You know you have too much depth if quality players need to feign injury to remain with the club. Are the Celtics too deep?

Odd Man Out

You know you have too much depth if quality players need to feign injury to remain with the club. Are the Celtics too deep?

The top ten players are fairly obvious. The starters are Gary Payton, Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, Raef LaFrentz, and Mark Blount. Payton has a thumb injury though he is expected to play on November 3, but even if it's reinjured in practice or early in the season and he finds himself on the injured reserve list, it will only be for the minimum five games or so. The question is who will be "injured" all season?

The second unit has Delonte West, Jiri Welsch, Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, and Tom Gugliotta. Googs, as I've written elsewhere, is essentially a duplicate of LaFrentz who gives the Celtics fresh veteran legs and more fouls to give. Allen is Doc's darling: Rivers was very high on him since before the draft and the continues to impress whenever he is on the floor. Jefferson is the star rookie this year and has high hopes of growing into the franchise player in half a decade or so. Jiri, of course, is the jack-of-all-trades who will play the backup point, shooting guard, and small forward roles. Though he is the sixth man, he may be second on the team in terms of minutes, behind Pierce.

West seems to have beaten out Marcus Banks for the third-string point guard role, primarily because he can also play a quasi-shooting guard position. He can defend the point but let someone else bring the ball up against pressure, while also helping out with setting up the offense, passing the ball around, and sticking open shots.

Banks is a lot more single-dimensional: he is a speedy point guard. He can't play the two or the three. He doesn't run through screens to get open for jump shots; he needs the ball in his hands to be dangerous. He is perhaps Boston's best point guard for bringing the ball up against pressure because his speed and quickness allows him to make just one fake to the left then burn by the defender(s) to the right at such velocity that they have no choice but to hand-check him, sending him to the free throw line as soon as they are over the limit. If he plays this season, many of his points will be of this easy free throw variety.

But will he play? Let's table that question for now and just put a little asterisk in our minds next to Marcus Banks*.

Walter McCarty is an enigma. He's 6-10 but doesn't play much in the low post. He is one of Boston's best three-point shooters and one of the best fronting low-post defenders. With his length he can get in front of a low-post guy and prevent the pass. He doesn't rebound too much, especially offensively, and he's not the world's best passer. But he is versatile. He has added two moves to his repertoire when his defender plays him for the trey: he drives into traffic either for a running hook shot or a little scoop layup, both of which seem to go in. He's essentially a long small forward but likely without the foot speed to defend other small forwards. He is probably also the quickest to pick up plays and systems and play within them. Will he play this season? Let's put another asterisk next to his name.

Justin Reed is a second-round pick who has played with reckless abandon and put up both some good numbers and some good possessions. He can play in the post, he has good spin moves, and he rebounds. Will he play? Another asterisk.

Michael Stewart will not play. He will be on the injured reserve list. Let's give him an asterisk.

The remaining player is Kendrick Perkins. I love to watch him play. Last season, he was the second most versatile player on a per-minute basis, behind only Kevin Garnett. He played only 35 minutes over the entire season but those 35 minutes combined to form an impressive stat line. Let's give him an asterisk and now get down to business.

Marcus Banks, Walter McCarty, Justin Reed, Michael Stewart, and Kendrick Perkins. Three of these guys will spend a lot of time with doctors evaluating what's wrong with them now and two will be playing minor minutes.

The easiest prediction is that Stewart will be on the injured reserve list. That's a lock, leaving just two spots open.

The second easiest prediction is that McCarty will be playing. He somehow seems to win his way into every coach's heart. Perhaps he is the smartest player or the one first to understand the sets or his versatility from the three-point line and his tireless defense win him some points. Regardless, he seems to be one of the truly healthy.

That leaves just one non-injured spot among Banks, Reed, and Perkins.

Let's compare the two bigs. Perkins has played more average minutes but Reed has played in more games over the preseason. The last couple of games Perkins hasn't even been given garbage minutes. (Neither has Banks.) By that theory, both Banks and Perkins, two first round draft picks from last year, will be "injured" while second round pick Justin Reed will get some clean-up minutes.

That's a mistake. Perkins should get time over Reed. Reed is a big small forward but Perkins is a center. Other than Blount, only Raef and Googs can play the center spot, and for them it is a bit of a stretch. Perkins is a pure center. Perhaps that is what will doom him, along with Banks, who is a pure point, to the injured reserve list.

In the quest for versatility, specialization seems to be riding the pine.

Can we really expect Perkins and Banks to be on the injured list? Even with other teams interested in each of them? Even though they have a chance to really shine at their positions?

You don't need versatility at every position. Sometimes you need a guy who can pound or dribble or just shoot.

The real problem will come when either one of these players refuses to admit they are injured, a refusal that is not only fully within their rights, but is the call of honesty. The NBA, of course, needs to modify the requirements for the injured reserve list to just be a reserve list, where players are stored for a minimum absence of five games, without any attempt to feign injury.

For now, however, it appears specialization will not be rewarded by the Celtics. Goodbye, Kendrick Perkins. Goodbye, Marcus Banks. See you in another year.