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I know you have been all waiting with bated breath, so without further adieu..here is "Camp questions", Volume 9. Today we're breaking down the big questions surrounding Celtics forward Brandon Bass.

About Brandon Bass:

Somehow, Bass is already entering his 9th NBA season (this shocked me). He was drafted by the Hornets in the 2nd round of the 2005 draft and spent two seasons trapped deep in the depths of their bench before signing with the Mavs in 2007. Once in Big D, Bass carved out a role off the Mavs bench, averaging 8.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG over two seasons. He parlayed his success as a good energy bench big into a 3 year, $12 million deal with the Magic in 2009, and continued his solid play over two seasons with the Magic.

After the NBA lock-out ended in December, 2011, Bass found himself traded to his 4th NBA team after the Celtics dealt Glen Davis and Von Wafer in exchange for his services. In his first season in Boston, Bass had the best season of his career, averaging 12.5 PPG and 6.2 RPG for a Celtics team that pushed the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Finals. Following his breakout campaign Bass was rewarded with a 3 year, $19.35 million deal that kept him in Boston. However, once receiving the payday Bass regressed statistically, dropping to just 8.7 PPG and 5.2 RPG for the Cs last season.

Bass will make $6.45 million this season. He has a total of two years and $13.35 million remaining on his contract.

Questions:

1. Is Bass an elite defensive player?

While the Celtics fell short against the Knicks in last year's playoffs, the team did a phenomenal job bottling up Carmelo Anthony, holding the Knicks' star to just 38.1% shooting from the field and 26.5% shooting from three (ignore his 29.2 PPG scoring average — a lot of NBA players can get 29 if they shoot 27 times per game). And one of the main reasons the Celts were able to shut down Melo was Bass, who guarded him one-on-one for much of the series. It was just the latest example of Bass taking on the opponents best wing and holding his own.

In the past few seasons we've seen Bass guard: Carmelo, LeBron, Paul George, Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant, just to name a few. While those players almost always get their points, the Celtics have been better than average in holding their shooting percentages down, thanks in part to Bass' fantastic defense.

According to Synergy Sports, in his two seasons with Boston, Bass has allowed only 0.75 points per play defensively. Compare that to the NBA average of 0.85..and you can why we're asking whether he deserves this distinction. Of course, some of that is thanks to Kevin Garnett, who Bass had the pleasure of playing side-by-side with as a Celtic. After all, in his final season with the Magic (2010-11) Bass allowed 0.86 ppp, an average number.

But not all plays are created equally. When guarding your man in pick-and-roll or off a screen, there are a lot of moving pieces and having an elite defensive anchor like KG can help improve anyone's numbers.

It's a little different in isolation, where often times it's you taking on your man — with no help in sight. That's why it's interesting to look at Bass' numbers defending players one-on-one, both before and after joining the Celtics.

Bass' defense when isolated (numbers again via Synergy):

2009-10: 0.73 ppp allowed (51st in the NBA out of just over 400 eligible players)

2010-11: 0.68 ppp allowed (51st again)

2011-12: 0.58 ppp allowed (15th)

2012-13: 0.80 ppp allowed (149th)

These numbers tell another story all together. After all, last season was actually Bass' worst as a one-on-one defender (he still ranked slightly above average), this despite the fact that KG was right next to him. On the whole for the four seasons Bass is giving up just over 0.70 ppp in isolation, an elite number that shows us why he is the guy that Doc Rivers repeatedly called on to guard Carmelo and LeBron over the past two playoff runs.

2. Will he come off the bench or start?

To be honest I could probably ask this question about four different players, all seemingly competing for the starting power forward and center spots. They are of course: Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, and Kelly Olynyk.

With Sullinger coming off of back surgery (not to mention his court issue), there is always the chance that he's not ready for opening night. But for the sake of this conversation, let's imagine he is. If that's the case..who starts?

Well the way I see it there are two different choices:

1. "The Head" - Start Bass and Humphries. Start the two guys who may be on the trading block, raise their value, and then try to deal them at the break. Obviously don't ignore the young guns, but play Bass at the 4 and Hump at the 5 for at least the first half of the season. When you consider that the duo is also a much better defensive pairing than Sully/Olynyk, it also could help the team win some games. You know, if the Celtics cared about that sort of thing.

2. "The Heart" - Start the kids. Play Bass and Humphries just enough not to kill their trade value, but let's have some fun in a lost season and see what the 1st round picks can do.

While a significant case can be made for going with choice #1, if you look at Bass' career it may make more sense to go with #2. Take a look at Bass' career numbers as both a starter and a reserve on a per-minute basis.

Starter: 13.1 points per-36 minutes, 6.9 rebounds per-36, 49% FG

Reserve: 15 points per-36, 8.1 rebounds per-36, 49.4% FG

Whether it be the shorter shifts, or the fact that he's playing against back-ups, it's pretty clear that Bass is a better weapon for the Celtics off the bench.

Should be interesting to see how Brad Stevens mixes and matches his starting line-ups once camp gets underway.

3. Are the Rockets a perfect fit for Bass?

Brandon Bass is underrated.

We touched on his defensive numbers, but it's also worth noting how efficient an offensive player Bass is as well. He consistently averages right around 1 point per play on the offensive end (0.99 ppp over the past four seasons), considerably above the NBA average of 0.936.

He's also an awesome free throw shooter (83%) and an adequate rebounder (7.6 per 36 minutes), two things that don't often go hand-in-hand in the NBA.

Even last season, which was a down year for Bass, was really just related to how often he touched the ball. His usage rate (% of a teams plays that run through a player when he's on the court) dropped from 19.8% in 2011-12 down to 15.5% last year, and with that his scoring dropped off from 12.5 PPG to 8.7 PPG. But he still shot strong percentages from the field and was just as efficient as he ever has been.

No, he's not flashy. But he plays awesome defense and is as efficient a scorer as the Celtics have. While some have pointed to Bass as being overpaid, I actually think his $6.5 million salary is just about what he's worth on the open market.

Knowing all this, not only do I think that Bass gets a bad rap, but I feel like there has to be a GM out there willing to make a deal for Bass if Danny Ainge is down to trade him. He's an advanced stats type player (high efficiency, very few weaknesses) making just about market value for a starting non-star power forward.

In fact I think that there is one team in particular that Bass would fit like a glove:

The Houston Rockets.

They are very thin at power forward, could use another wing defender, and Bass' contract is not large enough to be a deal breaker. They are also run by noted numbers guru Daryl Morey who frequently uses advanced metrics to measure player performance.

As of now the Rockets also happen to have two starting caliber centers in the newly acquired Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. Asik is unhappy with his new back-up role, and could be the player that Boston gets in return. Considering Asik's value, Bass would not be enough despite his underrated skill-set. But that's where one of the Celtics nine first round picks between 2014-2018 come in.

Package Bass, Jordan Crawford (expiring contract to balance salary), and a first (say, the Clippers pick in 2015) for Asik.

Houston gets their starting power forward and a pick, saves money in 2014-15, allows Terrence Jones to continue developing off the bench, and picks up another guy to help guard Durant.

Boston helps clear out their logjam at power forward and picks up a legitimate starting center. Someone who becomes a building block (or a trade chip if Boston decides he's worth more in that role).

I believe we call that a win/win, folks.

(Or maybe not. Tell me why I'm an idiot in the comment section.)

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

For more of my articles, click here

For more of the "camp questions" series, click here

Michael Dyer 9/23/2013 05:28:00 PM Edit
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