A Word on Raja Bell
Posted by Zach Lowe on Sep 27, 2009
Commenters over at CelticsBlog got very excited on Saturday, when Jeff Clark alerted them to an Adrian Wojnarowski tweet reporting that the Bobcats are shopping Raja Bell. Wouldn’t he be a great fit here? A 6’5” shooting guard who played small forward quite a bit in Phoenix and makes more than 40 percent of his three-pointers? And his $5.2 million deal expires after this season, according to DraftExpress. Goodbye Lester Hudson, hello Raja Bell!
I even got into the act last night when I tweeted (after a couple of glasses of wine) that Bell would fit very well in Boston. And he probably would, for reasons I’ll get into in a second.
But I can’t see a deal that works, or, frankly, why the Bobcats are shopping him. The Bobcats are over the cap this year and will be again next year, assuming a bunch of overpaid players (Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed and Vlad Radmanovic) don’t exercise their early termination options, something overpaid players seldom do. So Bell’s expiring deal is valuable to Charlotte, and I can’t see them exchanging him for players with money due after 2010.
Of course, the Celtics have a bunch of players with expiring deals—Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, J.R. Giddens (team option), Eddie House, Shelden Williams, Ray Allen and Bill Walker, whose salary is unguaranteed after this season, according to ShamSports, the best resource for player salaries on the Web. The C’s could package any number of these players to come up with a deal for Bell that meets NBA salary trading guidelines for teams over the cap.
Let’s cut Ray Allen from this list, since the Celtics aren’t dealing him and his near-$19 million salary would require more players and/or teams be involved in any Bell trade. Let’s also assume that the Celtics view House and Williams as valuable bench players this season.
That leaves a bunch of guys who are either undesirable from a talent perspective (Scal and TA) or young and unproven. And Larry Brown doesn’t want below average players or young players who can’t help him win now. Why would he dump Bell for Scalabrine and Tony Allen? What is he getting out of it?
The Celtics only hope of acquiring Bell—a player Larry Brown reportedly likes—is that Brown has some unreported fascination with Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens and views one or both as potential contributors in Charlotte going forward. (Note: If Big Baby were in the mix, things would be different).
But I doubt he does, and so I doubt the C’s have much hope of acquiring Bell. But we can dream, and we do so after the jump.
Raja Bell is one of those guys who is good at only a few things which happen to be very valuable—sort of like Bruce Bowen. The new player exchange gadget at Queen City Hoops (which you should all spend some time playing with) concludes that the Celtics would gain virtually nothing, in terms of regular season win total, from having Raja Bell play Tony Allen’s minutes.
But this is where these sort of macro-focused statistical measures (all of which I like a lot) fall short. Because the Celtics would not be dealing for Raja Bell to win 61 games instead of 59. Bell is valuable precisely for things that don’t impact the regular season win total. He could spell two of our three stars (Ray Allen and Paul Pierce). And he’s much, much more likely than Tony Allen to make two or three key plays on an ultra-micro level that could change the course of a playoff game and a season. He could hit two three-pointers in a 12-0 run during the second quarter of a must-win Eastern Conference Finals game. He could agitate LeBron James (or Kobe Bryant) for a three-minute stretch late in the third quarter of a playoff game, when the starters are resting.
Something else to consider: The C’s could use another guy who can hit three-pointers. The C’s attempted 209 fewer three-pointers last season than in 2008 and made 58 fewer threes total. The Celtics dropped from 12th in the NBA in three-point attempts in 2008 to 18th last season, largely because they replaced James Posey’s shots with more attempts from Glen Davis and a few other folks.
Good three-pointers are efficient shots, especially for the Celtics. The team shot 38 percent from three in 2008 and an out-of-this-world 39.7 last season—one of the best team performances in NBA history, according to Basketball Reference data. We can expect that hit rate to drop a little bit this season, and Marquis Daniels, as nice a fit as he might be, is not a three-point shooter.
Raja Bell is. He has hit at least 40 percent of his three-point shots every season since 2004. And though he’s aging at 33, he is still a productive defensive player, according to 82games and Basketball Prospectus. His teams have given up fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in each of the last three seasons, and his advanced defensive stats at BP were off the charts last year in Charlotte.
But I don’t think he’s coming here. Oh well.