Stephon Marbury to Celtics Analysis

With the help of my friend Ben Fish, I was able to put together this post. Fish is a devout Celtics fan, and was able to give me a taste of what the Celtic faithful think about the Marbury acquisition.

Stephon Marbury is expected to clear waivers on Friday morning and is largely expected to join the Celtics. Marbury and the Knicks reached a buyout agreement earlier this week. Marbury was set to earn $21.9 million this season (the 2nd highest in the NBA). The specifics of the buyout were not made public, but it is largely agreed upon that Marbury lost only about $1.5-$2 million dollars in the deal. Due to Marbury's veteran status, he is set to earn a minimum of $1.5 million on a prorated contract. Marbury's projected loss from the buyout+ his Celtics contract are about $200,000-$500,000. Pocket money,comparatively. The salary caps of both teams go pretty much unaffected. The Knicks sitll own the highest payroll in the league with about $96 million after the Marbury buyout. The Celtics currently have a $78 million payroll and with the acquisition of Marbury, they will, in total, add $3million to that number, which includes the luxury tax penalty.

Boston benefits from the addition of Marbury by adding depth an already depleted bench, and more importantly, to the point guard position. Marbury will provide much needed ball-handling skills to a team that depends on Rajon Rondo to run the point. It will also allow for Eddie House to move to his normal, more natural position at the 2, as he is certainly not a ball-handler. Eddie House is a pure spot-up shooter. Moving him out of his comfort zone was the only choice Doc Rivers had due to the lack of options in the back. The extra playing time for Rondo only helped his game out. We have seen flashes of what Rondo can be, and most likely, will be in the years to come. Marbury hasn't played in an NBA game since January 11, 2008. We can expect that Marbury will be focused and ready to contribute to the Celtics playoff run. Marbury also has an incentive to contribute due to him not having a contract next year. His free agent status at the end of this year will basically mean that he is auditioning for NBA teams to sign him this offseason. Conventional wisdom has always told us nothing produces statistics from a player like a contract year. The NBA will get a very brief, and maybe skewed view of Marbury's ability to play. Rounding off the end of the season isn't going to convince a lot of teams that he still has high calibur productive capability, but I can see teams taking a chance on him for a low amount of money just based on what he has done in the past.

Lets take a look at what Marbury can bring to the Celtics. I have written about how Marbury could be potentially a locker room divider. Garnett has publicly stated that it wouldn't be a problem, as well as other Celtics. Winning will solve all of those problems. I don't think that Marbury will cause any sort of distraction, if for anything, because of his expiring contract. Marbury averaged 19.8ppg and 7.8 assts playing along side Garnett on the T'Wolves. However, don't try to pick up Marbury in your fantasy league just yet. Also, don't expect Marbury to come anywhere close to those numbers just because he is alongside KG again (I don't think any of you did). In fact, expect Marbury to average under 8ppg and about 5 assts with a couple of boards and a steal or two. I expect Marbury to avg about 15-17 minutes a game. From my memory of Marbury, which is fading by now, he is a dynamic player. I don't think that he was putting much effort in during his days in New York. That is one of the main reasons I don't want to cite his statistics from his New York days. I don't think those are indicative of what he brings to the table, and I don't think those are a good baseline comparison to what will go down for him in Boston. Marbury is a scoring point guard. He can create shots for himself, but that isn't what Boston wants him to be. Marbury needs to be a distributor. He needs to give Rondo some rest, and be able to maintain the same level of offensive production as if Rondo was out on the floor. Marbury will be asked to put the ball in the post, and hit shots. He will occassionaly get his number called on a play, and he will have to drive the lane and make shots. Simple as that. If Marbury starts throwing up 30 foot 3pters like he did in New York under Isiah Thomas, Marbury is out. The offensive focus is not on Marbury, and he knows that. He has to play within Doc's system and know that he is a role player. Marbury is extraordinarily quick with the ball, and his size has always been his selling point. He can create his shot by using his size. He can separate himself from defenders as well as drive the lane. His body type is very similar to Jason Kidd. Of course, their games are drastically different, but how many times have we seen Kidd use his size to grab a board or throw up a tough shot in the lane? Marbury is the same type of player. Marbury is incredibly good at attacking the spaces in defense. When defenses cheat too far, Marbury picks up on that and attacks the holes on the defense to create a lane for himself and get to the basket. His size gives him a huge advantage over a lot of NBA point guards, especially in the East. Marbury will be the best backup point guard in the NBA, and that is a valuable asset for the Celtics. His combination of skill and size will never give the other team a break. When the opposing team has to sit its starter, Marbury will be there playing with the ability of a starter.

All of this seems like a dream come true for the Celtics. Don't get too excited. The Celtics have built their team around defense. Marbury is notorious for his lack of defensive effort. He has played this way since his days at Georgia Tech so we can't attribute it to his lack of motivation in New York. If he is motivated, he can be a great on the ball defender. Watch Marbury on defense if you get a chance. He will get into a low defensive stance when he is trying, but straighten his back when he is not trying. He also likes to gamble on passes at the top of the key. Every time I have watched Marbury, he makes up for his lack of defense by gambling on a steal. The one kind of positive is that he keeps ball out of the lane by forcing the defender to the weak side, but when the ball gets swung he shows a low awareness of where the ball is and tends to get beat back door anyway. Those are just some of the highlights of Marbury's defense. I'm sure you all will be able to recall more specific details of Marbury's lack of defense, and also see more of his deficiency on the defensive end when he starts playing. If you think I am just making this stuff up, watch him or go read a scouting report. Plain observation over the course of 2 or 3 games will most likely reveal all of the things I just mentioned in this post.

Overall, I think the move will help the Celtics. I don't think that any other team in the league is as deep as the Celtics at the point guard position at this point. The closest team to matching their depth at the 1 spot is either San Antonio or Denver. No team in the East is even close. The Celtics won't even have to think about Denver, and San Antonio has a chance at the Finals, but the Celtics won't need to look at their footage before the 2nd week of May. This is a low risk in terms of finances and basketball.


Contributions by Ben Fish

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