Since Danny signed Delonte West this week, I've had mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, I loved Delonte when he was here and I think he was the best player of the available free agents. On the other hand, I am concerned that his off court problems could affect the Celtics and as much as I like Delonte, I love the Celtics more.
Delonte's off court struggles are no secret to NBA fans. There was his arrest for carrying loaded weapons on a 3 wheeled motorcycle in Washington. There were his absences from the Cavs this past season and his fear of flying which lead to missing some road games. And, there was his infamous alleged affair with Gloria James.
But on the court, things are a lot more positive. Delonte goes all out when he plays. He is tough. He hustles. He plays defense. He has a nice midrange game. And, he is a competitor. Because he does play all out and is fearless on the court, often diving for loose balls, taking charges and driving to the basket, he has had injury problems throughout his career.
In thinking about Delonte's fit on the team, Danny could have done a lot worse. As a replacement for Tony, Delonte is a tough defender. But Delonte brings ball handling and a scoring touch that Tony never had. He gives the team versatility in that he can play the point or the 2 guard. He also plays bigger than his 6'3" height and can guard 3's in a pinch.
He is an 82% free throw shooter for his career and he ups that to 85% in the playoffs. He has a career 45% field goal percentage and shoots 37% from beyond the arc, all of which are decent percentages. He has been a starter on a 66 win team. He knows the Celtics system. And, he on a make good non-guaranteed contract so it is a very low risk, high reward signing.
In training camp, Delonte will be competing for a spot against Tony Gaffney and Oliver Lafayette, both of whom have non-guaranteed contracts as well. He will also be competing with Von Wafer who has just $150,000 guaranteed on his deal. On the surface, Delonte would seem to have the inner track on making the team. He has more experience than the other 3. He is an Ainge favorite. He has a starter's talent. But he would have to out play the others in order to land the spot. Gaffney gives the Celtics a much needed back up for Paul Pierce. He is the long defender that the Celtics need and if he plays well enough, Danny may just have to give him that 15th spot.
Danny seemed to feel that Delonte has learned a lot from his recent struggles and is stronger today than he was when he was traded from the Celtics. Danny said that he has had lengthy conversations with Delonte and his people and I have to believe that Danny was certain that the bizarre behavior is a thing of the past. I, for one, am hoping that Danny is right. I'd love to see Delonte get his life and his career back on track with the team that drafted him. He could give the Celtics a real weapon off the bench and if he does.