Insider Steve Bulpett will answer your questions — those pertaining to current league issues and even some off-beat perspective and opinion from his 37 years covering the NBA. (Want to know what former league city he misses most? Want to know about the Celtics’ first-ever trip to Sacramento?)
We’ll try to tackle it all here in the Heavy mailbag.
Leave your questions in the comments section below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Jaylen Brown’s Dodgy Ballhandling
Jaylen Brown’s ballhandling was a problem especially in the Finals but really even before that too. Can he fix that at all? Or is that too late once you’re in your sixth or seventh year in the NBA, it’s too late to try to learn to dribble better?
I absolutely believe Jaylen Brown has the capacity to improve his ballhandling dramatically. Simply getting lower as he drives, particularly around picks, would make him better by simple matter of physics. The lower one is, the shorter distance the ball has to travel between floor and hand. There is less room for the defense to interrupt the dribble. It would also make his drives quicker.
Years ago at a basketball camp, counselor Jerry Lademan, then a point guard at Fairfield, typed out a series of ballhandling drills and copied the sheet off. Everything from dribble moves to hand quickness drills to spinning the ball on fingertips. Some of it may seem superfluous, but, taken as a whole, the exercises could eventually make the ball a true extension of the player.
And this is not to say that Jaylen Brown is in the same sphere as a teenage hoop hopeful, but it’s fair to believe he, like most players, is working on his ballhandling this offseason.
By the way, I’ve kept the mimeographed sheet. No, I don’t expect some rec league team to come calling for a 6-foot-4 old dude to be their point guard. But I have copied it off for children of friends.
And I think it’s important to remember Jerry Lademan, a slick guard who died tragically at 20 in a car accident while on a basketball goodwill tour in Italy. RIP Jerry, and thanks for the help.
Time Lord Up Top?
A lot of centers who are really good passers like Gasol or someone like that, they have a lot of the calls that go through them and they play up in the high post and they (get) assists like that. But Rob Williams III plays down low a lot and they don’t run it through him but he is still a really good passer. Why don’t they run through him more?
Williams is, indeed, a good passer. And, maybe more important for the needs of the Celtics’ offense, the ball does not stay in his hands very long. His teammates like playing with him, because they know the ball will move.
I’d expect the Time Lord to be more a part of the offense this season, but as for him playing up top, it’ll be hard to do that very much until he becomes more proficient with his outside shot. He’s actually got a pretty smooth jumper now, but he’s got to be quicker with it and use it more often to draw the defense out to meet him.
Also, with Al Horford better on the perimeter (and a pretty fair passer himself), Rob is of more use around the rim as a lob threat and for putbacks.
How Celtics Value Picks & Bottom of the Roster
Danny Ainge never traded any of his picks and it probably hurt the Celtics. Like if they traded a pick in 2018 and got someone like Lou Williams they might not have been so bad in offense when they played the Cavaliers and lost in the seventh game later that year. Brad is going the complete opposite way where he is trading all his picks. I didn’t like how much Danny held onto the picks but I don’t like Brad getting rid of them all. Which one is right?
The Celtics could have acquired a useful player in 2018 for less than a first-rounder (Jamal Crawford would have helped), and Lou Williams was certainly a nice sniper at whatever the cost. But they still had Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline, so Ainge probably didn’t think making a deal was that critical.
Irving’s knee finally took him out of the picture for the rest of the season in mid-March. As for the 2018 playoffs, I don’t think the Celts expected to get to the conference finals without Irving and Gordon Hayward (and, yeah, they should have won Game 7 against Cleveland).
Stevens has done a good job with deals as he tries to maximize the window of the now-more-seasoned Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, his NBA peers think giving up a first round pick and Josh Richardson for Derrick White was a bit of a risk.
I’d look at it this way: Ainge’s moves (good and bad) got the Celtics from their last good run in the Pierce-Garnett era to the current core. Stevens is spending to push them over the finish line.
Bruno Caboclo, Noah Vonleh, Justin Jackson, Jake Layman, all these guys had big flameouts in the NBA. Why do the Celtics think these guys can come on and be part of this team? Who has a real shot of actually playing?
None of these people are being asked to fill a major role, and all are on low- or no-risk deals. Every player should be judged in context — on the situation he’s in and what’s being asked of him. I won’t entirely close the door on any player, but — barring a giant and largely unexpected improvement — it’s not expected that any of these four will be playing meaningful fourth quarter minutes in the playoffs.
Bottom line, bringing them in is worth a shot.