. He has also extended his range to 3-point territory, a talent he was happy to show off in Orlando, and that could come in handy when the Celtics want to stretch a defense out with perimeter shooting, no matter if it may be from his unorthodox style.
He won’t be a starter, but it’s not out of the question to see Harangody contributing this season off of the bench. It could be for five minutes or it could be for 15; either way, Harangody is the type of player who will stay hungry and work hard on the practice court to prepare for his next opportunity.
Jermaine O’Neal - No. 7 - 15th season
When the Celtics lost Kendrick Perkins early in Game 6 of the Finals and then were subsequently dominated on the boards in Games 6 and 7 of the Finals, it became abundantly obvious that Boston’s summer mission would need to revolve around deepening the frontcourt. During a three-day span that included the re-signings of both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the C’s were able to do so by luring in six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal.
An injured O’Neal struggled mightily against Boston while playing for Miami in the opening round of last season’s playoffs, but don’t let that mislead you about his abilities. The veteran big man set a career high last season in field goal percentage, at 52.9 percent, and seems ready to prove his critics wrong.
Since bursting onto the scene with Indiana in 2000-01, his first full season as a starter, O’Neal has averaged at least 12.9 PPG and 6.9 RPG in every full season he has played. During three injury-plagued seasons from 2007-2009, he still managed to score at least 13.0 PPG and shoot the ball effectively.
With the addition of O’Neal, Boston not only adds a 6-foot-11 body to crash the boards, but also a player who has a wide repertoire on offense. O’Neal has the ability to post up on the block or hit face-up jumpers from 15 feet regularly.
Heading into training camp, this O’Neal will have his eyes set on nabbing the starting center position, but he’ll be battling for that title each and every day with our next new face.
Shaquille O’Neal - No. 36 - 19th season
A man who needs no introduction, Shaquille O’Neal enters the Celtics organization seeking another shot at a championship. His last bid for a title, last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was cut short by Boston, so if you can’t beat them, why not join them?
Although O’Neal is in the twilight of his career, there is no debating his impact on any NBA basketball game he participates in. His size and touch around the rim demand a double-team nearly every time he receives the ball, and his passing ability will only be accentuated with players like Pierce, Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo sprinkled in around him. O’Neal has never had this many weapons to dump the ball off to out of a double-team, that’s for sure.
His career numbers are utterly ridiculous, with his career averages dropping in at a level that normally equates to a career year for a great NBA players. He has averaged 24.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG and 2.6 APG over his 18 seasons and reeled in four NBA championships.
Yes, his numbers have dropped in recent years, but rightfully so since his minutes and his field goal attempts have dropped as well. O’Neal believes he can still compete, and that’s exactly why he’s still playing. The Celtics agree, and that’s why he was signed on Aug. 4 to deepen the frontcourt and possibly compete for the starting center job in Perkins’ absence.
Von Wafer - No. 12 - 5th season
Von Wafer returns to the NBA after a brief stint overseas playing for Olympiacos of the Greek Euroleague. The upcoming training camp with the Celtics will be his first with an NBA squad since his career year with the Rockets in 2008-09 in which he averaged 9.7 PPG and shot 39.0 percent from 3-point range off the bench during the regular season. During that postseason, his numbers got even better, as he averaged 12.4 PPG and made 52.0 percent of his 3-point attempts in five games.
That performance sent him into free agency as a sought-after wing player, and he decided to take a big deal with Olympiacos. After that experiment didn’t work out well, he seemed to fall into the background of the league, but the Celtics had their eyes on him.
Wafer will certainly bring an outside shooting touch to Boston’s bench, and if he commits defensively there is no doubt that he can be a solid reserve for this championship-caliber team.
Delonte West - No. 13 - 7th season
He’s a new face, but an old face at the same time. Boston’s former starting point guard returns to the team after three seasons away in Seattle and Cleveland. Delonte West was traded away from the C’s on draft night in 2007 in the deal that brought Ray Allen and Glen Davis to Boston. Now he’s back in town and is ready to perform off the bench for the C’s this season.
During the 2008-09 season, West had a career year with 11.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 3.5 APG in 64 games, all of which were starts. This past season, his numbers dropped slightly to 8.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 3.3 APG while he was relegated to a reserve role for 57 of his 60 games.
His added abilities will be huge for the Celtics, who struggled last season without a bench player who was comfortable handling the ball and running an offense. West can handle that role, as he has now done for three different teams, and he can score and defend as well.